Horsepower and big races are no stranger to Indiana, but Saturday night's action won't be at the Brickyard. The Indiana Oaks and Derby share the marquee on a stakes-laden card that gets underway at 5:30 pm ET and takes you from Saratoga into the night. The 1-1/16 miles Indiana Derby anchors 6 consecutive stakes races and will perhaps be the most comfortable keystone in multi-race wagers for the national simulcast audience.
G2 winner LONG RANGE TODDY has kept the best company lines and has the field's signature win in the Rebel. MR. MONEY is a multiple G3 winner. They're the only graded winners in the cast, which includes listed winner and Preakness vet ALWAYSMINING, G2-placed Kentucky Derby alum GRAY MAGICIAN and G2-placed ROILAND. Five of the 11 entrants are eligible for non-winners of 2 lifetime and a trio have yet to attempt a stakes.
There's no clear-cut burners in here, but this projection has ALWAYSMINING and GRAY MAGICIAN as potential speed players. Sprint-to-route HERO TIGER could offer cheap speed, as could ESKENFORIT. LONG RANGE TODDY and MR. MONEY typically aren't far off the tempo, as has been MATH WIZARD. A horse who can be close to the pace and kick on has a major chance to take the Indiana Derby.
Likely favorite MR. MONEY aims for a third straight daylight stakes win after romps in the Pat Day Mile and Matt Wynn. Notably both races were at Churchill Downs, as was his only other victory last September. Bret Calhoun's son of Goldencents is 0-4 away from Louisville and drew a difficult post 11. Those factors are enough to fish around when likely posed with a runner 2-1 or less. MR. MONEY carries top weight of 124 pounds and spots as many as 6 to some of his rivals. Respect his raging form, and note he has the right running style for this potential race shape.
Triple Crown alumni GRAY MAGICIAN, ALWAYSMINING and LONG RANGE TODDY not only have the name cache in this field, but also should benefit from the potential pace scenario. GRAY MAGICIAN carries only 118 pounds, 6 less than the other pair, and is drawn beautifully in post 3 for a fresh and possibly lively return. He was no match for ALWAYSMINING in the Miracle Wood at this distance in February, so he'll need some measure of improvement while ALWAYSMINING perhaps needs to take a step back. But recent efforts from ALWAYSMINING indicate he's not on the mark as he once was this spring. The best efforts for ALWAYSMINING would win this. LONG RANGE TODDY also appears to be slightly off his best of late. GRAY MAGICIAN has had a chance to refresh and reset since the Kentucky Derby and intrigues. Trainer Peter Miller went 6-for-17 from June 21-July 10 after a cool period, and it's notable 3 straight Indiana Derby winners were California-based (Cupid, Irap, Axelrod).
ROILAND has missed the board in 3 straight since running third in the G2 Risen Star to eventual Preakness winner War of Will. He's a deep, deep closer and may not get the right pace set-up Saturday night. Trainer Tom Amoss hits 36% on the Indiana Grand dirt as a dominant local trainer in recent years.
Trainer Dallas Stewart may be 1-26 at Indiana Grand on the main, but he's added 9 second-place finishes with his local shippers and has both CHESS CHIEF and FROLIC MORE entered. The latter could not keep up with MR. MONEY when beaten 10 lengths in the Pat Day Mile. It's CHESS CHIEF who intrigues. Sire Into Mischief hits 20% with a $1.22 ROI for each $1 bet on the Indiana Grand dirt, according to Betmix, and he sired '14 Indiana Derby runner-up Vicars in Trouble. This closer took on elders last out in allowance company (Note: the horse who beat him, Rare Form, runs in allowance company at Ellis on Saturday in Race 8).
Claimed 3 times for $16K, $16K and $25K, Gulfstream Park-based MATH WIZARD has been a solid check-getter in stakes in New York, Arkansas and Ohio, claiming prize money in the Wood Memorial, Oaklawn Invitational and Ohio Derby. He perhaps moved too soon into a modest pace in the Ohio Derby when nabbed late by the very talented Owendale, who could be one of the horses to beat this summer in the Travers. At 118 pounds, MATH WIZARD gets in light and fits extremely well against this group.
ESKENFORIT takes a massive step up in class, but has been facing elders in his last 4. Trainer Steve Margolis hits 24% at Indiana Grand with his shippers and Julien Leparoux comes into the night 5-for-13 when raiding for Indy dirt stakes. On a connections play, he's not impossible.
Most Certain Exotics Contender: No one in this race begs of certainty, but MATH WIZARD has 8 in a row in the superfecta and a versatile running style that may serve him well.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender: CHESS CHIEF and GRAY MAGICIAN both interest quite a bit at what could be overlooked odds.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll): $15 exacta key box CHESS CHIEF and GRAY MAGICIAN with CHESS CHIEF, GRAY MAGICIAN, ALWAYSMINING, MATH WIZARD ($90). $5 exacta part-wheel CHESS CHIEF and GRAY MAGICIAN over MR. MONEY ($10).