Saturday’s 11th race at The Fair Grounds will be the $1 million G2 Louisiana Derby. With 100 Derby points to the winner and 40 to the place runner, 2 spots in the gate for the first Saturday in May could be up for grabs. The race will be contested by a field of 10 at 1-1/8 miles around 2 turns over the dirt course.
Fair Grounds rarely cards dirt races at this distance. For comparison purposes, 1m and 70 yard races have been won wire to wire at about 30%. And if history serves correctly, the inside will be the place to be.
Keith Desormeaux’s My Boy Jack is the 5/2 morning line favorite and will be coming off of a G3 win in the Southwest Stakes in the mud at Oaklawn Park. He was brilliantly handled by Kent Desormeaux in that race as he settled well back of a speed duel and rode a golden rail to a clear victory. If he gets another dream trip with a perfect pace scenario he may have a shot here, but at 5/2 I will have to pass.
Several other contenders are coming off of the G2 Risen Star where Bravazo dueled and nosed out Snapper Sinclair for the win, 2 lengths ahead of Noble Indy. This looked like a nice battle until we see that the fractions were slower than the filly’s pace in the Rachel Alexandra, also run that day. Bravazo and Snapper Sinclair both have more heart than speed.
Risen Star 3rd place runner Noble Indy, trained by Todd Pletcher, will be adding blinkers for the first time this week. In a race without legitimate speed, adding blinkers would normally indicate a trainer trying to sharpen a horse’s early focus. But adding blinkers in a stakes race, where Pletcher is 1 for his last 18, may be showing a little desperation. Recently, Pletcher tried this angle with Vino Ross in the Tampa Bay Derby and he finished a well beaten fourth. Add in that Noble Indy was out-worked by the #4, 8/1 allowance caliber stablemate Hyndford, on March 10th and I will have to pass here as well.
In a race where I can make a case against everyone in the field, the horse I landed on is Bravazo. His run in the Risen Star included a 3-wide path around the 1st turn as he was hustled from the gate, and a stretch run where he (and Snapper Sinclair) pulled away from 2 perfect trip horses, Noble Indy and the highly regarded Instilled Regard. His speed figures show a steady progression and today he moves to the inside post where he will have the services of Gary Stevens in the irons.
I will take Bravazo for the win and hope for more than the 7/2 morning line.