- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

CICERO, ILL. (AP) - Trainer Derek Ryan is wasting no time planning Musket Man’s next destination after the 3-year-old colt used a big stretch run to win Saturday’s $500,000 Illinois Derby.

“We’re leaving for Churchill (Downs) tomorrow at 7 a.m.,” Ryan said after Musket Man shot past four competitors after the final turn to win the Grade 2 race by 2 lengths.

“He really ran a big race today,” Ryan said. “Everybody has been questioning his ability to get the distance, but they don’t know the horse I do.”

The victory on the 1 1/8 mile Hawthorne Race Course track gives the Kentucky-bred colt a likely spot in next month’s Kentucky Derby.

“He’s got to be one of the top picks now,” Ryan said. “He’s a very, very talented horse. He’s got one of the best dispositions of a horse you could ever had, nothing ever bothers him.”

Musket Man was in fifth place approaching the final turn when jockey Eibar Coa maneuvered the colt on the far side into position for a dynamic stretch run.

“He placed himself in a great position and just allowed me to do whatever I needed to do,” said Coa, riding Musket Man for the first time. “He showed today that he definitely has the potential to go to the Derby.”

Musket Man was a 5-1 morning line favorite and 5-2 by post time. He paid $7.60 to win, $3.80 to place and $3.20 to show. Second-place finisher Giant Oak returned $4.20 and $3. Show horse His Greatness paid $11.80.

Musket Man, the only entry with a previous graded stakes victory, has now won three of four races this year. The $285,000 first prize boosts his 2009 earnings to more than $500,000.

Perfect Song, which entered with 6-1 odds, led much of the race but faded after the far turn and finished seventh. Illinois-bred Giant Oak was in fourth place through much of the race and moved up on the inside to claim second.

“Musket Man was obviously the better horse today,” said Clint Brock, trainer for Giant Oak. “My horse ran his heart out, just didn’t catch him.”

Conditions for the Illinois Derby’s 52nd running were fast under sunny, but cool conditions on a dirt track.

The field originally included 11 entries, but was reduced early Saturday afternoon when Lord Justice was scratched.

(This version CORRECTS Optional; corrects to Illinois Derby thruout)

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