The race of the week is at the Fair Grounds Race Course and the first 170-point qualifying race of the year features the horse sitting on top of the Derby leaderboard in War of Will (60 points).
Assured of a spot in the gate in Louisville on the First Saturday in May, the Mark Casse-trained colt has won the two Fair Grounds prep races for Saturday’s $1 million Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.
The race will offer the top four finishers Derby qualifying points totaling 100-40-20-10 points. The race will be seen on TVG (DirecTV channel 602) from 6-6:30 p.m. EDT. Post time for the Louisiana Derby is 6:13 p.m. EDT.
The 1 1/8-mile race drew 11 participants, including several that have challenged the 6-5 favorite in the Risen Star and Lecomte Stakes earlier in the meet.
It was a tough week in thoroughbred breeding circles as Pioneerof the Nile, the sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah died at WinStar Farm in Kentucky on Monday. The 13-year-old son of Empire Maker had bred a mare in the morning and started acting uncomfortable once he was back in his stall.
He finished second to 50-1 shot Mine That Bird in the 2009 Kentucky Derby and had been a successful sire since his retirement from the racetrack.
Louisiana Derby (Race 13 – Fair Grounds, Post Time: 6:13 p.m. EDT)
Here’s a look at the entries for the Louisiana Derby (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
1 – Roiland (Amoss, Graham, 12-1). Late closer who passed eight horses in the stretch in the Risen Star to finish third behind the favorite and Country House. Hot jockey/trainer combo to boot will be looking to hit the board once more to move up the Derby leaderboard. Training like he can continue to improve upon his last effort. Pace will determine where he finishes. Contender.
2 – Lemniscate (McPeek, Hernandez, 15-1). Maiden breaker in his last on the turf, this speedster will likely be on the engine early in the race. Son of Exchange Rate ships in from south Florida to try to steal one on the front end. McPeek successful at 17 percent clip in the turf-to-dirt angle and he’s won a few big races as the longshot trainer in his career. Sneaky.
3 – Limonite (Asmussen, Ortiz, 20-1). Trainer had six horses in the Rebels last weekend and has two more in the gate in the Louisiana Derby. Ortiz rides the Winchell-owned son of Lemon Drop Kid for the first time in hopes of improving on the sixth-place effort in the Risen Star. Tough to back.
4 – Sueno (Desormeaux, Lanerie, 6-1). Currently sits in 28th on the Derby point list with 8 points, so a top-3 finish could vault him into contention for a slot on May 4 at Churchill Downs. Has never missed the board in five career races at four different tracks. Finished in front of the Rebel winner in his second-place effort in the Southwest. Has shown improvement in each of his last three races so he could be sitting on a big one. Taking a shot at a square price.
5 – By My Standards (Calhoun, Saez, 12-1). Son of sprinter Goldencents broke his maiden at 8 1/2-furlongs on the local track. His pedigree doesn’t exactly scream long distance and this could be the race that it catches up to him. Finally broke his maiden last out in his fourth career race. We’ll sit this one out.
6 – War of Will (Casse, Gaffalione, 6-5). Odds on favorite doesn’t need the win, but Casse is a competitor. This is the race to take a shot against him as his main goal at this point is to have him peaking at the First Saturday in May. Wouldn’t be surprised if Casse has him try to rate more in this race to see if he has the right move that can win the Derby. The one to beat.
7 – Mr. Money (Calhoun, Belschizza, 20-1). As opposed to the other Goldencents colt in the race, this one is out of a Tiznow mare, so the stamina is underneath. Has a right to improve in his second start of the year. The fact that Saez jumped off to ride the other Goldencents can’t be discounted though. Head scratcher.
8 – Country House (Mott, Saez, 9-2). He’s stayed high on my NTRA Derby poll based on his impressive late close in the Risen Star. If the son of Lookin at Lucky (20 points) gets out the gate cleanly he’ll be in the mix at the wire. His Derby hopes are at stake and having a solid effort over the track earlier can only give him a slight edge over some of the others.
9 – Bankit (Asmussen, Ortiz, Jr. 20-1). So both Ortizes are on Asmussen horses and they’re both on rides with 20-1 odds. Ships in from Oaklawn to face the Louisiana crop. Hard to ignore the connections, but others seem more logical.
10 – Spinoff (Pletcher, Velazquez, 8-1). Could be TAP’s only shot at the Derby (pictured above). Would be hard to believe the trainer with the multiple colts entered in the Derby over the past decade could be shut out. If he’s got a chance, it’s with this one who pulverized an allowance field at Tampa by 11 lengths in his last out. His workouts indicate he’s ready to roll. Not out of the question.
11 – Hog Creek Hustle (Foley, Mena, 12-1). Sits with 9 points on the leaderboard, desperate for a top-3 finish here. Outside post shouldn’t be as much a concern based on his running style. Having trouble putting him in my top four.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Sueno, 2 – Country House, 3 – War of Will, 4 – Spinoff
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.