Best known as the colt who broke his maiden in the G2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, J. Paul Reddam’s Irap has now won back-to-back graded stakes, scoring in both the Ohio and Indiana Derbies. The 3-year-old son of Tiznow was forced wide all the way around the oval at Indiana Grand on Saturday night, but took over the lead midway through the far turn and blew away the field to win by about five lengths over Colonelsdarktemper. Ridden by Mario Gutierrez for trainer Doug O’Neill, Irap covered 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track in 1:42.21.
“It helped that I got time to run a couple of horses over the track before this race,” said Gutierrez, who was making his riding debut at Indiana Grand. “When I asked for him (Irap) to run, he responded. He gave no indication to me he was slowing down at the wire.”
Irap drew the innermost post position in the 10-horse field, and was a bit slow the first few strides out of the gate, giving up his inside rail advantage. Wild Shot, directly alongside Irap, got the first call, and it was a four-way battle for the lead into the first turn between Wild Shot, Han Sense, Untrapped and Colonelsdarktemper. A significant amount of traffic problems beyond those first four pushing several in the field very wide on the clubhouse turn, but the space allowed Gutierrez to take Irap into the clear and move into fifth position.
“We weren’t crazy about the draw (post 2, which became the rail when Society Beau scratched),” said O’Neill. “But we’re generally pretty positive guys. So once we got the draw we said, ‘You know what, that’s a ground-saving post.’ He’s matured a lot mentally. But he’s a horse in the past who has never been really crazy about being inside horses. He’s so big. And Mario just did a wonderful job of making sure he controlled that first turn and got himself in a good position.”
The most inconvenienced by those traffic problems was Awesome Saturday, forced nearly eight paths off the inside rail in the turn. Though he would regain a good position just inside of Irap in fifth down the backstretch, Awesome Saturday had nothing left for the stretch drive.
Entering the backstretch, Wild Shot had sustained his drive for the lead and held a 1 1/2-length advantage over Han Sense. Colonelsdarktemper was just to his outside in third, with Untrapped between horses in fourth and Irap widest of all in fifth. Through fractions of :23.71 and :47.71 Wild Shot continued to lead, but approaching the far turn Han Sense and Colonelsdarktemper lined up with the leader three-wide across the track.
When Irap joined the fray to make the quartet stretch four-wide across the track, the race was over in an instant as he easily took over the lead.
Maintaining the same wide path all the way through the turn, Irap and Gutierrez were easily three lengths clear at the head of the lane. The colt continued to power away down the stretch, crossing the wire about five lengths in front of Colonelsdarktemper, who held off Untrapped to finish second. Watch Me Whip was up late for fourth.
“I think you have to (take Irap seriously),” said O’Neill. “He’s getting better with each race. We’ve learned so much from him. We just couldn’t be more happy than we are now. And Mario rode just a perfect race. Just very, very happy.”
Bred in Kentucky by Aaron and Marie Jones, Irap was a $ 300,000 OBS March 2-year-old purchase. Out of the Sovereign Award-winning mare Silken Cat, by Storm Cat, Irap finished third and fourth in his first two starts before finishing second to Mastery in the G1 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity, despite bobbling at the start. Though he wouldn’t break his maiden until the Blue Grass, Irap continued to consistently hit the board in graded stakes company across Southern California and New Mexico. He finished a disappointing 18th in the Kentucky Derby, but has rebounded convincingly to win both the Ohio and Indiana Derbies in quick succession.
“He (Irap) has definitely grown up since then (the Kentucky Derby),” added Gutierrez. “He was very unlucky in that race, and he was a bit immature back then. He has matured a lot, and he showed that today. Before he was the type of horse who couldn’t pull it off and clear horses; he kind of wanted to run with company. But he showed he’s not waiting on nobody any more. “
Overall, Irap’s record stands at three wins, three seconds and a third from 11 career starts, and with the winner’s share of the $ 500,000 purse, the colt has now earned over $ 1.3 million. For Irap’s next start, Reddam is considering the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.
“I thought he’s matured as a racehorse now,” said Reddam, who is a former philosophy professor at California State University. “He always had the tools, which is why we put him in ambitious spots, but mentally he wasn’t quite there yet. Now he’s there.”
The race established new track records for handle for a single race and for the highest handle ever in the history of racing at Indiana Grand. A total of $ 1.150 million was wagered on the Indiana Derby, beating last year’s record total of $ 1.095 million. Also, wagering for the night surpassed the $ 3.3 million mark after the Indiana Derby with one race left on the program. The total handle from the 2016 Indiana Derby Night was $ 3,156,859. The new track record for handle from the evening was $ 3.581 million. Attendance for the evening was 13,622, also surpassing last year’s record attendance of 12,974.
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