Cleveland - The Ohio Derby is scheduled for Saturday at Thistledown Racino and will host a field of seven colts that have yet to seize a graded stakes victory.
Title Contender is listed as the favorite with odds of 7-5 and will get his chance at his first stakes trophy under jockey Hector Rosario, Jr. He is trained by Wayne Catalano and took third his last time out at Churchill Downs on June 28
th. As a two-year old Title Contender was trained by Bob Baffert and broke his maiden by 2-3/4 lengths at Santa Anita last September, but could not make a claim for the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile or the Cash Call Futurity, both Grade-1 races. In March he competed in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park taking the early speed but finished seventh behind Will Take Charge, this year's Preakness winner Oxbow, and Den's Legacy. He will break from the fourth post position.
Ohio native Ray Vernino will saddle Fiery Marco in this year's Ohio Derby. Looking back to 2011 Vernino found some success entering Marcos Fling, a 40-1 long shot, which finished second behind the Ohio Derby winner Caleb's Posse. Caleb's Posse went on to win the 2011 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile as well as becoming a two-time Eclipse Champion finalist. Vernino has been training horses for 26 years and claims that Fiery Marco and Marcos Fling have very similar running styles and demeanors. Vernino says, "My colt has been getting better and better. His last time out he won by 10 lengths and at the end he had more to give." With this in mind he is not concerned about the length of Saturday's race of 1-1/16 miles. He is happy that they pulled the inside post and feels this will give his colt an edge to having a shorter run than the rest of the field, as it is likely Fiery Marcos will set the pace of the race. His late blooming colt has been in training for a year and a half and is familiar with the Thistledown track. Vernino says he knows his colt will be able to keep up the first mile and after that it's up to the jockey to determine what Fiery Marcos has left. Fiery Marco will be ridden by jockey Godofredo Laurente, a native of Peru, and a former bull rider. Vernino will give Laurente very little instruction tomorrow as he feels he is an accomplished rider, trustworthy and is capable of making good decisions under pressure when anything can happen in a race. He claims a few words of advice prior to race time will be, "Look forward, don't look back."
Silver Tongued won the Daniel Sterns Cleveland Gold Cup on July 7 with a speed rating of 104. He is the only horse in the field to win a stakes race and is trained by Jeff Greenhill. Jockey Lori Wydick will break from post 2 with odds of 4-1.
Breaking from post 7, the son of Ghostzapper, Handsome Tiger is coming off an allowance win at Mountaineer Racetrack on July 9. Jockey Marco Ccamaque will take the reins again for this race with two prior wins on this horse. The colts' Dam, Honey Rider, has $2.7 million lifetime earnings to her credit.
The field from the inside post out is:
(1) Fiery Marco – odds 15/1 G. Laurente -Jockey, R. Vernino – Trainer
(2) Silver Tongued – odds 4/1 L. Wydick – Jockey, J. Greenhill – Trainer
(3)Braveman – odds 8/1 P. Morales – Jockey, T.Hamm – Trainer
(4) Title Contender – odds 7/5 H. Rosario – Jockey, W. Catalano – Trainer
(5)Act of Madness – odds 9/2 S. Spieth –Jockey, K. O'Connell – Trainer,
(6) Mongolian Saturday – odds 7/2 C. Montalvo – Jockey, E. Ganbat – Trainer
(7) Handsome Tiger 12/1 – odds 12/1 M. Ccamaque – Jockey, J. Corrales - Trainer
Post time for the 1-1/16 Mile $100,000 Ohio Derby (GII) is 3:55pm (ET)