LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Juddmonte Farms’ three-time winner Mandaloun headlines this week’s action on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series as the 8-5 favorite in Saturday’s $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (Grade II) at Fair Grounds.
The Louisiana Derby, which produced 2019 Kentucky Derby winner Country House, will offer points to the top four finishing horses on a 100-40-20-10 scale for the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI). Historically, it’s taken an average of 26 points to make the starting gate for the first Saturday in May.
The Louisiana Derby is carded as the finale on a stakes bonanza at Fair Grounds. The 14-race program has eight stakes races including the female counterpart for the Louisiana Derby, the $400,000 TwinSpires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) for 3-year-old fillies. The Fair Grounds Oaks, carded as Race 13, also will award the top four finishers 100-40-20-10 points to the $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) on April 30.
A compact field of eight 3-year-old colts entered Saturday’s Louisiana Derby with five horses attempting to avenge their defeat in the Feb. 13, $400,000 Risen Star (GII) to Mandaloun. The Brad Cox-trainee sported an equipment change in the Risen Star by adding blinkers. The colt rallied from just off the early fractions of Midnight Bourbon to secure a 1 ¼-length victory under jockey Florent Geroux. The bay son of Into Mischief only has one blemish to his résumé in the Jan. 16, $200,000 Lecomte (GIII) where he failed to reel in pacesetter Midnight Bourbon.
“After that race Florent recommended we add a pair of blinkers to get him to focus a little better,” Cox said.
Geroux once again has the call on Mandaloun who will break from post No. 6.
One post to his outside is Winchell Thoroughbreds’ speedy Midnight Bourbon. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Midnight Bourbon jumped onto the Derby scene as a 2-year-old with a runner-up finish in the $200,000 Iroquois (GIII) at Churchill Downs. He defeated Mandaloun by one-length in his two-turn stakes debut in the Lecomte. The Tiznow colt will be ridden by Joe Talamo.
One of the new faces who shipped to Fair Grounds for the Louisiana Derby is Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing LLC and Strauss Bros Racing’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) runner-up Hot Rod Charlie. Campaigned by two-time Kentucky Derby winner Doug O’Neill but running in the Louisiana Derby under his assistant trainer’s name, Leandro Mora, Hot Rod Charlie most recently finished third in the $100,000 Robert B. Lewis (GIII) at Santa Anita. Joel Rosario rides from post 5.
Another intriguing entrant in the Louisiana Derby is Godolphin’s two-time winner Proxy. The Tapit colt from the Mike Stidham barn finished second in both the Risen Star and Lecomte. John Velazquez will have the return call and will break from post 4.
The complete field for the Louisiana Derby from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds):
1. Starrininmydreams (Luis Saez, Dallas Stewart, 20-1)
2. Rightandjust (Colby Hernandez, Shane Wilson, 20-1)
3. Run Classic (Brian Hernandez Jr., Bret Calhoun, 12-1)
4. Proxy (Velazquez, Stidham, 7-2)
5. Hot Rod Charlie (Rosario, O’Neill/Mora, 3-1)
6. Mandaloun (Geroux, Cox, 8-5)
7. Midnight Bourbon (Talamo, Asmussen, 5-1)
8. O Besos (Marcelino Pedroza, Greg Foley, 15-1).
TwinSpires.com is giving away $10,000 on the all-stakes Pick 4 Saturday at Fair Grounds. To win a share of the money, bettors have to hit a Pick 4 wager this week at Fair Grounds and, in turn, hit the late Pick 4 on Saturday’s Louisiana Derby Day. Players must opt in at https://bit.ly/30WWGvm.
Brinset.com Kentucky Derby Contenders Past Performances
Louisiana Derby Past Performances
After Saturday’s action, the Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series will continue March 27 with a quartet of races across three continents.
On the Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, Courtlandt Farms’ Fountain of Youth (GII) winner Greatest Honour is expected to headline the $1 million Florida Derby (GI) at Gulfstream Park. In Florence, Ky., Joseph P. Morey Trust’s Battaglia Memorial Stakes winner Hush of a Storm is scheduled to top the $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (GIII). In Dubai, a competitive cast of 3-year-olds are expected to take center stage in the $750,000 UAE Derby (G2). Among the probable entrants to the race is Saudi Derby hero Pink Kamehameha (JPN).
All three races award the top four finishers 100-40-20-10 points to the May 1, $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (GI).
Also on Saturday, the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby will close with the 1 1/8-mile Fukuryu at Nakayama Racecourse.
#3 Run Classic: “We’ve been high on him for a long time; he’s shown talent, he’s performed up to expectations so far. I know it’s a big step forward but we wouldn’t be attempting this if we didn’t think he was a pretty smart, good-minded horse.” – trainer Bret Calhoun
#4 Proxy: “I felt like the works with blinkers, in company, he was definitely a little handier for the rider and more focused. We’re finally getting these horses at our game; without a doubt the 1 3/16 miles is a big help. I’m welcoming the added distance and I’m hoping things go well here and then we get even more distance in Kentucky. There were a number of reasons why the blinkers were added. If you look at all of his races here at 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 the Kentucky Derby or Louisiana Derby by doing that.” – trainer Mike Stidham
#5 Hot Rod Charlie: “Being a half-brother to a Breeders’ Cup winner like Mitole, we knew he had the class and blood in there. He was training so well (going into the Breeders’ Cup). He had routed well prior going to Keeneland for the Breeders’ Cup. He was 94-1 but he looked 9-5 to us and it was a great effort and we were very proud of him. … We love the spacing and of course the distance. I love the long stretch there at Fair Grounds and the million-dollar purse doesn’t hurt either. A lot of it was the timing, too; we have a little bit of flexibility, too, with six weeks to the Kentucky Derby. All that went into play and we’re optimistic we’ll get a big effort from him.” – trainer Doug O’Neill
#6 Mandaloun: “I think he got a lot out of the Lecomte and moved forward off it (in the Risen Star). From a physical standpoint he looks like he’s continued to develop. … More than anything, it was the experience of having the race going two turns under his belt (in the Risen Star). I think the blinkers did help out. Florent (Geroux) immediately made a comment after the race. He was much more focused in the post parade and more focused to do his job.” – trainer Brad Cox
#7 Midnight Bourbon: “I’ve always thought those three (Mandaloun, Proxy and Midnight Bourbon) were very serious 3-year-olds, not just at Fair Groudns but they are as good of prospects and you want to be around. I don’t think they’ve done anything to change anybody’s opinion of that. The addition of blinkers on the one (Mandaloun) and Proxy has been consistent, with the pedigrees they all have, all three of them, are capable. 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.” – trainer Steve Asmussen
CLAIRIERE, TRAVEL COLUMN SET FOR REMATCH IN FAIR GROUNDS OAKS – Stonestreet Stables’ Clairiere and Oxo Equine’s Travel Column, arguably two of the top fillies on this year’s Road to the Kentucky Oaks, are set for another rematch in Saturday’s $400,000 TwinSpires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (GII).
The 1 1/16-mile Fair Grounds Oaks is carded as Race 13 with a post time of 6:14 p.m. (all times Eastern). The race awards the winner 100 points toward the April 30, $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI). The second through fourth-place finishers receive 40-20-10 points, respectively.
Clariere and Travel Column first faced one another in the Nov. 28, $200,000 Golden Rod (GII) at Churchill Downs where Travel Column overcame a very tough trip to beat Clariere by one-length. In the Rachel Alexandra, jockey Florent Geroux and Travel Column raced wide throughout the race but took the lead at the top of the stretch and could not hold off the late charge of Clairiere and jockey Joe Talamo.
In Saturday’s rubber match, Clairiere drew post No. 6 while Travel Column drew post 8.
In the Rachel Alexandra, both fillies received 86 Brisnet speed ratings. In Saturday’s Fair Grounds Oaks, two other fillies received equal or higher ratings in their last starts – Juddmonte Farms’ last out maiden winner Obligatory, who bested seven rivals at Gulfstream Park and earned a 92 speed rating, and Joel Politi’s first-level allowance winner Li’l Tootsie, who garnered an 86 speed rating in the Feb. 12, 1 1/16-mile race at Fair Grounds.
The complete field for the Fair Grounds Oaks from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds):
1. Zaajel (Irad Ortiz Jr., Todd Pletcher, 8-1)
2. Moon Swag (Adam Beschizza, Brendan Walsh, 20-1)
3. Souper Sensational (John Velazquez, Mark Casse, 15-1)
4. Li’l Tootsie (Luis Saez, Tom Amoss, 4-1)
5. Obligatory (Jose Ortiz, Bill Mott, 5-1)
6. Clairiere (Talamo, Steve Asmussen, 5-2)
7. Il Malocchio (Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenny McPeek, 15-1)
8. Travel Column (Geroux, Brad Cox, 2-1).
REMSEN WINNER BROOKLYN STRONG SCHEUDLED TO RETURN IN WOOD MEMORIAL – Mark Schwartz’s Remsen Stakes (GII) winner Brooklyn Strong is scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in the $750,000 Wood Memorial (GII) on April 3 at Aqueduct.
Trained by Danny Velazquez, Broooklyn Strong was sidelined by a fever over the winter and had to miss several days of training because of inclement weather.
Brooklyn Strong is stabled in Pennsylvania at Parx.
DOWN THE STRETCH – There have been four horses who competed in the Louisiana Derby and won the Kentucky Derby: Country House (2019), Funny Cide (2003), Grindstone (1996), Black Gold (1924). … Trainer Brad Cox will be searching for his second-consecutive Louisiana Derby victory after winning last year’s event with Wells Bayou. His entrant in this year’s race, Mandaloun, is the 8-5 morning line favorite. … Undefeated colt Prevalence is under consideration for either the April 3 Wood Memorial or April 10 Arkansas Derby, according to trainer Brendan Walsh after the colt won a first-level allowance event last Thursday at Gulfstream Park. … The Churchill Downs backstretch opened Tuesday and trainer Norm Casse shipped the first load of horses to the grounds. There are currently seven horses stabled at Churchill Downs and several other outfits are scheduled to arrive after this weekend’s racing at Fair Grounds. … A total of 63 horses were nominated to the March 27, $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (GIII) at Turfway. The field is expected to be headlined by $100,000 Battaglia Memorial winner Hush of a Storm along with Grade I winner Gretzky the Great, who finished third in the Battaglia. … The late nomination period for the Triple Crown will close Monday, March 29. Nominations can be made online at www.thetriplecrown.com.
SCULLY’S DERBY REPORT
CONCERT TOUR BREAKS OUT IN REBEL – With a romping score in Saturday’s $1 million Rebel Stakes (Grade II) at Oaklawn Park, Concert Tour jumped to the upper echelon of Kentucky Derby contenders. The rising 3-year-old remained unbeaten in his two-turn debut for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Bafffert.
Look for more eye-catching performances as the final round of prep races get underway this weekend.
Saturday’s $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (GII) at Fair Grounds will be the first of eight major qualifiers awarding a combined 170 points toward a Kentucky Derby berth.
There appears to be solid depth to this year’s crop, and it’s shaping up to be a fun race at Churchill Downs on May 1.
Concert Tour won like something special. After taking a short lead into the first turn, the Gary and Mary West homebred cruised along until putting away his rivals with a sharp turn of foot midway on the final bend, opening up a sizable advantage by the head of the stretch.
Joel Rosario put his mount under wraps and the Street Sense colt rolled home as much the best, scoring by a 4 ¼-length margin.
An impressive first-out maiden winner in mid-January, Concert Tour received a stiff test when narrowly capturing the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes (GII) three weeks later. The bay moved forward while easily stretching out to 1 1/16 miles in the Rebel, winning with plenty in reserve, and he’s got more to offer in my estimation.
His racing career is less than two months old (57 days).
Baffert orchestrates a deep bench, and Concert Tour joined the early Kentucky Derby favorite, unbeaten San Felipe Stakes (GII) victor Life Is Good, at the top of the ranks.
Life Is Good is targeting the Santa Anita Derby (GI) on April 3, and Concert Tour will return to Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby (GI) a week later.
The six-time Kentucky Derby winner is also preparing Medina Spirit, Spielberg, and Rebel runner-up Hozier for the first leg of the American Triple Crown.
Hozier, who was exiting a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight win in his second start, offered his best stride late in the Rebel, closing up the inside to edge Big Lake for second by three-quarters of a length.
Big Lake was in position to grab second before being interfered with by Caddo River, who came up empty in the stretch after chasing Concert Tour. It was still a respectable initial stakes attempt for the Steve Asmussen-trained Big Lake, who was exiting maiden and entry-level allowance wins at Fair Grounds.
Keepemeinmind never made an impact, finishing sixth in his first appearance since winning the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) in late November. Get Her Number, unraced since upsetting the American Pharoah (GI) in late September, weakened to seventh in the latter stages.
Mandaloun, Midnight Bourbon and Proxy have been prominent in the first two qualifiers at Fair Grounds, filling the top three slots in the Lecomte (GIII) and Risen Star (GII), and they remain the principals for the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby.
Impressive last-out maiden winner Run Classic is a new face in the mix, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) runner-up Hot Rod Charlie, a neck third most recently in the Jan. 30 Robert B. Lewis (GIII) at Santa Anita, will invade from California.
But we’re eligible to see more of the same on Saturday.
Mandaloun is the horse to beat following a sharp 1 ¼-length victory in the Risen Star. A close third when making his first stakes attempt in the Lecomte, Mandaloun benefited from the addition of blinkers last time, and trainer Brad Cox is bullish on the well-built Into Mischief colt’s potential.
Midnight Bourbon regressed off a career-best effort last time when third in the Risen Star. The Tiznow colt returned from a lengthy layoff to upset foes in the Lecomte, comfortably scoring in a wire-to-wire manner, and Midnight Bourbon is a candidate to rebound for Steve Asmussen.
Proxy is my top pick. Never worse than second from five starts, the Tapit colt outfinished Mandaloun for second when making his first stakes outing in the Lecomte. He didn’t run straight in the stretch that afternoon, and Proxy appeared to lose focus in the midst of his rally while turning for home in the Risen Star. When he got back on track, the bay colt finished up well for second.
Michael Stidham adds blinkers in the Louisiana Derby, and Proxy may put it all together. – James Scully/Brisnet.com
Fair Grounds Press Release
Photo: Mandaloun won the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes Feb. 13, 2021 at Fair Grounds. (Lou Hodges, Jr./Hodges Photography)