Wilburn Wins Indiana Derby
Wilburn and jockey Julien Leparoux moved inside around the final turn and kept right on going to win the Grade II $500,000-added Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino Saturday, Oct. 1. The duo covered the one and one-sixteenth mile event in a time of 1:43.3 over the fast track that was upgraded from muddy earlier in the day.
Wilburn was not slow out of the gate, but several others were quicker. Heavily favored Shackleford, with rider Jesus Castanon, left with authority and rolled right up to show his desire for the lead. Decisive Moment, with rider Daniel Centeno, had the best angle at the lead from the inside post. Little Drama and Jeff Sanchez moved up between horses to also challenge for the lead, keeping Shackleford to the outside as the trio hit the first turn. Wilburn had followed Shackleford out of the gate and quickly moved to the inside to track the top three heading into the first turn.
“Everybody wants to go to the lead right now because speed has been holding up today,” said Leparoux. “I got in a good spot early heading into the first turn. I didn’t really want the lead, but you have to make that decision when it happens.”
Around the first turn, Shackleford backed off and let Decisive Moment and Little Drama take over as the pace setters. Once the field had reached the backside, the big blazed chestnut moved back into contention with the top two, but could not shake the wide trip. Wilburn continued to hold his position inside behind Decisive Moment and Little Drama.
As the field headed into the final turn, Little Drama began to drop back and Shackleford had reached Decisive Moment. The two horses were side by side when Leparoux caught sight of an opening along the inside rail and quickly shot Wilburn through it. He saved ground and was on the lead at the top of the stretch.
In the stretch, Wilburn was a clear cut leader over Shackleford. The powerful stride of Shackleford began to take shape and halfway through the stretch, it looked as if the 2011 Preakness winner would reach Wilburn. However, Wilburn did not weaken. The Steve Asmussen-trained colt continued to press on to the wire, actually pulling away in the final strides to win by four and three-quarter lengths. Shackleford was a solid second over Caleb’s Posse, who charged home late in the race to finish third for jockey Robby Albarado.
“We were hoping there would be a little speed in this race,” said Darren Fleming, assistant trainer for Steve Asmussen. “I was a little worried about being inside during the race, but Julien did a good job and it worked out. I’m not sure where this horse (Wilburn) will go next. We are just taking it race by race.”
Owned by Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables, Wilburn earned his fifth win in eight starts for 2011. Unraced at two, the three-year-old son of Bernardini more than doubled his career earnings to more than $550,000. Wilburn recorded his third straight win in a row at three different tracks, adding his first Graded Stakes win in the Indiana Derby to a win in the $300,000 Smarty Jones at Parx Racing and an allowance win at Monmouth Park.
Selected by bettors as the third choice in the race, Wilburn paid $7.20, $3.20 and $2.20 to win. The win was the second of a big day for Leparoux, who also brought home a trophy in the Grade II $200,000-added Indiana Oaks aboard Juanita.
“It’s been a great day,” said Leparoux. “It’s special to win the Derby and the Oaks. I’m very happy right now.”
Pictured from left to right (Jahnae Erpenbach, general manager of gaming, Kevin Greely, racing secretary, Jim Brown, COO, Rod Ratcliff, Chairman/CEO, Julien Leparoux, Darren Flemming, asst. trainer for Asmussen, Sara McNaught, chairman of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, and Brian Elmore, general manager of racing.