by Jerry Shottenkirk
June 23, 2017
I’ve never taken lightly the words “The Ohio Derby is this week.”
Clearly, you can find a lot more important events during the spring and summer stretch of Thoroughbred horse racing, but the Ohio Derby has always been fun to watch, often doesn’t have a 1-to-9 shot, is very playable, and for a particular afternoon has been the home of some of the greatest, maybe-you-don’t-know-them-now jockeys of a few decades ago.
The late, great Sam Maple – younger brother to Hall of Fame rider Eddie Maple and possessor of a terrific set of hands back in the day – in 1979 booted home the Woody Stephens-trained Smarten, a Maryland-bred son of the terrific sire Cyane and owned and bred by Ryehill Farm. He was the paradigm for horses that were not perceived as good enough for the Triple Crown races but were outstanding nonetheless. All Smarten did was reel off six wins in a row after running fourth in the Wood Memorial. In succession, he won the Woodlawn at Pimlico, the Illinois Derby at Sportsman’s Park, the Pennsylvania Derby at Keystone, the Ohio Derby at Thistledown, the American Derby at Arlington, and the Marylander Handicap at Bowie. It took General Assembly, the terrific son of Secretariat, to end Smarten’s streak when he beat him in the Travers Stakes.
Along the way many others – some of the greats, some not as well-known – have made the Ohio Derby an interesting spot on the handicapping watch. Other winners of note, just mostly randomly, were Mo Tom (2016, Javier Castellano up), Caleb’s Posse (2011, Eusebio Razo, Jr.), Milwaukee Brew (2000, Michael McCarthy), Frisk Me Now (2007, Eddie King, Jr.), Skip Away (1996, Jose Santos), Broad Brush (1986, Gary Stevens), Skip Trial (1985, Jean Luc-Samyn), At the Threshold (1984, Garth Patterson), Pass the Tab (1981, Antonio Graell), Special Honor (1978, Robert Breen), and Return of a Native (1976, Patterson).
Who will place their name in Ohio Derby history of winners is the big question today. On Saturday, a field of nine (a field of seven betting interests, including a triple entry) will try the 1 1-8th miles.
It’s a chance for Girvin to get back to winning ways after a 13th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Prior to that, he won the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, and Mike Smith keeps the mount – not a bad sign after an up-the-track finish.
Girvin can get back to the winner’s circle today. It’s a tough field, but he has the tactical speed that makes him a strong player, and again, the Hall of Fame rider on his back does not hurt.
Ohio Derby selections: 1) Girvin; 2) Irap; 3) Untrapped; 4) Sorry Erik.
Play Girvin at 2-1 or higher; use on top of the three listed here. Also use Irap on top at a backup.