Racing as Loooch Racing Stables, Ron Paolucci has dominated the owner standings at JACK Thistledown Racino in recent years and has campaigned horses on the national stage as well. One dream at his hometown track has yet to be realized, though: adding the Ohio Derby (G3) trophy to his collection. His chances in Saturday's 84th running will rest with Takedown, trained by Lacey Gaudet, and Machismo, trained by Anthony Quartarolo. Each 20-1 on the morning line, the two will run uncoupled.
Takedown broke his maiden by more than nine lengths at Churchill Downs in his second start. Racing in Maryland after that, he has since been out of the money only once, finishing fifth in the Federico Tesio Stakes. He was third in his most recent start, the James W. Murphy Stakes on the Preakness undercard. The Ohio Derby's 1 1/8-mile distance is not a question; Takedown hasn't seen a sprint since the first of his seven races.
“The post position (one) is ideal. We're looking for him to break cleanly and then find a spot behind the speed, laying maybe fourth or fifth,” said Jessee. “He has slowly progressed, race by race, and Lacey has done a great job with him.”
Machismo broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park in February in his fourth start, dominating 10 rivals by more than 11 lengths. He stepped immediately onto the Triple Crown trail by way of the Fountain of Youth (G2), finishing fourth. He subsequently was well out of the running in both the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1), the latter coming on short rest.
“We were really running behind with Machismo, trying to get to the Kentucky Derby,” said Jessee. “His effort in the Fountain of Youth is what encouraged us to try for it. He had all kinds of trouble in that race, got stepped on out of the gate, but he still was only beaten two lengths for third behind Good Magic. When we saw the (Kentucky) Derby wasn't going to be a possibility, we backed off of him. He had a good month of R and R and then we started pushing him forward about four weeks ago. We think he can get back to that level of racing and we think he has a major chance Saturday.”
Both horses are already on the JACK Thistledown Racino grounds. Kevin Radke has the call on Machismo. Loooch's first call rider at Thistledown, Luis Colon, has the mount on Takedown.
Owner Brinley Enterprises sent Trigger Warning from Sunland Park to JACK Thistledown Racino seven or eight weeks ago, and the colt responded by winning his first start for new trainer Mike Rone, the Tom Ridge Stakes at Presque Isle Downs May 21. The win was his second straight, following an allowance win at Sunland.
The colt has his work cut out for him in the Ohio Derby, however, as all four of his wins have come sprinting. His two starts at a mile or longer, the Lecomte Stakes (G3) and the Mine That Bird Derby, left him off the board. In his favor is his sire, the undefeated Grade 1-winning router Candy Ride, but his immediate maternal line reads all sprinter; he's out of graded stakes-placed sprinter Magic Appeal by multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter Successful Appeal.
“I've always had three or four in the barn for the owner and he wanted to try the Ohio Derby with this colt. He's been training well, and we've been stretching him out in training,” said Rone. “We've breezed him at a distance a couple of times, put a couple of mile breezes in him. But the distance will be a test.”
Irwin Rosendo rode Trigger Warning in the Tom Ridge win and will be back aboard Saturday.
The Ohio Derby is the ninth of 10 races Saturday. The feature is supported by two undercard stakes: the $75,000 George Lewis Memorial, 1 1/8 miles for accredited Ohio foals 3 years old and up, and the black type J. Wm Petro Memorial Handicap, 1 1/16 miles for registered Ohio fillies and mares 3 years old and up.
In a change from the usual schedule, first post Saturday is 1:10 p.m. ET. The Ohio Derby post time is 5:10 p.m.
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