Departing easily won the Illinois Derby in his Preakness Stakes prep. (Photos courtesy Four Footed Photos)
By Mike Curry, @currymj19, America’s Best Racing
After tasting defeat for the first time in the Louisiana Derby, Departing returned to the winner’s circle with a convincing victory in the $750,000 Illinois Derby on Saturday at Hawthorne Race Course.
The bay War Front gelding streaked clear in the Illinois Derby stretch and cruised to a 3 ¼-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile race, which could serve as a steppingstone to the Preakness Stakes on May 18.
Departing’s Illinois Derby win as the 1.90-1 favorite was impressive visually and he also overcame a tough trip. Departing broke from post-position 13 and endured a very wide trip – six wide after a half-mile and four wide on the second turn - to prevail easily.
The Illinois Derby was not included in the new Kentucky Derby points system and Departing’s connections said they are not targeting the first jewel of the Triple Crown. Departing earned 20 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system with his Louisiana Derby third-place finish and because of his earnings in non-restricted stakes would be given first preference among several horses with 20 points vying for the final spot in the Derby field.
Departing completed the 1 1/8-mile Illinois Derby in 1:50.78 for his fourth win in five races. He opened his career with three straight victories, including a win in the Texas Heritage Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park, for trainer Al Stall Jr. and owners-breeders Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider.
Fordubai finished second with Siete de Oros third in the 14-horse field.
By War Front, Departing is out of the unplaced Pulpit mare Leave, a full-sister to stakes winner Laity and a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Trip and stakes winner Joke, the latter the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Zensational.
For an Equibase chart, click here.
DEPARTING EASILY ROLLING TO VICTORY