Ohio Derby 2024

It may only be a Grade 3 race on Saturday, June 22 at Thistledown, but this does not feel like a Grade 3 field. The Ohio Derby is the signature race at the track in North Randall, Ohio, about 20 minutes away from downtown Cleveland.

This year’s list of entries includes three runners from the Preakness Stakes and another Kenneth McPeek horse ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., so it is one of the more compelling Ohio Derbies in recent memory and should be a strong 1 ⅛-mile event on Saturday with a 6 p.m. ET post time for the 89th running of this race.

 

Here are the Ohio Derby entries, odds, jockeys, and trainers:

PostHorseTrainerJockeyOdds
1FrizzanteG. SaccoI. Castillo15-1
2Gould’s GoldK. McPeekB. Hernandez Jr.5-1
3CharlestonM. RoneL.R. Rivera30-1
4Copper TaxG. CapuanoJ.G. Torrealba7/2
5Uncle HeavyR. ReidM. Sanchez6-1
6DepositionU. St. LewisD. Haddock12-1
7Who’s The KingS. JosephR. Bowen20-1
8Catching FreedomB. CoxL. Saez9/5
9Batten DownW. MottJ. Alvarado8-1
10MugatuJ. EnglerR. Vazquez12-1

Uncle Heavy, Catching Freedom, and Mugatu are the Preakness runners in the field, with Gould’s Gold and Copper Tax off of stakes races of their own. Deposition is off of an allowance win and Batten Down is off a maiden. There are a lot of horses in pretty decent form heading into this one.

Here are some notes on the horses:

1. Frizzante (15-1; Sacco/Castillo): The son of Vino Rosso and Secret Ingredient is a Kentucky gelding with one win in nine tries. He’s hit the board in each of his last five races and has been run a lot, but has only gone a mile and 40 yards in his longest scamper. Those all came at Tampa Bay Downs. Castillo has spent a lot of time this season at Monmouth and Aqueduct and has not ridden Frizzante. With the speed and pedigree in this field, he looks like a toss.

2. Gould’s Gold (5-1; McPeek/Hernandez): Punters at Thistledown are going to love Gould’s Gold given the season that McPeek and Hernandez have had with both Mystik Dan and Thorpedo Anna. It doesn’t hurt that the son of Goldencents has had a big 3-year-old season. He won his maiden over six furlongs at Oaklawn in March and has hit the board in back-to-back stakes runs, including a place finish a little over a month ago at Pimlico in the Sir Barton on a muddy track.

Oh, by the way, another colt sired by Goldencents? None other than Mystik Dan. This price will probably crater as we approach post time on Saturday. Mare Goose Martini was sired by Bernardini, so this bloodline runs very deep.

3. Charleston (30-1; Rone/Rivera): The long shot on the board draws the post between Gould’s Gold and Copper Tax, two popular picks in this race. Charleston from Tapiture and Stirring is still looking for a maiden win. He’s run at 1 1/16 miles three times, so the distance shouldn’t be a factor, but finishing better than third has been. He’ll join the Ohio Derby gate off of almost a three-month layoff, but it’s hard to expect an out-of-body experience here.

4. Copper Tax (7/2; Capuano/Torrealba): The well-traveled colt from Rose Petal Stables is one of the few to run at 1 ⅛ miles in his young career. He’s a seven-time winner, including back-to-back stakes wins at Laurel Park. When he did step up for the Sam F. Davis and Remsen, he finished 10th and sixth, so it’s fair to wonder if this step up in class is too much. He was dominant in sprints and his two-turn wins at Laurel may have been a touch of a surprise, but he is a legit contender in this field.

The speed numbers alone make him a legitimate threat to hit the board. He’s never run at Thistledown, but this will be his fifth track in 11 races. Torrealba is just a second-year rider, but he’s already racked up more than $3.6 million in earnings at age 22.

5. Uncle Heavy (6-1; Reid/Sanchez): It feels like an eternity ago the Uncle Heavy ran to a win in the Withers on a muddy track at Aqueduct. In two starts since, he’s finished fifth and sixth in top-tier fields in the Wood Memorial and then Preakness. Hopes were high after the Withers for this 3-year-old, but the layoff may have been bad for him, as he struggled to get it going again in the Wood and was badly outclassed at Pimlico.

However, this field, while strong, especially by Ohio Derby standards, is still a step down. He’s the only non-Kentucky starter, so maybe the Pennsylvania colt likes the rust belt return after winning two of three races at Parx to start his career.

6. Deposition (12-1; St. Lewis/Haddock): Dexter Haddock has spent most of this season at Parx as he gets ready to ride Deposition at Thistledown. Haddock is the regular rider for Uriah St. Lewis, who only has 85 starts to his name this season with just an 8% win rate. Deposition has one of those wins and will turn around very quickly here from that ALWOC win at Delaware Park on June 5.

The son of Constitution put it all together for a career-best run over the fast-track mile that day. After failing to hit the board in five straight races, Deposition, with Haddock aboard, won by two lengths. This feels like a big ask and a quick turn for a horse that hasn’t put together two good runs at any point in his career.

7. Who’s The King (20-1; Joseph/Bowen): The first regular Thistledown rider is Rocco Bowen and he’ll draw the mount on Who’s The King for Saffie Joseph Jr. Bowen has 27 wins at Thistledown this season and has a ride on a very interesting long shot. Who’s The King had a mammoth performance over a mile for his maiden in April, which was his first dirt race since October. He couldn’t follow it up at Churchill a month and 11 days later, but we saw a glimpse of the potential.

Distance does seem like an issue here based on the past performances, though father Not This Time won the G3 Iroquois at Churchill and finished second in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Mare Willet was a sprinter, but Bowen knows the course here and I’m intrigued by exotics.

8. Catching Freedom (9/5; Cox/Saez): Saez has not run at Thistledown since 2021 and won three of the five races he participated in, so we’ll see if he can ride favorite Catching Freedom to victory. The son of Constitution and Catch My Drift is likely using this as a prep for the Haskell after finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness with two strong efforts.

Obviously the distance won’t be a factor here with seven career starts of a mile or longer and all two-turn races after the mile maiden last October. A deserving favorite with impressive connections in this race to be sure.

9. Batten Down (8-1; Mott/Alvarado): Lightly-raced Batten Down was sired by Tapit and has some strong connections, so it will be interesting to see how this horse is received by bettors. He’s on about a two-month layoff after a maiden win at 1 ¼ miles on April 30. Mother Close Hatches was a seven-time stakes winner, all at distance.

He was easily the best in that maiden win full of races with impressive bloodlines. He went off at 3/5 and basically went wire-to-wire over a mile and a quarter with a very casual run that led to a seven-length win, coasting over the final furlong. I think he’s a fascinating contender in his stakes debut.

10. Mugatu (12-1; Engler/Vazquez): Heavily-raced Mugatu has one win in 13 efforts and it came on the synthetic track at Gulfstream. He was a complete non-factor in the Preakness with an eighth-place finish and also failed to mount much in three prior stakes races. Rider Ramon A. Vazquez is only coming in at 10% this season, his worst year since 2012, and his WPS is only 38%, well below his career average of 48%. I’m not sure Mugatu has enough to factor in here.

Ohio Derby Picks

What an interesting race for the fourth Saturday in June! As a native Clevelander, I’m excited for Thistledown and local horse fans to have such a good race. 

The 2, 8, and 9 stand out to me. The price on Gould’s Gold is going to plummet this week with the McPeek and Hernandez connections, but it is a good year of 3-year-olds from Goldencents. Catching Freedom is well-tested at distance and not every horse can say that. But, Batten Down really intrigues me for Mott and Alvarado. Fighting in traffic is a question, but the speed is not and Thistledown can be a really good rail track for pace-setters.

Using a hypothetical $100 bankroll:

$20 Win ($20)

8 Catching Freedom

$10 Win ($20)

2 Gould’s Gold

9 Batten Down

$5 Key Trifecta ($30)

2 / 8,9

8 / 2,9

9 / 2,8

$1 Box Trifecta ($24)

2/7/8/9

$6 for a beer on a 93-degree day

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