‘Hedge’ your bets in Illinois Derby

After a one-year hiatus, the Grade III Illinois Derby is back at Hawthorne. The 1 1/8th-mile challenge will pit seven three-year-olds against each other in pursuit of a $250,000 purse. The race could also serve as a stepping stone toward a start in the Preakness Stakes. Post time for the Illinois Derby, the fifth race on Hawthorne’s Saturday card, is 7:17 p.m. EST. Study carefully if you’re taking part in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!

#2 HEDGE FUND (3-1, morning-line favorite) invades for Todd Pletcher, with Jose Valdivia Jr. taking the rider assignment. HEDGE FUND was sharp in victory two starts back before settling for third in the Sunland Derby. HEDGE FUND set a fast pace at Sunland and had company throughout, so it was an excusable loss. Furthermore, Conquest Mo Money, who beat HEDGE FUND for second, was a game runner-up in the Arkansas Derby last week while fourth-place finisher Irap returned to take the Blue Grass Stakes two weeks ago. HEDGE FUND will be the top choice as he gets what feels like class relief.

#1 MULTIPLIER (9-2) steps up off a strong maiden victory at the Fair Grounds last month. Brian Hernandez Jr. won’t travel for the mount (he’ll be busy at Keeneland) but James Graham opts for MULTIPLIER over #3 IT’S YOUR NICKEL; a positive sign. MULTIPLIER will be tested from a pedigree standpoint going this far, but if he can save some ground today, he has a good chance to land in the winner’s circle.

#7 HOLLYWOOD HANDSOME (4-1) gets class relief dropping out of the Louisiana Derby. He was a respectable fourth in that heat despite a wide trip and ran a career-best speed figure. Robby Albarado sees fit to ship in for the assignment on this improving colt by Tapizar.

The play: $4 trifecta 2/1,7/1,7, $2 exacta 1/2 ($10)

DFJ analysis: Robby Albarado rides just three times at Hawthorne on Saturday but has a good chance to hit the board in all three starts and perhaps win a couple. HOLLYWOOD HANDSOME will be his first mount of the day, followed by 9-5 favorite Recount in the Molaro Handicap. Albarado closes the day out with 5-1 shot Konza Khrome in the 10th.

I would avoid Florent Geroux this Saturday despite the fact he used to call Hawthorne home. His Illinois Derby mount, #6 MR. MISUNDERSTOOD, appears to want a muddy surface, which he likely won’t get this weekend. After that Geroux rides the inconsistent Lewys Vaporizer in the Molaro Handicap. He has a pair of decent chances later in the card (3-1 Game Time Decision in the Third Chance Handicap and 5-2 favorite Jolee in the nightcap) but doesn’t seem to be worth the expense on this day.

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