WATCH ME GO (West Acre), a neck victor in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), tops a field of 12 in Saturday's $300,000 Illinois Derby (G3) at Hawthorne. The dark bay colt surprised in the Tampa Bay Derby for trainer Kathleen O'Connell, sent off the 43-1 third longest shot in that 8 1/2-furlong event, and will be seeking to quiet all critics with another win on Saturday.
Prior to the Tampa Bay Derby, Watch Me Go's best finish against stakes rivals came as a third in the Sam F. Davis S. (G3). He earned the shot to stretch out and make his graded bow in that race when romping by eight lengths against optional claiming company in late January. Luis Garcia, aboard for all of Watch Me Go's sophomore starts, keeps the mount.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has captured three editions of the Illinois Derby since 2001 and will send out live contender JOE VANN (Silver Deputy) to make his stakes bow this time around. The dark bay colt broke his maiden by four lengths at Laurel Park in February, then dominated an allowance/optional claiming field by 5 1/2 lengths. The front-running sophomore will be trying nine furlongs for the first time on Saturday and gets Florent Geroux in the irons.
Joe Vann could have some company on the front end Saturday if THE FED EASED (Montbrook) stays true to his past form. Trained by Richard Violette Jr., the bay colt stumbled at the break of his second career start, recovered to take command and was hand ridden to the wire for a 7 1/4-length romp at Aqueduct. The distance is the biggest stumbling block this time around, as the sophomore faltered to be fifth after leading the way in the Gotham S. (G3) last out. Jose Valdivia Jr. ships in with his mount.
Like Joe Vann, SOUR (Lemon Drop Kid) has been given morning-line odds of 6-1 for Saturday. The Al Stall Jr. trainee was ridden out to a 2 1/2-length maiden score two back, and recently filled the runner-up spot against in a Fair Grounds optional claimer. Regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. has the call.