STICKNEY, Ill. (AP) -- Heavy race favorite Midnight Hawk was run down in the stretch by Dynamic Impact, which won the $500,000 Illinois Derby by a nose in a photo finish. Maiden horse Irish You Well finished third at Hawthorne Race course in Stickney.
Ridden by Miguel Mena, the 9-1 winner Dynamic Impact ran a mile and an eighth in 1:49.07 on a fast track from the No. 1 post position. The 57th running of the Illinois Derby featured an eight horse field.
"Nobody chased the favorite, so I had to go and put some pressure on him," Mena said.
Midnight Hawk, the 2-5 favorite trained by Bob Baffert, stumbled out of the gate, but then righted itself immediately and went to the lead and was in front throughout the race until the finish line. Dynamic Impact stayed with the favorite from start to finish, but Midnight Hawk had a 2 1-2 length lead at the head of the stretch.
Midnight Hawk started to waiver at the ¼ pole, as jockey Martin Garcia worked hard to keep his the horses head straight via the whip.
"He (Midnight Hawk) got a little tired (at the end)," Garcia said.
Dynamic Impact began to furiously close by the 1/8 pole until the dramatic finish.
"I was glad I was able to put him (Dynamic Impact) on the outside at the ¼ pole," Mena said. "He wasn't liking it on the inside and I had no choice since I had to put some pressure. By the time we got to the 1/8 pole, I said he's coming back, he's coming back."
Dynamic Impact paid $21.20 on a $2 bet to win, $6.00 to place and $4.80 to show. Midnight Hawk returned $2.20 to place and $2.10 to show, while Irish You Well returned $4.80 to show in the race for 3-year-olds.
Dynamic Impact, which faced Graded Stakes winners for the first time in the Illinois Derby, is trained by Mark E. Casse and owned by John C. Oxley. The Illinois Derby is considered a prep race for the Preakness Stakes (May 17), since the Kentucky Derby (May 3) is thought to be too close a turnaround for Illinois Derby horses to recover.
Midnight Hawk is trained by multiple Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert. Part of the owners group of Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings, Inc., is Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and assistant coach Mike Kitchen. The Blackhawks also lost a heartbreaker, 4-3 in overtime at St. Louis, just minutes before the Illinois Derby race. Also part of the owning syndicate of Midnight Hawk is Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice.