Tom Pumphret, Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs License

The derby trail makes its first major stop this week. The G2 $1M Louisiana Derby will offer 100-40-20-10 derby points to the top 4 finishers, which should be enough to get the top 2 to the gate on the first Saturday in May. The race will be contested at 1-1/8 miles over the Fair Grounds dirt course.

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The field of eleven 3yr olds will be headlined by Risen Star champion War of Will. Trained by Mark Casse, War of Will has won all 3 of his starts since discovering the dirt, with 2 of the victories being graded stakes. He will be facing 5 foes that are also coming out of the Risen Star, including the 2nd thru 5th place finishers Country House, Roiland, Hog Creek Hustle, and Limonite.

It should be noted that these horses all closed from far back in the Risen Star, while War of Will traveled up close and wide, never worse than 2nd after the start. If War of Will would not have stayed on for a 2-1/4 length win, we would have been talking about a hot pace and that the speed collapsed, allowing horses that were 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th at the first call to finish 2nd thru 5th. The other horse coming out of the Risen Star, 7th place finisher Mr. Money, was within 1 length of War of Will turning for home and could not handle the pace, fading to an 8 length loss.

This leads us to the track bias at the Fair Grounds. It is no secret that being inside and up close is the place to be on this oval. As shown by the track bias chart found on, an early running style has offered a statistical advantage at all distances.


Distance Race # Wire % Best Style Best Posts
5.5fDirt 61 38% E Rail/Ins
6.0fDirt 218 38% E Rail/Ins
1 MileDirt 119 32% E Rail/Ins
1m 70yDirt 71 27% E Outside

The chances of any closers will depend on the abilities of several speedy newcomers and their willingness to challenge the pace. Lemniscate and Spinoff, two of the more lightly raced colts in this field, both have shown early speed, with Spinoff posting very respectable early pace figures at TB Downs where he won an optional claiming event by 11 lengths. Will this be enough to beat War of Will who has shown gate speed, a high cruising speed, and a good closing kick?

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I see this racing setting up on an easy pace with too many of those notorious closers trying to be a little closer than they were in the Risen Star. War of Will will be in his usual spot early, probably sitting 2nd or 3rd. In this scenario I am drawn towards looking for a horse that will naturally sit just off the pace.

The horse I landed on is Sueno. Making his 3rd start of the year, Sueno is coming off of two 2nd place finishes, in the G3 Sham and the G3 Southwest. Sueno’s run in the Southwest was better than it looked. He took his normal stalking spot but was then completely shut off behind a wall of horses, which is always a risk with jockey Corey Lanerie. Lanerie rides like a young Calvin Borel saving all the ground and never veering too far from the rail. When he finally shook free in the lane, Sueno closed better than anyone and came within ¾ lengths of victory. And look who finished 1-1/4 lengths behind him….Rebel winner Long Range Toddy.

Let’s take Sueno for the win and back it up with a War of Will and Sueno exacta box.