The most crowded place at Fair Grounds on Saturday will be the starting gate for the $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2), which attracted an overflow field of 3-year-olds in the first Road to the Kentucky Derby series prep of the year to offer qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers.
Fourteen horses plus two also-eligibles were entered in the race, which has been extended to 1 3/16 miles from nine furlongs for the first time. The long-winded Enforceable, who captured the Lecomte (G3) in January prior to running second to the sidelined Mr. Monomoy in a division of the Risen Star (G2), has been installed the 7-2 morning line favorite.
“I think he’s doing as good, if not better coming into the Louisiana Derby than he was going into the Risen Star,” said David Carroll, assistant to trainer Mark Casse. “He had a good breeze Saturday morning. Ideally, we’d like to have a solid pace in front of us. He’s a horse that gets into a steady rhythm and (jockey) Julien (Leparoux) has a lot of confidence in him. It’s naturally a stepping stone. As the distances are extended, I think it play even more in his favor.”
Modernist posted a 12-1 upset of the second Risen Star division breaking from post 1, but is currently saddled with post 14 for the Louisiana Derby barring scratches. The son of Uncle Mo was prominent throughout that day in his follow-up from a four-length maiden win at Aqueduct over the same 1 1/8-mile trip.
“Well I think we’ll just try and get over,” trainer Bill Mott said of the outside draw. “Last time we had the rail trip. This time, we’re probably not getting the rail trip but with that being said, this is a 1 3/16 miles, it’s not 1 1/16 miles or a 1 1/8 miles so we have kind of that Kentucky Derby-type run down to the first turn. It’s maybe not quite as much as the Derby but it still gives him time to get down to the turn and get over a little bit. It gives the first a chance to spread out.”
Wells Bayou, who set the pace before weakening late in the Southwest (G3), drew more ideally in post 3 for Brad Cox.
“He’s a nice horse, very talented,” Cox said. “Had a fantastic work on Saturday. He looks well, and is just now going the right direction. The horse has a big shot. We want to be forwardly placed and I think given the distance, there probably won’t be as much pressure up front.”
Silver State, runner-up in the Lecomte and third in the faster Risen Star division won by Mr. Monomoy, returns for the Derby as does Major Fed and Ny Traffic, who followed Modernist under the wire in the second Risen Star heat. Mailman Money, Lynn’s Map, and the also-eligible Farmington Road are other Risen Star also-rans in the Derby lineup.
Shippers include the California-based Royal Act, a close second to Thousand Words in the Feb. 1 Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita, and Portos, third in the Withers (G3) in his stakes debut last out for Todd Pletcher.
Like virtually all tracks across the country, Fair Grounds will conduct racing without a live audience for the foreseeable future. However, wagering on the 12-race Louisiana Derby card will be available at the sponsoring TwinSpires.com.
Finite will ride a five-race win streak into the $400,000 TwinSpires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), where the Steve Asmussen trainee figures to be a prohibitive odds-on favorite facing five other 3-year-old fillies.
The daughter of Munnings already has more than enough Road to the Kentucky Oaks qualifying points after wins in the Silverbulletday S. and Rachel Alexandra (G2) earlier in the meet, as well as the Golden Rod (G2) last fall, but goes for the lion’s share of the 100-40-20-10 distribution on offer in the 1 1/16-mile test.
Leading candidates to upset include Tempers Rising, only a neck behind Finite in the Silverbulletday but a distant fourth in the Rachel Alexandra, and Bonny South, a recent Oaklawn allowance scorer over subsequent Honeybee (G3) heroine Shedaresthedevil.
“She got a really good speed figure out of the Oaklawn race and I think it is very comparable to the favorite,” trainer Brad Cox said of Bonny South, who earned an 89 Brisnet speed rating. “If she can get a good trip and move forward a little bit, I think this filly is going to make some noise. I’ve always liked her.”