Patriot Spirit Flags Field In IL Derby

April 21, 2024

Patriot Spirit. (Four Footed Fotos/Doug Clark)

As Illinois Derby Returns to Hawthorne

‘Win & In’ for the 149th Preakness Stakes

Hawthorne Press Release

STICKNEY, Ill. – After a seven-year hiatus, the Illinois Derby, presented by 1/ST BET returned on Sunday to Hawthorne Race Course. Carrying a purse of $200,000, the 1 1/8 miles event was contested over a fast main track on a sunny Sunday afternoon. After the morning scratch of Ravin’s Town, an evenly matched field of five contested the Derby. With the return of the Illinois Derby, and as an official prep for the Preakness Stakes, should the winner choose to run in this year’s Preakness, Hawthorne Race Course will reimburse the owner the $20,000 entry fee for the Preakness.

From the barn of Kenny McPeek, Real Men Violin was sent away as the slight 8/5 choice over 9/5 Woodcourt for trainer Cipriano Contreras. When the gates sprung though it was 5-1 third choice Patriot Spirit and jockey Julio Felix who made the lead, cruising through the opening quarter in :23.50. Tracked on the backstretch by Woodcourt and Raguel, Patriot Spirit held a nearly two-length lead through the half in :47.78. On the turn Real Men Violin and Reylu Gutierrez ranged up to challenge, but Patriot Spirit dug in, covering three quarters in 1:11.58. In the lane, Felix roused Patriot Spirit and he responded, expanding his lead late and winning by 5 ¾ lengths. The final time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:50.43. Real Men Violin held second, followed by Woodcourt, Le Gris and Raguel. Owned by Mellon Patch, Inc. of George Mellon and trained by Mike Campbell, Patriot Spirit earned $120,000 for the victory. Patriot Spirit returned $12.60, $5.60 and $3.20. Real Men Violin paid $3.40 and $2.20 while Woodcourt returned $2.20 to show.

With the local connections of longtime Illinois trainer Mike Campbell and Hawthorne regular Julio Felix, it was an emotional winner’s circle. Trainer Mike Campbell has always felt Patriot Spirit had a lot of potential. “I thought he would run like that, without a doubt. You know, everybody thinks young horses start out perfect, and they don’t. They make mistakes too. I started him two times in races over seven eighths of a mile. The first time the saddle slipped a bit and he got excited, and he ran off with the bridle. That was a mistake. Then I had to regroup and make sure he got a lesson in the next race. That’s what he did. He won the Inaugural. Then we came back, and I tried him at a mile and an eighth in one of the preps for the Kentucky Derby. I thought he was a Derby prep horse without a doubt. But he didn’t break right, and it was a mess. Then he came back in the Hutchinson. He should have won the race. He didn’t break right. But going a mile and an eighth, he breaks better.

“It’s great to come back to Illinois and win a race like the Illinois Derby, But I have to tell you, training for the Mellons is unbelievable. I love being part of it. I love being part of racing. I love all the horsemen in Illinois. But I particularly love all the owners and trainers because, without them, we have nothing.

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“Mr. Carey promised that if we were going to the Preakness, he would pay our way. That’s step number one. Julio would like to go there. We like the crabs and all the seafood out there. Then we are looking at the Iowa Derby and the Ohio Derby.

“I always thought this horse could be syndicated. If I told you what I I asked Mr. Mellon to do relative to keeping this horse and the offer that we were made on him, you would say ‘Mike, you are out of your mind.’ But we partially achieved what we set out to do today.”

Julio Felix was very confident in Patriot Spirit as well.  “I thought I would be in front and controlling the pace. I expected him to be on the lead, especially coming out of the short races. I want to thank Mike Campbell and the Mellons for giving me the opportunity. I was working this horse from day one. We always thought he could go long. We knew he was fast and that he could carry his speed.

“He was loaded. Mike did an exceptional job of getting his ready for the mile and an eighth. That’s not easy to do coming out of short races. Kudos to Mike. He exploded when I asked him. It was a dream trip”.

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