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2024 Ohio Derby Advance

Copper Town, Batten Down Upset Threats in Ohio Derby

Race 13, Thistledown, Saturday, June 22, 2024

Grade 3, Age: 3-Year-Olds, Distance: 1 1/8 Miles, Surface: Dirt, Purse: $500,000

Ohio Derby Picks

1. Copper Tax

2. Catching Freedom

3. Batten Down

Ohio Derby Analysis

Frizzante (15-1) appears to be a tryer but his Beyer figures look too low. He’s also never tested stakes company. On the positive side, he should like the distance.

Gould’s Gold (5-1) is steadily improving for Kentucky Derby winning trainer Ken McPeek and he could be set for a big race. He broke his maiden three starts ago, finished third in the $200,000 Bathhouse Row Stakes two starts ago at Oaklawn Park going the same 1 1/8-mile distance of the Ohio Derby, and in his last start he was beaten only a nose after a game effort in the restricted $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes in the mud at Pimlico. He has tactical speed and is proven at the distance.

Charleston (30-1) is still a maiden and doesn’t appear to match up his rivals here on either class or numbers. Claimed by high percentage trainer Michael Rone for $75,000 from another high percentage trainer in Brad Cox, he has not panned out for his new connections so far. The only time he tried stakes company in the muddy Southwest Stakes (G3) he finished ninth beaten 22 lengths. He gets the blinkers back on after two failed experiments without them, but he would have to improve dramatically to beat this bunch.

Copper Tax (7/2) is a very interesting contender who ran the best Beyer figure of his career in his last start, earning a 90 while winning the $125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes going the Ohio Derby distance on April 24. That was his second stakes win in a row for high-percentage trainer Gary Capuano, after failing to hit the board in the Remsen (G2) when facing subsequent Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Dornoch, and finishing a well-beaten tenth in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa in his first start as a 3-year-old.

Copper Tax was only a neck away from winning his first six lifetime starts and he has won seven of 10. He definitely knows how to win and he may have been perfectly pointed for this race. After showing good speed in his early career races he has developed into more of a rallying type, but he does have enough tactical speed to sit close if the situation requires it. He also has a beautiful work pattern coming into this race that includes two one-mile works, a bullet five-eighths, and two six furlong breezes. Lots to like here and he could be sitting on the best race of his career.

Uncle Heavy (6-1) comes into the Ohio Derby off a sixth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes (G1), where he was beaten 13 lengths. Prior to that race he finished fifth beaten 11 lengths in the Wood Memorial. Both of those races came after a muddy score going 1 1/8-miles in the Withers Stakes. A winner of three of his first four lifetime starts including the Withers and the $200,000 Wait For It Stakes, Uncle Heavy is trying to find his Withers Stakes form again, but he’ll also need to improve his numbers. Not out of the question, but he’d need the best race of his career and a perfect trip to win this.

Deposition (12-1) finished fourth beaten three lengths by Uncle Heavy in the Withers Stakes but subsequent stakes efforts were not good. He finished sixth beaten 14 ¼-lengths in the Gotham Stakes and then fell in the stretch in the Wood Memorial. He then came back to finish eighth beaten 13 lengths in the Sir Barton Stakes that fellow Ohio Derby entrant Gould’s Gold was beaten a nose in. Deposition won his most recent start in a $50,000 non-winners of 2 lifetime allowance race, and he appears to be headed back in the right direction, but he’s also making a substantial class raise for this race.

Who’s the King (20-1) was claimed three starts ago for $35,000 by trainer Saffie Joseph and immediately came back to break his maiden in impressive fashion at Gulfstream Park going a mile. In his last start he finished sixth beaten 8 ¾-lengths in a restricted allowance at Churchill Downs after being rank and checking early, and he could improve, but he’ll have to.

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Catching Freedom (9/5) is the horse to beat coming off fourth and third place finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, respectively. He’s making a huge class drop, he’s run three straight best-in-field 97 Beyer figures and he has top trainer Brad Cox at the helm. The Louisiana Derby winner was beaten only 1 ¾-lengths in the Kentucky Derby and 2 ¼-lengths in the Preakness, the only thing that concerns us is the fact that he usually comes from well back and seems to hang a little late. The latter factor may simply be a function of the class of horses he’s been running against, but we’ll want at least a fair price on him. The horse to beat.

Batten Down (8-1) has only run four times but each of his races have been better than his last and he has Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott in his corner. He broke his maiden in his most recent start going 1 ¼-miles at Churchill Downs and earned a 93 Beyer figure while winning by 8 ¾-lengths with something left in the tank. He outclassed his rivals in that race and now gets a class test, but Mott doesn’t run horses in these big races unless he thinks they have a chance to win. He wired the field in his last race and is intriguing at 8-1 on the morning line with the potential of attempting a steal again. Definitely worth including as a longshot win possibility.

Mugatu (12-1) broke his maiden in his fourth lifetime start with a blinkers on equipment change but that was eight starts ago. In his last four starts, all stakes, he finished fourth, eighth, fifth and eighth, the last two being the Blue Grass Stakes and the Preakness Stakes, in which he was eased and walked off. He gets some class relief here, and also gets blinkers off in an attempt to get back on track. Not out of it, but he is another who would need the best race of his life to win.

The race sets up with Frizzante, Gould’s Gold, Who’s the King and Batten Down potentially on or near the lead. If Batten Down clears to the lead he has a chance to wire the field. Charleston, Copper Tax, and Deposition should be in the next flight, with Uncle Heavy, Mugatu and Catching Freedom back further. Catching Freedom could be closer to the pace on the class drop, and should be able to run down the speed based on his class. One misstep however, and Copper Tax can beat him with his nose for the wire. We’ll take those two on top in the exotics, while also including Batten Down as a potential steal threat.

Our win bet will depend on the odds. A short price on the favorite might not be worth it, but good odds on either Copper Tax and Batten Down might entice a win bet on one or both. Catching Freedom is the most logical winner but…

He’s no sure thing.

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Anna Harden

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