|The Illinois Derby is a Gr 2
American horserace contested over 1 1/8 miles on dirt by three-year-old
thoroughbreds in April every year at Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney,
Illinois (west of Chicago). It offers a generous purse of $500,000 and
is an important prep race for the Kentucky Derby in May each year.
Inaugurated in 1923, the Illinois Derby was run up until 1938 (where it
was hosted by Aurora Downs Racetrack) and was then stopped until 1963.
That year it was restarted at Sportsman's Park Racetrack in Cicero,
Illinois, where it was contested every year until in 2003 it was moved
over to Hawthorne Race Course.
Originally run in May between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness
Stakes (the first and second legs of the U.S. Triple Crown series), in
2001 the Illinois Derby was moved forward to early April, in effect
becoming the prep race it is today for the Kentucky Derby, and
ultimately the Triple Crown series.
Interestingly, in the Illinois Derby's last running at Sportsman's Park
Racetrack, it was won by War Emblem, 2002 American Champion 3-Yr-Old
Male Horse and winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and
Haskell Invitational Handicap. 2004 Illinois Derby winner, Pollard's
Vision, only had vision in one eye.
The fastest time ever recorded in the Illinois Derby was 1:47.51 set in
1997 (while the race was still held at Sportsman's Park Racetrack) by
Wild Rush, who was ridden by Kent Desormeaux, trained by Richard
Mandella and owned by Frank Stronach.