Time to Put Up or Shut Up, Illinois Derby Winner Did Both
The Illinois Derby was a G3 Derby Prep that included 14 horses all racing for the chance to qualify for the 138th Kentucky Derby. With a win being the only way to accomplish such a feat, it was time to put up a career performance or quietly walk away from the Kentucky Derby trail. But when you’re Done Talking and running the race of your life, you score the unique privilege of quietly making it to the next level.
So who is Done Talking? Let’s begin with the basics
Done Talking (KY) | Broken Vow – Dixie Talking by Dixieland Band | Owner Skeedattle Stable | Trainer Hamilton Smith | Jockey Sheldon Russell
Now let’s turn to what happened at Hawthorne Race Course on Saturday. As mentioned, the field for the 55th Illinois Derby was packed as it reached its maximum amount of entries – 14. After an even start, a decent opening half and a wild sprint to the finish it was Done Talking at 12-1 that crossed the wire first and took home the ultimate prize – $300,000 in purse earnings and the only ticket to the 138th Kentucky Derby.
Before we analyze his chances of winning the roses, let’s look at what led him to Chicago for the very first time. Last summer at Delaware Park is where his racing career began and the third time was the charm. It was that attempt in a MSW race that he earned his first win. Following that win it was off to Parx for his first Allowance race and Done Talking kept a good thing going. His second win in a row was enough to introduce him to graded stakes racing and the G2 Remsen at Aqueduct last November.
A late rally was not enough to catch El Padrino for third but a 4th place finish is still a solid effort. And then the layoff began. Done Talking wouldn’t reappear until March 3rd and the Gotham Stakes also at Aqueduct. Done Talking wasn’t ready for graded stakes as his rally fell flat and left him with a 10th place finish in a 13 horse field.
However, a final attempt at making it to the pinnacle race was still within reach but only if his late rallying style could surface for a score. And that’s how it was done. Sitting in 9th at the 3/4 pole Done Talking began his methodical rally home. By the stretch he had climbed to 4th and just after the final furlong marker he had pulled even with Morgan’s Guerrilla before passing and winning by 3/4 of a length.
So that’s Done Talking for you. But the questions that remain: a) Is he going to the Kentucky Derby? b) Does Done Talking have a good shot at winning?
All reports indicate that trainer Hamilton Smith and Skeedattle Stable came to the Illinois Derby with the hope of winning so that the Kentucky Derby would be next. Even more plausible is that the connections feel as though their horse is bred and suited for the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 1/4 Mile. So because he may have the distance, is lightly raced which should keep him fresh and now has the graded stakes earnings needed, Done Talking should be considered Probable.
Now the more important part, what are his odds of winning. As it stands right now his odds are going to be pretty high. But that still doesn’t rule him out because in the last seven years we’ve seen 3 winners that all paid over $20 to win (Animal Kingdom, Mine That Bird, Giacomo). So let’s turn our attention away from odds and focus on Done Talking’s strength’s and weaknesses.
First is the Illinois Derby and the rather dormant pace and final time of 1:53.88. Although the pace stated out on the moderate side – :23.94, :48.64 – it was the splits in the final stages of the race that really slowed down. The quarter split progression: :23.94, :24.70, :24.50, :26.71. Not the healthiest trend for a Grade 2 Prep just four weeks before the Kentucky Derby. So count on that to be looked at and considered an easy way to write off Done Talking. But there’s one thing about this horse that could play against this pace in his next race – He’s a deep closer.
Since that is his style the likely instructions and strategy were to hold true to it and hope that they would have the advantage. So there is credit for Done Talking closing to win from as far back as 12th and there should be consideration if he would be able to do the same over faster fractions.
Either way he’s going to try to be a Kentucky Derby closer that will attempt to win from one of the most difficult positions. A common trend in recent Kentucky Derby victories is that winners stalk much closer to the pace. So his biggest weakness going in may be trying to win from too far back. If he’s going to pull an improbable upset he will have to work on staying closer to the lead because the pace will be quicker but the closing fractions will be too. Not only will have to close fast to reach them but even faster to pass them.
Finally, another interesting decision that will be made if Done Talking does enter is determining who will ride him. In his 7 career starts Done Talking has seen 6 different riders. What’s interesting though is that the Illinois Derby jockey Russell Sheldon also happened to be aboard for his 2nd career win at Parx. The intrigue of some top rated jockey’s still looking for a mount may be there but I would expect that Russell’s ride at Hawthorne secured him a spot in the irons.
It was a great day at Hawthorne Race Course for the 2012 Illinois Derby. It was nice to witness an exciting end to a very eventful day of Kentucky Derby preps. So here’s to Hawthorne for putting together a very successful day of Chicago racing – Cheers.
Written by: Little Brink