The Kentucky Derby trail rolls into New Orleans on Saturday afternoon.
The $1 million Grade 2 Louisiana Derby will has a post time of 5:49 p.m. EDT. It drew a full field of 14 colts vying in the first 100-point qualifying race on the schedule. The top four finishers will earn 100-40-20-10 points, respectively, toward a starting gate in the Run for the Roses, now slated for Sept. 5.
The grandstands will be empty as Covid-19 protocols have been instituted at the New Orleans venue. The track has been running without spectators since March 13. The Louisiana Derby is the last race on the 12-race card for the signature day of the meeting.
The outbreak has already caused one trainer to look for another jockey, as Todd Pletcher will seek to replace Irad Ortiz Jr. on Portos. The Eclipse-award winning jockey announced Thursday on Twitter that he will be sitting out until further notice.
The race, previously run over nine furlongs on dirt, has stretched out to 1 3/16ths miles, the same distance as the Preakness Stakes.
Here’s a capsule look at the entries for the Louisiana Derby (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
Louisiana Derby – (Race 12 – Fair Grounds, 1 3/16-miles, post time: 5:49 p.m. EDT)
1 – Major Fed (Foley, Rosario, 8-1). Second-place finisher in the local prep draws the rail, which is winning at a 21% clip at the NOLA track. Son of Ghostzapper comes off a monster bullet workout Feb. 29 and has veteran jock Joel Rosario aboard. Should love the stretch out and loves the surface. Contender.
2 – Mailman Money (Calhoun, G. Saez, 15-1). Has found trouble at the start of each of his last two races for W. Bret Calhoun. Has a nice mix of speed and stamina in his bloodlines and has moved forward in each of his first three career races. Best shot is underneath in the exotics.
3 – Wells Bayou (Cox, Geroux, 8-1). Son of Lookin at Lucky was second in the Southwest at Oaklawn and ships in to Louisiana to see if he can garner valuable Derby points. Brad Cox is having a very good meet at Fair Grounds and his horse’s workout tab seems to indicate he’s ready to fire. Florent Geroux will ride the front-running colt who could get away from a field with not a ton of speed. Dangerous.
4 – Chestertown (Asmussen, Velazquez, 15-1). Late-running son of Tapit gets Johnny V in the irons making his 2020 Fair Grounds debut. Doesn’t seem to be enough pace for his running style and there are much faster in here.
5 – Social Afleet (Stewart, Beschizza, 50-1). Longest shot on the board running for a trainer who loves to take his chances in big races. Son of Northern Afleet comes out of an allowance win against lesser and steps up into deeper waters against graded company for the first time.
6 – Shake Some Action (Cox, Hernandez, 15-1). Lightly raced Into Mischief colt who has won his last two and looks to be moving forward. Horse for the course who is out of a Tiznow mare so the distance should not be a factor. Could crash the trifecta or superfecta with a late run.
7 – Sharecropper (Stall, Jr., Mena, 20-1). Regressed after an impressive maiden win in his juvenile campaign at Churchill Downs. The son of Pioneerof the Nile out of an Empire Maker mare should enjoy the longer distance. Local jock Miguel Mena, who has had a rough Fair Grounds meet, is in the saddle for Al Stall Jr.
8 – Royal Act (Eurton, Cedillo, 10-1). West Coast shipper for Peter Eurton sired by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah will try to march into New Orleans and steal the prize. Second in the Robert B. Lewis behind Thousand Words, the $500,000 purchase is the biggest unknown in the race. On the fence.
9 – Portos (Pletcher, Lanerie, 8-1). With Irad trading in the saddle for his couch, Pletcher will have to go to Plan B for his Derby rider replacing Ortiz, Jr. with Corey Lanerie. Competitive in his first three races, he pounded a maiden field by 10 before finishing third in the Grade 3 Withers last month at the Big A. Pletcher colts have found a way to sneak in the back door to the Derby before. Don’t discount this one.
10 – Enforceable (Casse, Leparoux, 7-2). Lecomte winner and Risen Star runner-up in the two preps for Saturday’s race earn him the favorite’s role. Trainer Mark Casse excelled with War of Will last year on the Derby trail here in New Orleans and he’ll try to repeat with the son of Tapit. In the mix.
11 – Ny Traffic (Joseph, Jr., Bravo, 20-1). Flashed early speed in the Risen Star but gave way to the eventual winners in the stretch. Looks to be more of a miler or sprinter type and the distance could be his undoing, not to mention the outside post. This Cross Traffic colt will be heard from at shorter distances later in the year.
12 – Lynn’s Map (Casse, B. Hernandez, Jr., 30-1). Son of Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map and the “other Casse” in the race. Outside post shouldn’t hamper the stalking style he has shown in earlier races. Was the recipient of a brutal trip with all kinds of problems in the Risen Star, and still finished respectably. Swinging for the fences at 30-1 with hopes of chaos.
13 – Silver State (Asmussen, Santana, Jr., 6-1). Top connections put forth this Hard Spun colt who drew outside. With 20 Kentucky Derby points in the bag already, the Lecomte runner-up is currently sitting at No. 20 on the Derby leaderboard. The pedigree screams that he can go long so the added distance should be a plus. In the mix.
14 – Modernist (Mott, Alvarado, 6-1). With his 50-point victory in the second division of the Risen Star, he’s likely already secured a spot on the first Saturday in September. He currently sits at No. 5 on the Derby leaderboard. Trainer Bill Mott won’t push the Uncle Mo colt to do more than he’s asked under these circumstances and with the outside post. His workout tab suggests he’s ready.
Two also-eligibles are entered 15-Mr. Big News (20-1) and 16-Farmington Road (12-1), should one of the 14 colts scratch out of the race.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Lynn’s Map, 2 – Wells Bayou, 3 – Silver State; 4 – Major Fed
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.