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A field of 10 Kentucky Derby hopefuls will take flight in the 105th running of the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby, scheduled as the 11th race on a 14-race card this Saturday. The Louisiana Derby is the final of three preps at Fair Grounds for the 2018 Road to the Kentucky Derby and awards points to the top four finishers based on a 100-40-20-10 scale.
My Boy Jack has been made the 5-2 morning line favorite following a dominating 4 1/4-length win in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes. The 3-year-old son of Creative Cause raced primarily on the turf last year and had solid success before trying dirt in his last two races. Trainer Keith Desormeaux is excited to be returning to his home state with a horse of this caliber.
“As soon as he crossed the wire in Arkansas, we started thinking about our next move,” Desormeaux said. “When you win over a track, it makes sense to run right back there, but (part-owner) Sol Kumin brought up a good point. The Rebel is not an equal-weights race, so off of a graded stakes win, we would be at an immediate disadvantage. The Louisiana Derby is equal weights and there are twice as many points offered. It gives us an extra week, one million is a monster pot, and if we are forced to scratch or have an unlucky trip, there is time to get into another prep race and still make the Kentucky Derby.
“I live in California, but I’m 100% Louisiana-bred,” Desormeaux continued. “I look for any good reason to come home, but that has no bearing on our racing decisions. Last year was my first time running in the Louisiana Derby, and we ran fifth with a (37-1) longshot Sorry Erik. We’ve had a nice run of success the last couple of years. It has been very rewarding for me and my family, anything that happens from this point forward is welcomed with appreciation and gratitude. A lot of hard work has gotten me here, and I just want to enjoy it.”
The top three finishers from the Grade 2 Risen Star are back for this race, with 21-1 winner Bravazo leading the charge. The D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt comes into the race off of a bullet work at Oaklawn Park. Snapper Sinclair, was only beaten by a nose in the Risen Star, has drawn outside of all of the speed in post seven. Finally, Noble Indy comes into the race off of a solid workout at Palm Beach Downs. The son of Take Charge Indy will break from post two.
Local post time for the Louisiana Derby will be 5:21 PM CT. The field from the rail out includes Bravazo, Noble Indy, Marmello, Givemeaminit, Retirement Fund, Hyndford, Snapper Sinclair, Lone Sailor, My Boy Jack, and Dark Templar.
#2 Noble Indy – Trainer Todd Pletcher is starting to heat up on the Kentucky Derby trail and will have a big shot to pick up another win this week with Noble Indy. The Risen Star was his first try against stakes company, and it was a solid effort, as he finished third. The track seemed to favor speed in most of the races that day, which might explain why he had trouble making up ground on the two top finishers – no horses had much of a rally. His inside post could give him a nice inside stalking position before kicking it into high gear when making the turn. He should love the extra distance here and appears ready to turn the tables on his Risen Star rivals.
#7 Snapper Sinclair – More than anything, this horse has proven his toughness in two straight Kentucky Derby preps at Fair Grounds. Last time out, he nearly won the Risen Star, leading every step of the way before losing by the narrowest of margins at the wire. He was 43-1 in that race, but there’s no way you’ll get that price again here. You have to like that he draws outside of the speed, giving new jockey Jose Ortiz some options. Perhaps he won’t have to be on the lead and against the rail, like his last two starts. He looks like a rapidly-developing horse with staying power, and that makes him dangerous.
#6 Hyndford – Just two months ago, this horse was running in a maiden claiming race, but now, he’s going to take a shot at making the Kentucky Derby. This was a surprise entry from Pletcher, but we should take notice. Hyndford only won that maiden claiming event by a 1/2-length, but then he finished second in an allowance race behind the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes winner Magnum Moon in his next start. Pletcher is not the type to ship a horse unless he thinks that he has a legitimate shot, so he must see something in Hyndford that he likes. He’s a logical long shot in this spot.
#1 Bravazo – The Risen Star upset winner returns to Fair Grounds looking to make it three in a row to start his 3-year-old season. He’s shown improved form in both of his 2018 efforts, and he seems ready to fire a big race here after a bullet 5-furlong workout in :59.60 at Oaklawn Park. This inside draw is worrisome, though, as it will force him to be on the lead from the start. New jockey Gary Stevens will have to negotiate a trip, but this has horse proven to be tough.
#4 Givemeaminit – I may be crazy, but there could be reason for optimism here for a horse that showed no signs of life in the Risen Star. He gets Javier Castellano to ride, which is a very good sign, and he should like going this distance. The track for the Risen Star seemed to favor horses on the front end, so perhaps Givemeaminit never really had a chance to make a run that day. If the pace setup is reasonable (which it looks to be on paper), then he has an outside shot at hitting the board and making the exotics pay well.
#9 My Boy Jack – I’m not buying his last effort and will look to play against him in this race. Oaklawn Park played extremely biased to horses coming up the inside part of the track that day, and My Boy Jack took full advantage, never leaving the rail while rallying for a massive win. Can he make that same type of move on a dry track that plays fair? He’ll have to prove so, and until he does, I don’t think that he’s one to play at a short price.
#5 Retirement Fund – This could be a sneaky horse and will definitely be thought of as the “other” entry in this race for trainer Steve Asmussen. He’s two-for-two at Fair Grounds, with both wins coming in stylish fashion, and the 1 1/8-mile distance could suit him well. Last time out, he was a complete non-factor in the Southwest, but there are plenty of reasons to think that he might improve here. The Oaklawn Park track was a mess and extremely biased towards the inside part of the track that day, which did Retirement Fund no favors, as he was parked wide throughout the race. With a better trip and setup, he could improve tremendously in this race, and if he does, then he could play a much larger factor here than he did in his last attempt.
#10 Dark Templar – He’s hit the board in all four of his starts and won last time out in an allowance race over this track. However, when facing company such as Retirement Fund and Principe Guilherme, he struggled to match up. This looks to be a developing colt, but the competition could be too much for him here.
#8 Lone Sailor – He dropped down to allowance company for his most recent start but still couldn’t get the job done, losing to Dark Templar. He tried stakes company the two races before that last and never showed that he could be competitive. It’s hard to see that changing here.
#3 Marmello – He’s still a maiden and was not close to winning last time out in his dirt debut. It’s hard to know what the connections were thinking when they made this entry. His early speed could impact the pace of the race, but that’s where his impact will end.
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