July 18, 2024

Batten Down puts away Ohio Derby foes

Batten Down wired his stakes debut in the Ohio Derby
Batten Down wired his stakes debut in the Ohio Derby (Photo by Dale Dengerd)

Once under consideration for the Belmont (G1), Juddmonte blueblood Batten Down instead took the more conservative route and made his stakes debut in Saturday’s $500,000 Ohio Derby (G3) at Thistledown. The Bill Mott pupil aced his class test, setting himself up for bigger targets in the three-year-old division.

A full brother to $2.2 million-earner Tacitus and recent Shawnee (G3) heroine Scylla, Batten Down went off as the 3.30-1 second choice. His April 30 maiden romp over 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs implied that he was ready to tackle better competition.

Catching Freedom, who brought key Triple Crown form, accordingly ranked as the 2-5 Ohio Derby favorite. The Louisiana Derby (G2) hero was a solid fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and third in the Preakness (G1), but he couldn’t capitalize here.

Batten Down scrambled straight to the lead from the outside post and never saw a challenger. The son of Tapit and champion Close Hatches was a bit too on the muscle through opening splits of :22.86 and :46.82, as he opened up by five lengths. Jockey Junior Alvarado got him to ration his speed more through six furlongs in 1:11.20, and the gray had enough left to maintain a 1 3/4-length margin at the wire. Batten Down negotiated 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.20 and returned $8.60.

Gould’s Gold, second at every call, repelled a brief bid from Catching Freedom to hold the runner-up spot. Copper Tax rallied to snatch third, a half-length up on the flattening Catching Freedom. Next came Uncle Heavy and Charleston in a field reduced by the scratches of Mugatu, Deposition, Frizzante, and Who’s the King.

Batten Down boosted his bankroll to $394,850 from a record of 5-2-1-1. Sixth behind the impressive Speak Easy in his unveiling on Pegasus World Cup Day at Gulfstream Park, he just missed in a pair of route maidens before his 8 3/4-length wire job during Derby Week.

Batten Down’s dam, Close Hatches, was a five-time Grade 1 star who reigned as champion older dirt female in 2014. As a daughter of First Defence and the Storm Cat mare Nebraska Tornado, Close Hatches is a full sister to multiple Grade 1-placed stakes vixen Lockdown. Thus Batten Down is a close relation of current champion older dirt female Idiomatic, Lockdown’s daughter (by Curlin).

Given the late-developing propensity of the family, Batten Down is likely to become a force in a sophomore division that is still sorting itself out.

Batten Down draped with the Ohio Derby winner's garland
Batten Down draped with the Ohio Derby winner’s garland (Photo by J.J. Zamaiko)