June 23, 2024

Epicenter, Call Me Midnight rematch on tap in Louisiana Derby

Epicenter wins the inaugural Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds (Photo by Lou Hodges, Jr./Hodges Photography)

TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) — Race 12 (6:44 p.m. ET)

A rematch featuring the speed of Epicenter and the closing kick of Call Me Midnight is on tap in Saturday’s $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds, which in all likelihood serves as the final Kentucky Derby (G1) prep for both colts.

The pair last met in the Jan. 22 Lecomte (G3), when Call Me Midnight arrived late to deny Epicenter by a head at odds of 28-1. In Call Me Midnight’s absence in last month’s Risen Star (G2), Epicenter stretched his speed over nine furlongs and won comfortably by 2 3/4 lengths from Smile Happy, the race favorite who bypasses the Louisiana Derby in favor of the Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland.

Epicenter is safely in the Kentucky Derby, having won the Risen Star, but Call Me Midnight must run another corker to ensure his participation in the Louisville classic. In contrast to Epicenter, who has 64 qualifying points in the bank, Call Me Midnight has just the 10 from the Lecomte.

Contested over 1 3/16 miles, the Louisiana Derby offers qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers.

Also returning from the Risen Star is Pioneer of Medina, who tracked in second much of the way before fading late to fourth. Trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Louisiana Derby a record four times, most recently with Noble Indy in 2018.

Like Call Me Midnight, Rattle N Roll needs a strong effort to remain qualified for the Derby. Last year’s Breeders’ Futurity (G1) winner returned from an injury-forced break earlier this month in the Fountain of Youth (G2), but finished sixth in a field of 11.

“I was hoping he would be fourth or better,” said trainer Kenny McPeek after the Fountain of the Youth. “He’s a big horse that needs some running, and he hadn’t run in five months. He needed the run.”

Galt had worse luck in the Fountain of Youth. Far back after a slow start, the colt was involved in a mishap around the quarter pole that affected a stablemate and wound up losing jockey Joel Rosario. He’ll be reunited Saturday with Junior Alvarado, who rode the colt to a fourth-place finish in the Holy Bull (G3) two back.

The most intriguing of the three stakes newcomers in the field is the Brad Cox-trained Zozos. Victorious in a key six-furlong maiden in January, Zozos crushed allowance rivals by more than 10 lengths going 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn less than three weeks later.

The field is rounded out by Curly Tail, Kapuna, and Silent Power.