(Trainer Doug O’Neill hopes that Texas Derby winner, E J Won, can duplicate that feat in Saturday’s upcoming, G3 Indiana Derby / Photos Courtesy of Horseshoe Indianapolis)

From the Horseshoe Indianapolis Media Team / Jennie Rees:

O’Neill hoping Texas Derby winner E J Won the Cup can ice rivals in Grade 3, $300,000 Indiana Derby at Horseshoe Indianapolis

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (Monday, July 1, 2024) — Current Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Erik Johnson won the Stanley Cup in 2022 with the Colorado Avalanche. Now his namesake will try to win the biggest race of his career in Saturday’s $300,000, Grade 3 Indiana Derby at Horseshoe Indianapolis.

Owned by Superfecta King Stables, E J Won the Cup ships in from two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill’s Santa Anita operation in California for Indiana’s biggest horse race.

“E J is Erik Johnson,” said O’Neill, who grew up as a hockey fan in Michigan. “We’re friends and big fans of Erik Johnson. He’s a great guy. Great hockey player and loves racing.”

E J Won the Cup, who captured Lone Star Park’s $300,000 Texas Derby in his last start, follows the O’Neill-trained 2016 Kentucky Derby hero Nyquist, who was named for then-Detroit Red Wings player Gustav Nyquist.

“We’ve got the hockey thing going on,” O’Neill said while at Churchill Downs over the weekend.

Now he’s hoping E J Won the Cup can complete a hat trick of regional Derby wins.

E J Won the Cup started his career 0 for 6, with three seconds, a third and a fourth all while sprinting. The Kentucky-bred son of Omaha Beach thrived once he started racing around two turns, winning a restricted maiden race around Santa Anita’s two-turn mile. He followed up with a front-running score in Arizona’s Turf Paradise Derby and a third in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) won by likely Indiana Derby favorite Stronghold. In his last start start, E J Won the Cup came from off the pace to take the Texas Derby at the Indiana Derby’s 1 1/16-mile distance.

“Cool horse, coming off winning the Turf Paradise Derby and the Texas Derby,” O’Neill said. “It’s a great group of guys in Superfecta King Stables. He worked a good five-eighths at Santa Anita (1:00 4/5 Saturday). We’re excited. He’s by Omaha Beach and it seems like he’s just getting better and better.

“The Indiana Derby is a great pot, a great race and it landed perfectly for us after getting lucky in the Texas Derby. So as we looked at potential spots, we circled that. (Stronghold) is a little scary. We know he’s a nice horse — not a horse that we’re looking to chase from Southern California to run against. But it is what it is, and we’ll see what happens.”

O’Neill, who has a division of horses stabled in Calumet Farm’s barn right by Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, is no stranger to Horseshoe Indianapolis.

“We do run at lot there and we love it,” O’Neill said. “It’s very easy, very convenient for us. So we’re excited and ready.”

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith comes in to ride E J Won the Cup for the fifth time in his last six starts. Smith’s historic resume includes guiding Justify to the 2018 Triple Crown sweep, winning the 2005 Kentucky Derby on 50-1 shot Giacomo and being a four-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He was the regular rider of E J Won The Cup’s sire, with Omaha Beach winning the 2019 Arkansas Derby to become the Kentucky Derby favorite only to be scratched with an injury.

Photos: EJ Won the Cup training is courtesy O’Neill Racing; headshot of Doug O’Neill is credit Gwen Davis/Davis Innovation

A link to video of EJ Won the Cup on TracksideJennie/JR Communications Youtube: https://youtu.be/M0RjKniqP80

The 22nd season of live Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing extends through Thursday, Nov. 14. Racing is held Monday through Thursday at 2:10 p.m. Indiana’s featured event, the Grade 3 $300,000 Indiana Derby is Saturday, July 6 with a first post time of 12 p.m. For more information on live racing at Horseshoe Indianapolis, visit www.caesars.com/horseshoe-indianapolis/racing or find the track on Social Media @HSIndyRacing.

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Photos: EJ Won the Cup training is courtesy O’Neill Racing; headshot of Doug O’Neill is credit Gwen Davis/Davis Innovation

A link to video of EJ Won the Cup on TracksideJennie/JR Communications Youtube: https://youtu.be/M0RjKniqP80