The Grade 3 Ohio Derby takes its turn in the racing spotlight at an ideal time, fitting in after the Triple Crown and before the lucrative Del Mar and Saratoga meets begin in mid-July. And it does so carrying three Kentucky Derby veterans making their first starts since that May 7 race.

Tawny Port-Ohio Derby
Tawny Port, seen here working out three days before he finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby, is the 3/1 morning line favorite for Saturday’s Grade 3 Ohio Derby at JACK Thistledown. (Image: Coady Photography)

Those would be 3/1 morning line favorite Tawny Port, 7/2 White Abarrio and 6/1 Classic Causeway. It also includes 4/1 Ethereal Road, who scratched the morning before the Derby.

While Ethereal Road regained his form with a 4 ¾-length score in the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness undercard, this is a good place for that Derby trio to get their mojo back after also-ran Derby outings. Tawny Port finished seventh, Classic Causeway 11th and White Abarrio a dismal 16th. That’s because the 1 1/8-mile Ohio Derby, the flagship event at JACK Thistledown in the Cleveland suburbs, is a good place for colts to regroup after Triple Crown disappointment.

You can see White Abarrio raising his hoof at that opportunity. The lone Grade 1 winner in the field, White Abarrio came into the Derby riding victory waves in the Grade 1 Florida Derby and Grade 3 Holy Bull. He came out of it 16th in the 20-horse field, never factoring in the mix and never able to show off his stalking style that won him those two Gulfstream Park races.

Can White Abarrio win on the road?

And that what White Abarrio has to prove: that he can win outside of South Florida. The Race Day colt is 4-for-4 at Gulfstream – and 0-for-2 elsewhere. Aside from that 16th in the Derby, White Abarrio finished third in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs last fall.

What Tawny Port has to prove is that he can back up his Lexington Stakes victory. En route to that seventh in the Derby, he made up seven places and 4 ½ lengths. But he gave up two places after entering the stretch in fifth. Trainer Brad Cox, who has been one of the hottest trainers coming out of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, imports Irad Ortiz Jr. to ride this closer, who is 3-for-6.

As for Classic Causeway, he has plenty to prove in his first start for new trainer Kenny McPeek. His 11th in the Derby was not that good. He was never better than 12th until deep stretch and never closer than seven lengths to the lead. He finished 17th after a slow start and indifferent trip.

Classic Causeway makes his McPeek barn debut

That came on the heels of his last-place finish in the Florida Derby. This, in turn, halted a strong winter that featured Classic Causeway sweeping the Tampa Bay Downs Derby preps: the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis and the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. As a result, the Giant’s Causeway colt moved from Brian Lynch’s barn to McPeek’s.

McPeek, in turn, brought in Brian Hernandez Jr. to ride. Hernandez doesn’t get the easiest task, having to send the front-running colt from the outside post in the seven-horse field. Classic Causeway is the only horse not running on Lasix, which is allowed in Ohio.

Then, there’s Ethereal Road who needs an Ohio Derby score to prove he can beat better horses than those he took apart in the Sir Barton. That race was a Black-Type stakes restricted to non-stakes winners. He finished fourth in that Lexington and lacked enough workout form for trainer D. Wayne Lukas to make the Scratch Heard ‘Round the World. It was Lukas creating the opening for Rich Strike to come in and steal the Derby at 80/1.

Grade 3 Ohio Derby/JACK Thistledown

Morning Line (Jockey/Trainer)

  1. Barese, 9/2 (Kendrick Carmouche/Mike Maker)
  2. Brigadier General, SCR
  3. Droppin G’s, 8/1 (Malcolm Franklin/Jerry Antonuik)
  4. Ethereal Road, 4/1 (Rafael Bejarano/D. Wayne Lukas)
  5. White Abarrio, 7/2 (Tyler Gaffalione/Saffie Joseph Jr.)
  6. Pineapple Man, 10/1 (T.D. Houghton/Mike Maker)
  7. Tawny Port, 3/1 (Irad Ortiz Jr./Brad Cox)
  8. Classic Causeway, 6/1 (Brian Hernandez Jr./Kenny McPeek)

Before that, he was seventh in the Blue Grass Stakes and second in a weak Rebel Stakes won by 75/1 Un Ojo. An early hot pace from Classic Causeway and Pineapple Man would help his closing kick. If you think he’s rounding into form off that Sir Barton score, Ethereal Road would be ideal in exactas and trifectas.

The Ohio Derby is the 11th and final race on a Saturday card that includes the Lady Jacqueline. There, you’ll find Grade 1 winner Maracuja taking on graded stakes winners Army Wife and Crazy Beautiful.