A field of ten Kentucky Derby aspirants will assemble on Saturday, March 24 for the 105th running of the Grade II $1 million Louisiana Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com, which is scheduled as the 11th race on a 14-race card. In addition it also is the last leg of a $200,000 guaranteed all-stakes pick four, which kicks off in the eighth race – the Gr. II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap.
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ odds maker Mike Diliberto has slated My Boy Jack as the 5-2 morning line favorite for the event. Owned by Don’t Tell My Wife Stables in partnership with Monomoy Stables LLC, the son of Creative Cause was a 4¼-length winner of the Gr. III Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park last time out. My Boy Jack raced primarily on the turf as a 2-year-old, where he broke his maiden at fifth asking in Santa Anita’s Zuma Beach Stakes on Oct. 9. He then finished seventh behind Mendelssohn in the Gr. I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
My Boy Jack boasts lifetime earnings of $425,145 and has missed the board only twice in eight career starts. He is trained by Keith Desormeaux, a native of Maurice, La. who trained horses on the Louisiana circuit for many years but currently is based in Southern California.
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“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 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.”
My Boy Jack currently sits at No. 20 on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 12 points. He will be piloted by Desormeaux’s brother Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux who also is in search of his first Louisiana Derby win.
Calumet Farm’s Bravazo invaded from Oaklawn Park to take last month’s Gr. II Risen Star Stakes by a nose over Snapper Sinclair and will return to the New Orleans oval for more.
The son of Awesome Again won both of his starts as a 3-year-old. Prior to the Risen Star, Bravazo won an allowance race at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 13. He has breezed four times at the Hot Springs oval in preparation for the Louisiana Derby, including two five-furlong drills. On Monday, Mar. 12 he worked the distance in 1:00.00 and the following Sunday stopped the clock in 59.60.
As a 2-year-old, Bravazo broke his maiden second time out before finishing second behind Free Drop Billy in the Gr. I Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.
Hall of Fame conditioner D. Wayne Lukas trains Bravazo and has won the Louisiana Derby twice with Balboa Native (1983) and eventual Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone (1996).
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens guided Bravazo to his allowance win at Oaklawn Park and will be reunited with the horse for the Louisiana Derby. He will break from the rail as the 7-2 co-second choice.
Also returning for to the Fair Grounds is Repole Stable and WinStar Farm LLC’s Noble Indy a third-place finisher of the Risen Star Stakes for trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the Louisiana Derby with Circular Quay (2007) Mission Impazable (2010) and Revolutionary (2013). The 3-year-old son of Take Charge Indy was handed his first loss in the Risen Star after a pair of victories at Gulfstream Park – an 8¾ length maiden romp and a three-quarter length triumph against winners on Jan. 11. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will guide Noble Indy, who breaks from post two at 7-2 morning line odds.
Noble Indy flew solo for his trip to New Orleans last time out, but this time he will be accompanied by stable mate Hyndford, a Donegal Racing-owned son of Street Cry (Ire.) who was second behind stable mate Magnum Moon at Tampa Bay Downs last month and broke his maiden second time out for a $50,000 tag at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 19. Jockey Joe Bravo rides Hyndford, who breaks from post six at 8-1 odds.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen also sends two for the Louisiana Derby. The first of the pair is Bloom Racing LLC’s Snapper Sinclair, who will be seeking revenge after being narrowly defeated by Bravazo in the Risen Star. The son of City Zip also finished in the money in the Gr. III Lecomte in January but has still yet to find a victory on the main track. He was a dual winner on grass as a 2-year-old when breaking his maiden over the Saratoga turf course and winning the Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile Stakes at Kentucky Downs in September. He breaks from post six at 9-2 odds.
Asmussen will also be represented by Retirement Fund (post five, 12-1, Shaun Bridgmohan), a two-time winner at over the Fair Grounds main track, who returns to the New Orleans oval following a disappointing seventh in the Gr. III Southwest Stakes. The L and N Racing-owned son of Eskendereya won both of his Fair Grounds starts in wire-to-wire fashion. He broke his maiden in his career debut on Dec. 22 by 7¼ lengths at 12-1 odds and led the field from start to finish once more against winners on Jan. 20.
Asmussen is a three-time winner of the Louisiana Derby and won the event with Fifty Stars (2002), Pyro (2008) and reigning Horse of the Year Gun Runner (2016).
Finishing second to Retirement Fund two starts back is Dark Templar, who since that effort won a Fair Grounds allowance event on Feb. 19 for trainer Brendan Walsh. Owned by Newtown Anner Stud, the son of Tapit made his career debut a winning one over the Churchill Downs main track on Nov. 4 defeating next out winner Royal Creed. He was a $475,000 purchase from the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2016 and is a direct descendant of undefeated Champion Personal Ensign. He breaks from post ten under Florent Geroux at 12-1 odds.
GMB Racing’s Lone Sailor (post eight, James Graham, 20-1) was a late-closing second behind Dark Templar last time out and is in search of his first win since an eye-opening maiden victory at Saratoga which he won by 11 lengths. Trained by Tom Amoss, the son of Majestic Warrior was third in the Gr. I Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and was second beaten a head in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs in October.
Valene Farms’ Givemeaminit (post four, Javier Castellano, 20-1) will look to give trainer Dallas Stewart his first Louisiana Derby victory since Kimberlite Pipe in 1999. As a 2-year-old, the Louisiana-bred had been knocking on the door against some of the best in his division. Such starts include a trio of appearances in Grade I events where he was third in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga and finished only a neck behind Sporting Chance and Free Drop Billy. He then finished a respective fifth and fourth in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar. It was not until seventh asking when Givemeaminit found the winner’s circle in his sophomore debut. He will look to give his sire Star Guitar his first graded stakes victory as a stallion.
Rounding out the field is Olympia Star Inc.’s Marmello (post three, Jack Gilligan, 50-1) who is the lone maiden in the Louisiana Derby field. The son of Concord Point is cross-entered in a maiden special weight event earlier on Saturday’s card.
The Louisiana Derby is the final of three local preps on Churchill Downs Road To The Kentucky Derby and awards points to the Top 4 finishers based off of a 100-40-20-10 scale.
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