Keying King Zachary in the Indiana Derby

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

July 12th, 2018

In the months following the conclusion of the Triple Crown, there are plenty of rich stakes races available for talented three-year-olds that might not be at the very top of the division.

One of the best is the $500,000 Indiana Derby (gr. III) at Indiana Grand, which will be held for the 25th time on July 14th. Some very talented horses have won this race through the years, including champion Lookin at Lucky and multi-millionaire Brass Hat, and while Saturday’s renewal might be lacking in proven star power, that’s not to say that the race won’t wind up producing a future Grade 1 winner.

On paper, the horse to beat is clearly #8 King Zachary. The son of Curlin has progressed steadily this year and fired off a huge run in the Matt Winn Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs last month, tracking the pace before seizing command and drawing off to win by 4 ¾ lengths over a talented field that included stakes winners Ax Man and Funny Duck. I particularly liked the way King Zachary maintained a steady pace throughout and ran the final five-sixteenths of a mile in a solid :30.71 seconds.

For that effort, King Zachary received career-best Beyer and BRIS speed figures of 98 and 99, respectively, which are the highest earned by any horse in the Indiana Derby field. Considering his pedigree, it’s possible that King Zachary is just starting to reach his peak and could have a bright future ahead of him, in which case it’s going to take a very big effort for any of his Indiana Derby rivals to beat him.

#1 Trigger Warning and #7 Title Ready, third and fourth in the Ohio Derby (gr. III) at Thistledown last month, are logical contenders to hit the board. But I’m just as intrigued by #4 Dark Vader a graded stakes-placed runner shipping in from California. Trained by Peter Eurton, the son of Tale of Ekati has competed admirably against some quality colts out west and was beaten just a neck in the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont last month, earning a 95 BRIS speed figure. The Indiana Derby seems to be lacking any tried-and-true front-runners to ensure a fast pace, so Dark Vader’s tendency to race close to the lead could be an advantage.

In contrast, I’ll lean against #3 Givemeaminit, who seems better going shorter; #6 Axelrod, who tracked a very slow pace when second in the Affirmed Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita last month; and #9 Funny Duck, who enjoyed a very favorable setup when winning the Pat Day Mile Stakes (gr. III) two starts back.

Here’s how I would bet the race:

$4 exacta: 8 with 1,4,7 ($12) $3 trifecta: 8 with 1,4,7 with 1,4,7 ($18)

Good luck!