He may be an outsider but that isn’t stopping connections of Necker Island thinking big ahead of the Grade 3 Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand in Shelbyville on Wednesday so this might be the time to look into how to bet on the Kentucky Derby.
Owners Jackie Rojas, Wayne Scherr and Raymond Daniels laid down $100,000 to take the Chris Hartman-trained runner after an allowance/optional claiming race at Churchill Downs barely a month ago.
He may not boast the form of his rivals and has been installed as a 20-1 chance on the morning line, but trainer Hartman sees no reason not to aim for the $300,000 Indiana Derby target.
“We didn’t really have this race in mind, but we were looking at a few spots,” Hartman said. “This one looked like it was going to come up to our liking.
“He ran two good races in the fall and then sort of slipped off form a little. But he’s been running in really tough races. He ran with some really nice horses, all on the Derby trail. That was part of the allure of going after him for $100,000.”
Trained by Dallas Stewart, Winning Impression is the morning line favourite having finished fourth in the Arkansas Derby on his last start.
Amongst Winning Impression’s main rivals on the betting will be Major Fed and Shared Sense, trained by Greg Foley and Brad Cox respectively.
The former comes here after a 10th-place finish in the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes on May 23rd at Churchill Downs, while Shared Sense was runner-up in an allowance optional claimer last month at the same venue.
Hartman feels that Necker Island commands a place in the line-up and reports him to be in good fettle at home.
“He’s doing well,” Hartman said. “He’s cleaning up the feed tub and training well. So, we thought we’d take a chance. It appears on paper that he fits in the race.”
The Indiana Derby winner will collect 20 qualifying points towards a place in the Kentucky Derby on September 5th.
Hartman isn’t going to start thinking of the Kentucky Derby for now, insisting he will ‘leave that for others to dream’ in the short-term.
It’s a different story however for Major Fed’s trainer Foley, who has never hidden his belief since his charge won a maiden contest back in January.
The Churchill Downs-based trainer stopped short of declaring the Indiana Derby a ‘must win’ race. However, Foley knows his challenger, set to be ridden by James Graham for the first time, needs to go close in order to maintain his lofty ambitions.
“If this horse can’t run good in this race, we don’t need to think about the Kentucky Derby anymore,” Foley said. “Not saying we have to win, but we have to run really good. If he doesn’t, our Derby hopes are probably at the end. But the horse is going great, and we’re expecting a big race.”