American Derby entices Irish invader Cannon Hill

by | 07.02.2011 | 3:19pm



It's a long way from Tipperary to Arlington Park, but Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone's Irish-bred Cannon Hill, who raced twice at the Tipperary course on the Emerald Isle, is scheduled to arrive at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Monday morning to fire at Arlington's Grade II American Derby six days later.

The $200,000 American Derby, middle leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple for sophomores on the grass, serves as a preview of the Grade I Secretariat Stakes, the Triple's final leg, which will be run as part of Arlington's International Festival of Racing on Arlington Million Day Aug. 13.

Cannon Hill, who has never left Ireland's shores in his young career, most recently went to the post June 15 at Navan, where he was clearly best by two lengths in an allowance race at 7 1/2 furlongs.  The son of the Irish stud Holy Roman Emperor had broken his maiden May 12 at Gowran Park.

While Cannon Hill's racing record remains somewhat ambivalent, the record of his trainer Dermot Weld is not.  Weld is Ireland's all-time leading trainer, having saddled more than 3,000 winners in his career – three of which have come in the American Derby.

The Irishman's first American Derby winner came in 2000 with Highland Farms et al.'s Pine Dance, the second in 2003 with Moyglare Stud's Evolving Tactics and the most recent in 2004 with Moyglare's Simple Exchange.  In 2002, Moyglare's Jazz Beat finished second in the American Derby, but also went on to finish second in that year's Secretariat, while Evolving Tactics was sixth and Simple Exchange was fourth in the Triple's final leg.

Interestingly, Weld's only Secretariat victory came in 2008 when Winchester, who like Cannon Hill, is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Firestone, caught the pacemaker at the quarter pole and went on to tally by 7 1/4-lengths – second largest margin in Secretariat Stakes history. Winchester, however, did not run in the American Derby.

Assuming Cannon Hill's flight schedule remains unchanged, the Firestone color bearer will clear quarantine on Wednesday, July 6.  Weld and Irish jockey Patrick Smullen, who was aboard both Simple Exchange and Evolving Tactics for their American Derby victories, are due to arrive at Arlington July 9.

Smullen, 34, born in County Offaly, Ireland, currently lives in Navan.  In addition to his American Derby victories, in Europe he has won the Irish 1000 Guineas twice, the Irish Derby once, and in Great Britain he has won both 2000 Guineas and the Ascot Gold Cup.


Heading the list of probable starters for the 97th running of the Grade II American Derby – oldest stakes race run at Arlington Park – is All In Stable's Willcox Inn, winner of the 76th renewal of the $100,000 Arlington Classic as the first leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple on May 28.

Willcox Inn defeated eventual 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, owned by Team Valor Racing, in what was the first start in both their careers last Sept. 18 at Arlington.  The son of Harlan's Holiday is trained by Mike Stidham, who saddled Estrorace's Workin for Hops to win last year's Arlington Classic and American Derby before finishing third behind Donegal Racing's Paddy O'Prado in the 2010 Secretariat Stakes.

Three horses to date – Powhatan's Tom Rolfe in 1965, Odgen Phipps' Buckpasser in 1966 and Robert Schaedle III's Honor Glide in 1997 – have swept the Mid-America Triple.

Others considered likely for the American Derby at this time are Zayat Stables' Benergy; Burr Travis Racing VI's Callingahardten; Mr. and Mrs. Bert Firestone's Cannon Hill; Ashby Thoroughbreds' Chalice; William Farish and Skara Glen Stable's Close Ally; Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Derby Kitten; Mark Ingram's Forest Mouse; Grant Heider, John Kuehl and David Conway's Lil Bit O'Fun; and Team Block's Suntracer.

Twitter Twitter
Paulick Report on Instagram