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Louisiana Derby Preview: Final Prep On The Bayou
Mandaloun winning the Risen Star (Credit: Hodges Photography)

Louisiana Derby Preview: Final Prep On The Bayou

NEW ORLEANS, LA – The year’s biggest race on the Bayou is set for this Saturday’s 108th running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds.

Expect a strong battle from a field of eight promising 3-year-olds that includes the Lecomte Stakes (G3) winner Midnight Bourbon and the Risen Star Stakes (G2) winner Mandaloun. The Louisiana Derby is carded as the last of 14 races on Saturday and has a post time of 5:44 PM Central.

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The Brad Cox trained-Mandaloun is the one to beat after his impressive Risen Star Stakes (G2) effort while wearing blinkers for the first time. He’ll look for his fourth win in 5 starts as he breaks from post 6 with regular rider Florent Geroux aboard.

“More than anything, it was just the experience of having the race going two turns under his belt,” Cox said after the Risen Star. “I think the blinkers did help out. Florent immediately made a comment after the race. Much more focused in the post parade, more focused on his job. We didn’t put a bunch of cup on him, just like a one-inch cup, but it seems to have done the trick to get him mentally over the top, mentally getting him where he needs to be.”

The pedigree most suited for the distance belongs to Proxy, who fell just short in both local Kentucky Derby trail attempts. He’s never finished worse than second in 5 career starts and is within about 2 total lengths of being undefeated. John Velazquez will be back aboard for the second straight race when the colt breaks from post 4 wearing blinkers for the first time.

“There were just a number of reasons why the blinkers were added,” Stidham said. “If you look at all of his races here at the Fair Grounds, in every race, you can kind of see him doing a little erratic stuff, whether it be shying away, drifting out, or losing focus like he did in the Risen Star. You can’t win Kentucky Derbies or Louisiana Derbies by doing that.”

Midnight Bourbon, the other local Kentucky Derby prep winner, drew post 7 for this event with Joe Talamo riding once again. He’s one of the more battle-tested in the crop so far, running behind some monsters while never missing the board in 6 lifetime starts for trainer Steve Asmussen.

“I’ve always thought those three were very serious 3-year-olds, not just at the Fair Grounds but they are as good a prospect as you want to be around and I don’t think they’ve done nothing to change anybody’s opinion of that,” Asmussen said. “The addition of blinkers on (Mandaloun), Proxy has been consistent, and with the pedigrees they have, all three of them are capable, but at this point of your 3-year-old year, you either get better or you get beat. You’ve got to improve. What you’ve done (so far) is not going to be enough.”

The full field from the rail out: Starrininmydreams, Rightandjust, Run Classic, Proxy, Hot Rod Charlie, Mandaloun, Midnight Bourbon, and O Besos.

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Top Choice

#6 Mandaloun – At the end of the day, it’s awfully hard to go against this Cox trainee after the progression he showed when he added blinkers. His running style includes enough early speed to put him into a good position, but doesn’t need the lead to succeed. Cox is becoming almost impossible to beat on big days, making going against this horse too difficult. With a win here, he’ll solidify himself as a legitimate top-5 prospect heading into the Kentucky Derby.

Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers

#4 Proxy – After placing him in the top spot when initially handicapping this race, we ultimately moved him down to second. He’s shown a good deal of talent throughout the Fair Grounds trail but just hasn’t shown that he can finish the job, despite having fair chances. The stretch out in distance should be help his top-notch pedigree and it’s great to see Velazquez back aboard. Count on him to be right there with a chance at the finish.

#5 Hot Rod Charlie – After being on the fence heading into the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3), nothing really happened to sway my opinion. He was decent while finishing third, but it seemed like the race was there for the taking and he couldn’t get the job done. Still, I believe he has talent, and he should improve in his second start off the layoff. His sire Oxbow, standing at Calumet Farm, picked up his biggest win at this distance, so he has the pedigree to get the job done here. If nothing else, he’s going to serve as a measuring stick for how the California horses stack up with this Fair Grounds group.

Exotic Plays

#7 Midnight Bourbon – This horse has proven time and time again that he’s very classy, and though he might not win every race, he’s never missed the board in 6 career starts, all against tough horses. Of the four logical choices, he’s probably the least likely to win, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he did.

Party Crashers

#3 Run Classic – Can the son of Runhappy jump onto the Kentucky Derby scene? The Fair Grounds 3-year-old crop has been pretty straightforward all year, but Run Classic could be ready to throw his hat into the mix. He looked pretty impressive breaking his maiden last time out, finishing strong like he had plenty left in the tank. It’ll be a tough ask for the Bret Calhoun trainee to go even further while also take a giant leap up in class, but he’s the only horse who makes sense at a price.

“We’ve been high on him for a long time; he’s shown talent, he’s performed up to expectations so far,” Calhoun said. “In his recent works, he’s come home pretty quick. He’s got a high cruising speed and he accelerates pretty strongly late and gallops out pretty strong. He hasn’t shown us any distance limitations in the mornings. Obviously, a mile and 3/16 is going to be a big test for him as well as some of the others.”

Throw Outs

#8 O Besos – He ran well last time out in the Risen Star Stakes (G2), finishing fourth at odds of 21/1. The problem is, he wasn’t close to the top 3. It’ll be hard for him to turn the tables.

#2 Rightandjust – His first start against stakes company came last time out in the Risen Star Stakes (G2), where he was a well-beaten sixth. He has reasons to improve off of that effort, but we just don’t think it’ll be good enough.

#1 Starrininmydreams – It’s hard to be too confident in him after a dismal start last time out in the Risen Star Stakes (G2). He’ll likely run better this time around, but it might not be enough of an improvement to make a serious impact here.

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