Local Sports

Texas Derby winner King Ottoman looking for starring role in Indiana Derby

King Ottoman went from being a footnote to the headline when he captured Lone Star Park’s $300,000 Texas Derby on Memorial Day. Now Three Chimney Farms’ 3-year-old colt can take another step toward building his own resume in Saturday’s $300,000 Grade 3 Indiana Derby at Horseshoe Indianapolis.

King Ottoman (photo), to be ridden by meet-leading jockey Marcelino Pedroza, is the 5-1 fourth choice in the field of 10 horses entered in the 1 1/16-mile Indiana Derby. First post is 12:20 p.m. with the Indiana Derby set for 6:40 p.m. as the last of 12 races.

“He’s obviously a very talented horse,” said King Ottoman’s Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. “We always thought very highly of him, and were surprised in the races he got beat in. So it was great to see him put it all together in a race that meant so much to me (living in nearby Arlington).

“The Indiana Derby is a good opportunity. It’s a graded stakes, and we want that in his resume – and expect him to run even better than he did in the Texas Derby. We expect him to finish off his 3-year-old season well but be even better as an older horse.”

King Ottoman has been best known as the workmate for 2-year-old filly champion Echo Zulu in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Oaks. The role of work partner of a top horse often is as unglamorous as it is important, while decidedly short of fame. The workmate must challenge its stablemate to ensure the better-known horse gets enough out of the workouts. At the same time, the workmate must also be of stout mind to handle the competition.

“He’s also a product of my parents’ training center,” said Asmussen, referencing Keith and Marilyn Asmussen’s El Primero training facility outside of Laredo, Texas, where many of the trainer’s horses get their early lessons on being a racehorse. “He handles (things) extremely well, and he obviously has a good level of ability. He’s had a temperament that you were very comfortable with having him be around her – and having enough ability that she’d get something out of the works with him. But I think it’s his time to come into his own.”



King Ottoman certainly is familiar with big race days, just not the featured attraction but rather maiden races. He finished fourth in his first two starts, which came on the undercards for the Grade 2 Risen Star in New Orleans and the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. He subsequently ran third in the maiden race that kicked off the Kentucky Derby program.

The performance was good enough that Asmussen jumped King Ottoman into stakes company. King Ottoman repaid the confidence by wearing down the leaders late to take the Texas Derby by a head under meet-leading rider Stewart Elliott.

“It was a quickly run maiden race and it was a one-turn mile,” Asmussen said of the Derby Day race. “I think he’s better suited for farther. But it was a good time, quite a bit of traffic with a full field. With the timing of it, we felt he had gotten enough out of the race to take the chance in the Texas Derby – and proved right.”

Asmussen is well familiar with King Ottoman’s sterling pedigree, having trained both his mom and pop. The colt is a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and out of Tapit mare Shook Up, who finished second in the 2015 Kentucky Oaks.

“Huge pedigree,” he said. “A son of Curlin, very big-bodied horse, obviously getting considerably better with his races. Definitely don’t believe we’ve seen the best of him yet.”

Pedroza will be aboard King Ottoman for the first time.

“When you have a horse trained by Steve Asmussen, he’s just won the Texas Derby and he’s in great form right now. He’s probably going to be one of the favorites,” Pedroza said. “I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to ride the horse, and let’s see. Hopefully the home team can get it done.”

Pedroza is working on his fourth Indiana riding title, all since 2017. He’d love nothing more than to be able to add the track’s biggest race to his record.

“That would be great,” he said. “You always want to win. This is where I’m riding the most right now. It would mean a lot to win an Indiana Derby. I’m just fortunate to be in it. If you get the job done, even better.”

The Indiana Derby field (with jockey/trainer and morning line odds in post position order): Trademark (Rafael Bejarano/Victoria Oliver, 15-1), First Glimpse (Orlando Mojica/Carlos Silva, 20-1), Mowins (Jon Court/Michael Lauer, 15-1), King Ottoman (Marcelino Pedroza/Steve Asmussen, 5-1), New Year’s Fever (Rodney Prescott/Brandi Steele, 20-1), Rattle N Roll (Brian Hernandez Jr./Kenny McPeek, 5-2), Best Actor (Florent Geroux/Brad Cox, 4-1), Actuator (James Graham/Michael McCarthy, 7-2), Un Ojo (David Cohen/Robertino Diodoro, 6-1), Fowler Blue (Sonny Leon/Doug O’Neill, 8-1).