Odds-on favorite Midnight Hawk was run down in a sizzling stretch duel by Dynamic Impact, who won the Grade III $500,000 Illinois Derby by a nose in a photo finish Saturday at Hawthorne Race Course.
Ridden by Miguel Mena and sent off at 9-1 odds, Dynamic Impact covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.07 on a fast track from Post 1. Irish You Well, a maiden, finished third. The 57th running of the Illinois Derby featured a field of eight 3-year-olds.
“Nobody chased the favorite, so I had to go and put some pressure on him,” Mena said.
Midnight Hawk, the 2-5 favorite trained by Bob Baffert and co-owned by Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, stumbled out of the gate but righted himself immediately. He went to the lead and was in front throughout the race until the finish line. Dynamic Impact stayed with the favorite from start to finish, but Midnight Hawk had a 21/2 length lead at the head of the stretch.
Midnight Hawk started to waiver at the quarter pole as jockey Martin Garcia worked hard to keep the horse’s head straight via the whip.
“He [Midnight Hawk] got a little tired [at the end],” Garcia said.
Dynamic Impact started his furious close with an eighth of a mile left and just got up.
“I was glad I was able to put [Dynamic Impact] on the outside at the quarter pole,” Mena said. “He wasn’t liking it on the inside and I had no choice since I had to put some pressure. By the time we got to the one-eighths pole, I said he’s coming back, he’s coming back.”
Dynamic Impact paid $21.20 on a $2 bet to win, $6.00 to place and $4.80 to show. Midnight Hawk returned $2.20 to place and $2.10 to show. Irish You Well returned $4.80 to show.
Dynamic Impact, who faced graded-stakes winners for the first time, is trained by Mark E. Casse and owned by John C. Oxley. The Illinois Derby is considered a prep race for the Preakness Stakes on May 17 because the Kentucky Derby on May 3 is thought to be too quick of a turnaround.
Midnight Hawk’s ownership group includes Quenneville, Blackhawks assistant Mike Kitchen and Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice.
Minutes before the Illinois Derby went to post, the Blackhawks lost a 4-3 heartbreaker in overtime to the St. Louis Blues.