The Derby Trail swings down to New Orleans for the $1 million Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on Saturday featuring 10 colts searching for valuable Kentucky Derby points.
The top four finishers will acquire 100-40-20-10 points, respectively, on the Road to the Derby at the Fair Grounds. It is the first of seven races offering the winner 100 points and assuring a spot in the gate on the First Saturday in May.
The field returns the top three finishers from the local prep, the Risen Star and the winner of the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. It should be a highly competitive race with a who’s who list of trainers attempting to advance along the Derby Trail.
Here’s a look at the entries for the 105th running of the Louisiana Derby – Fair Grounds Race 11, Post Time: 6:21 EDT (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
1 – Bravazo (Lukas, Stevens, 7-2). Hall of Fame connections on the Awesome Again colt and winner of the local prep for the La. Derby. Stevens returns to ride after giving way to Miguel Mena in the Risen Star. If he keeps moving forward off the last performance, he could be single digits on Derby day.
2 – Noble Indy (Pletcher, Velazquez, 7-2). Co-second choice along with the rail horse, this combination knows how to win on the Derby trail. Only his fourth career race for Repole Stables, an outfit familiar with the big stage. The Take Charge Indy colt finished third in the Risen Star after a rough start, so improvement is not out of the question. Pletcher is typically dangerous with this type of colt in the prep races. The pick.
3 – Marmello (Yanakov, Gilligan, 50-1). Still a maiden, this sure looks like a difficult spot to try and break it. Would be an upset of UMBC proportions.
4 –Givemeaminit (Stewart, Castellano, 9-2). Stewart usually dials up an upset to find himself with a Derby gate, will the son of Star Guitar be the one to deliver this year? He’s faced decent competition over his eight career races, but has yet to breakthrough. Not sure he’s the one that’s going to send Stewart to Louisville. Javy in the irons is promising, but he’s yet to hit the board in a route of ground.
5 – Retirement Fund (Asmussen, Bridgmohan, 12-1). Colt didn’t fire in the Southwest at Oaklawn, and returns to familiar territory where he’s 2-for-2. His two efforts at the Fair Grounds shows promise, but I wouldn’t bet your 401(k) on him.
6 – Hyndford (Pletcher, Bravo, 8-1). Lightly raced colt finished second behind last week’s Rebel winner at Tampa last out. Bravo gets the nod as Castellano jumps off to ride for Stewart. Intriguing given the potential key race at Tampa and the Toddster factor.
7- Snapper Sinclair (Asmussen, Ortiz, 9-2). City Zip colt just missed in the local prep and has improving numbers coming into the La. Derby. Comes in third off the layoff looking to visit the winner’s circle in a dirt race after two turf wins last summer. He completes the exacta.
8- Lone Sailor (Amoss, Graham, 20-1). What a tribute it would be if the son of Majestic Warrior pulled the major upset for the late Tom Benson, the Saints owner who passed away late last week. Trainer Amoss winning at a 29 percent clip at the Fair Grounds meet, but not sure this is where he improves that mark.
9- My Boy Jack (Desormeaux, Desormeaux, 5-2). There’s a lot to like about the Southwest winner, improving speed figures, third off the layoff and decent workouts in the morning. The Cajun brothers will try and come home and steal a spot in Derby 144 with the son of Creative Cause. Let’s see how he does on a dry track. In the mix.
10- Dark Templar (Walsh, Geroux, 12-1). Won a local optional claimer in preparation for this spot with Geroux aboard. Wouldn’t be out of the question if the son of Tapit catches a piece of the exotics underneath.
I’m going with the Pletcher golden touch when it comes to Derby prep races. Snapper Sinclair continues to hit the board, My Boy Jack garners additional points and the other Pletcher is the surprise horse.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Noble Indy; 2 – Snapper Sinclair; 3 – My Boy Jack; 4 – Hyndford
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.