By John Manley
You can add Hanuman Highway’s name to the list of Irish-breds that have tried and failed to win the Kentucky Derby. The gelded son of Alzao finished seventh in the 15-horse field, 12 lengths behind the winner, Real Quiet. Hanuman Highway was parked in midpack early by jockey David Flores, and moved amid a surging pack entering the far turn, but it soon became apparent that Hanuman was not running in the passing lane. He went off at 22-1, considerably less than the 30-1 suggested on the morning line.
Niall O’Callaghan had toyed with the idea of running Nite Dreamer in the Derby, but the Corkman opted for this Saturday’s Illinois Derby instead, reckoning the Run for the Roses to be wishful thinking for his colt. However, O’Callaghan made it into the Churchill Downs winner’s circle on Derby Day courtesy of Witchful Thinking. The 4-year-old filly won the $120,800 ‘gon Mile (Grade III) under Shane Sellers. He cut her loose around the far turn after stalking the pace, and the 1-length jump she got on Colcon at the top of the lane proved to be the margin of victory over that rival.
Witchful Thinking paid $12.80 to win. The mile time of 1:37.1 didn’t make anyone’s stopwatch tremble, but the Louisville grass had been softened by rain earlier in the week. The winner, which is owned by Peter and Leslie Grimm of Bedminster, N.J., now sports 9 wins in 15 career starts and earnings of $500,115.
The Illinois Derby will be run at Sportsman’s’ Park in Cicero, a Chicago suburb, where O’Callaghan struck earlier in the week. He won the National Jockey Club Oaks for the third straight year when Victorica passed under the wire by three lengths in front of Remember Ike. The 3-year-old filly paid $4.40 as the favorite. Eibar Coa was up on the Rio Claro Thoroughbreds-owned daughter of Exbourne. She now has four wins and three second-place finishes in seven career starts, with earnings of $191,786.
Frank Lyons is back in business. The Meath expatriate saddled the Irish-bred Mr. Lightfoot to a victory in an optional claiming race at Hollywood Park last Friday for owners Mark Lowery and Mark Schlesinger. Lyons left the training game about a year after winning the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Sprint with Desert Stormer to handle the book of jockey Rene Douglas. The win came from his third starter since returning to training earlier this year.