The Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Racecourse may no longer be a prep race for the Kentucky Derby, but offering a purse of $750,000 sure doesn't hurt when it comes to attracting a big, quality field of 3-year-olds.
Despite not being included in the new qualifying system to make the Kentucky Derby, Saturday's Grade III event, which is scheduled to be run at 11⁄8 miles on the dirt, drew a full field of 14.
Heading the entries is 7-2 morning-line favorite Departing, who most recently finished third in the Louisiana Derby. Regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. will be aboard again for trainer Al Stall Jr.
Lining up just inside Departing in the starting gate will be Siete de Oros (5-1). In his last race, the Ramon Preciado-trainee finished fourth behind Kentucky Derby-bound Vyjack in the Gotham Stakes in early March. Angel Arroyo will be aboard.
Another contender figures to be Show Some Magic (6-1), which won the Riley Allison Futurity at Sunland Park in his last out. Miguel Mena rides the Henry Dominguez-trainee and will leave from the 9-post.
Former Arlington Park riding champion Mark Guidry returns to Chicago to ride the Ken McPeek-trained Ground Transport (8-1).
"This is exactly the race that we were hoping for," said Hawthorne assistant general manager John Walsh. "We have a full field, featuring a high percentage of graded stakes placed contenders from all over the country with no dominant favorite; several of which will likely go to the Preakness or Belmont if they run well here."
Just as it was last year, the Illlinois Derby will be broadcast live on Channel 9 beginning at 4:30 p.m.