Catching Freedom Looking To Regroup In Ohio Derby

Catching Freedom | Hodges photography

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A veteran of two-thirds of this year's Triple Crown series, Albaugh Family Stables' Catching Freedom (Constitution) gets a fair bit of class relief while facing nine others in Saturday's $500,000 GIII Ohio Derby at Thistledown outside of Cleveland.

Winner of the GII Louisiana Derby to earn his spot in the field for the GI Kentucky Derby, the $575,000 Keeneland September acquisition gave an excellent account of himself on the first Saturday in May, delivering a rails rally in the stretch to round out the superfecta, a length and three-quarters behind the victorious Mystik Dan (Goldencents).

One of three to press on to the GI Preakness Stakes after their efforts beneath the Twin Spires, Catching Freedom sat an inside trip at Old Hilltop and was produced three wide into the lane with every chance, but could not run down front-running Seize the Grey (Arrogate) and just failed to reel in Mystik Dan for second. Luis Saez has the call Saturday afternoon.

The regally bred Batten Down (Tapit)–a full-brother to MGSW & MGISP Tacitus–hit the board in two-turn maidens at Gulfstream and Keeneland before breaking through by an authoritative 8 3/4 lengths in a rare 10-furlong test at Churchill Apr. 30. The Juddmonte homebred was being trained with a possible appearance in the GI Belmont Stakes in mind, but trainer Bill Mott elected to give his charge a couple more weeks instead. He is an 8-1 chance on the morning line, but should jump at a fraction of that.

A stakes winner at six furlongs and a mile at two, Copper Tax (Copper Bullet) added the Mar. 23 Private Terms Stakes by a neck over 8 1/2 furlongs before adding a 3/4-length success in the Federico Tesio Stakes going a mile and an eighth at Pimlico Apr. 20. He was briefly considered for a start in the Preakness, but trainer Gary Capuano opts for this softer landing instead.

Grade I Winners Clash In Chicago Stakes

Saturday's GIII Chicago Stakes at Churchill Downs has attracted just five female sprinters, but of those, three have succeeded at the highest level, including two at the specialist distance of seven furlongs.

Vahva (Gun Runner) won the GIII Charles Town Oaks and GII Lexus Raven Run S.–both over seven-eighths of a mile–last season and has clearly trained on this term. A running-on second to Alva Starr (Lord Nelson) in Keeneland's GI Madison S. Apr. 6, she reversed form in no uncertain terms with the Louisiana-bred when clearing off to win the GI Derby City Distaff over the course and distance May 4.

“Vahva is a fairly easy horse to train, you just have to pay close attention to how she's doing in the mornings because she'll tell you if she's ready to run or not,” trainer Cherie DeVaux told the Churchill media office. “She's been training better than ever at Keeneland. There's been some spacing between her races because she shows signs in the mornings that she's not quite ready to return to action. She hasn't shown any of those signs ahead of the race on Saturday.”

Society (Gun Runner) took this race by 10 3/4 lengths last June when it was contested at Ellis Park and the 2022 GI Cotillion S. winner added a front-running score in the Pink Ribbon S. at Charles Town last August. Peter Blum's homebred makes her first trip to the races since a slightly troubled fourth in the GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Nov. 4.

Chi Town Lady (Verrazano) caused a 17-1 upset in the 2022 seven-furlong GI Test Stakes at Saratoga and annexed this year's Minaret Stakes at Tampa before rallying to be fourth to Vahva in the Derby City Distaff last time.

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