For a horse who took a long time to find the winner’s circle, Irap showed that he’s really gotten the hang of it with a commanding performance in Saturday night’s $500,000 Indiana Derby (G3).

Trained by Doug O’Neill for Reddam Racing, Irap has the same connections as 2012 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) champion I’ll Have Another as well as Nyquist, the 2015 champion two-year-old colt who added the 2016 Derby. He even has the same regular rider, Mario Gutierrez.

But Irap didn’t come to hand as early as they did. He needed eight tries to break his maiden, famously digging in for a 31-1 upset in the Blue Grass (G2). After a rough-trip 18th in the Kentucky Derby (G1), he just got up in time to nip Girvin in the Ohio Derby (G3).

At Indiana Grand Race Course, however, Irap finally delivered a knockout blow for the first time. By zooming to the fore on the far turn and opening up by five lengths in the stretch, the 7-5 favorite pronounced himself ready to contend for divisional leadership.

Colonelsdarktemper came home second, and another Kentucky Derby participant, Untrapped, finished third. In his prior start, Colonelsdarktemper was runner-up to Kentucky Derby combatant McCraken in the Matt Winn (G3), reiterating the depth of Derby 143.

With three different winners of the 2017 classics – Always Dreaming in the Derby, Cloud Computing in the Preakness, and Tapwrit in the Belmont (G1) – as well as last year’s juvenile champ Classic Empire in the fray, the three-year-old male championship is still up for grabs.

The August 26 Travers (G1) may play a decisive role in year-end honors, and Irap is making that his next target.

Also booking his Travers ticket on Saturday was the Bob Baffert-trained West Coast, who rallied to a 2 3/4-length victory in the $200,690 Los Alamitos Derby (G3). The 2-5 favorite has now won three straight, including the Easy Goer on Belmont Stakes Day.

Upcoming key races in this division are the July 29 Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga and the July 30 Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth, both with major Travers implications. 

Photo of Irap winning Indiana Derby courtesy John Engelhardt