Patriot Spirit headed to Preakness S. (G1) after Illinois Derby romp

Constitution’s dynamic 3-year-old colt Patriot Spirit rolled to a front-running 5 ½-length victory in Sunday’s $200,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, earning the Mike Campbell trainee a trip to the Preakness S. (G1) on the third Saturday in May.

Constitution, a top-10 sire nationally, will be represented in the May 4 Kentucky Derby (G1) by Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Catching Freedom.

Patriot Spirit controlled the pace of Sunday’s 1 1/8-mile race from the outset. Under Julio Felix, he got the first half-mile in :47.78 while leading by 1 ½-lengths. He started to stretch the margin from there and was never threatened the rest of the way while finishing up in 1:50.43 on a fast track.

“I thought he would run like that, without a doubt,” Campbell said. “You know, everybody thinks young horses start out perfect, and they don’t. They make mistakes, too. I started him two times in races over seven-eighths of a mile. The first time the saddle slipped a bit and he got excited, and he ran off with the bridle. That was a mistake. Then I had to regroup and make sure he got a lesson in the next race. That’s what he did. He won the Inaugural (on Dec. 2 at Tampa Bay Downs). Then we came back and I tried him at a mile and an eighth in one of the preps for the Kentucky Derby. I thought he was a Derby prep horse without a doubt.”

While Patriot Spirit will not start in the Derby, he’s definitely headed to Baltimore according to Campbell.

“(Hawthorne President Tim) Carey promised that if we were going to the Preakness, he would pay our way,” Campbell said. “That’s step number one. Julio would like to go there. We like the crabs and all the seafood out there. Then we are looking at the Iowa Derby and the Ohio Derby (afterwards).

Patriot Spirit, owned by George Mellon’s Mellon Patch Inc., has a 3-0-1 record from seven career starts. The $120,000 winner’s share of the Illinois Derby purse increased his lifetime bankroll to $208,300.

Patriot Spirit was bred in Kentucky by Blue Heaven Farm and is out of Grade 1 winner Mistical Plan. The bay colt was purchased by his owner for $235,000 at the 2023 OBS March 2-year-old sale.