The Road Gets Real: The Louisiana Derby

March 22, 2023

Shown are all of the winners of the Louisiana Derby. Epicenter was the victor in the 2022 Louisiana Derby. (Lou Hodges, Jr./Hodges Photography; Design by Maribeth Kalinich.

By Maribeth Kalinich

$1 million, 100 points. The 110th Louisiana Derby (G2). One of the most coveted races in North American Thoroughbred racing and one of the most important in the Championship Series to the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Saturday, March 25, in New Orleans, twelve 3-year-old colts will line up in the starting gate to tackle the 1-3/16 miles course, the distance of the Preakness Stakes, second leg of the Triple Crown. But victory in this route will earn them a spot in the first leg, the most valued race in horse racing for 149 years, the Kentucky Derby at 1-1/4 miles. 

Colts on the Derby Trail could rack up big points and leap to the top of the Leaderboard with good performances Saturday. They will have to contend with some wildcards. And there are quite a few.

Several of the contenders on Saturday are lightly raced and have yet to make starts in stakes. They will add an interesting dynamic to the competition. As these horses are still maturing, who knows what stage of that maturation they will be?

Ron Turcotte once told me that the Preakness was Secretariat’s best race because he had matured, learned to relax, and drop the bit. If Secretariat had not matured at that point, would he have run his historic Belmont Stakes?

The Louisiana Derby is shaping up to be quite an fascinating race.

Contenders not yet on the Derby trail include Whisper Hill Farms and Three Chimney’s Shopper’s Revenge. The Tapit colt broke his maiden at Oaklawn Jan. 14 by 5-1/4 lengths and placed second in his debut prior and an allowance just after, both at Oaklawn, the latter a close effort.

A Kentucky homebred for the owners, the grey colt is out of Tale of the Cat mare the popular and influential Stopchargingmaria. 

Trainer Steve Asmussen has had the colt out for weekly works at various distances including a breeze from the gate on March 20 at four furlongs in which Shopper’s Revenge was clocked at 48.20. March 6, he did five furlongs in 1:01.60 and March 13 six furlongs in 1:13.00. 

Shopper’s Revenge breaks from post 1 under Ricardo Santana, Jr., at 12/1 odds.

Of the horses who are already well on the Derby trail is the impressive Gold Square LLC’s Instant Coffee, the morning line favorite at 2/1. 

The Brad Cox trainee sits at No. 9 on the Derby Leaderboard with 32 points. A win in the La. Derby would catapult the colt to the top.

The Bolt d’Oro colt scored his points on the G3 Lecomte (20 points), the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club (10 points) and was fourth in the G1 Clairborne Breeders Futurity (2 pts.)

Two Phil’s (inside) under Jareth Loveberry tries to run down Instant Coffee in the Lecomte to no avail as Luis Saez guides his mount to a 2-1/2 length victory. (Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography)

Bred by Sagamore Farm in Kentucky Instant Coffee is out of Uncle Mo mare Follow No One. He was purchased at the Keeneland September Yearling sale for $200,000.

He has had three March breezes at Fair Grounds at five furlongs including Saturday, March 18. He accomplished his works in: March 4 1:01.60; March 11 1:01 flat; and March 18 1:01 flat.

Instant Coffee breaks from post 2 with Luis Saez getting the leg up.

Michael McLoughlin’ Curly Jack collected his Derby qualifying points with a win in the G3 Iroquois (10 pts.), fifth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (3 pts.) and a second place in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (4 pts.).

The Tom Amos trainee’s last start in the G2 Risen Star was disappointing. After being bumped at the start, the Good Magic Colt gave a good effort, but the large field was a bit much and he faded in the final furlongs.

Amos has been giving the bay colt weekly works at four furlongs: March 2, 9 and 17 going 48.20, 49.40 and 49.60 respectively.

Bred in Kentucky by Betz Thoroughbreds, Curly Jack is out of Roman Ruler mare Connie and Michael.

Sitting at No. 20 with 17 points on the Derby Leaderboard, Curly Jack will be in chute No. 3 with Edgar Morales aboard at 12/1 odds.

Under Edgar Morales Curly Jack battles Honed with Julien Leparoux aboard as Jace’s Road under Florent Geroux give chase in the Iroquois at Churchill Downs Sept. 17, 2022. (Coady Photography)

R.T. Racing Stables’ Sun Thunder rolls in at No. 11 on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard and will roll out of post 4 under Brian Hernandez Jr. at 5/1 early odds, the second favorite.

The Into Mischief colt earned a total of 24 points for his close second place in the G2 Risen Star (20 pts.) and fourth in the G3 Southwest (4 pts.). Although, his only win was his maiden on second asking, he won by 6-1/2 lengths under David Cabrera. 

Out of Medaglia d’Oro mare Greenfield d’Oro, the colt was bred in Kentucky by Southern Equine Stables. 

Kenny McPeek has been working the bay colt weekly with recent works at five furlongs both at 1:01.20, March 11 and 18. McPeek’s charge worked four furlongs March 4 at 48.40.

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ homebred Disarm will step up in class and step out in open company for his start on Saturday. With one win and three races on his resume, this Steve Asmussen trainee have some novice company in this race. 

A son of Gun Runner out of Tapit mare Easy Tap, this colt has a few things on this checklist, but experience isn’t one of them. He has hit the board in all three starts, he has an eagerness to run, and he likes two turns. 

The Asmussen trainee has been on the March work tab at Fair Grounds with better results at distances—such as five furlongs in 1:01 flat and six in 1:13 flat versus four furlongs in 51 flat in his most recent March 20.

At 10/1 odds, Disarm will be in slot 5 under Joel Rosario on Saturday.

One of the biggest surprises in this race is Kingsbarns. The Uncle Mo colt has had exactly two starts. Granted, he won both scoring on debut with a follow up 7-3/4 length victory in an allowance boosting his speed scores.

A Tweeter brought the colt to my attention stating they thought his trainer Todd Pletcher has a lot of confidence in this lightly raced prospect. 

Bred in Kentucky by Parks Investments, Kingsbarns is of royal pedigree, out of Tapit mare Lady Tapit. The bay colt’s ownership is a bit royal as well. Royal purple and orange, the colors of Spendthrifts’ silks. 

Kingsbarns’ March breezes were as such: four furlongs at 49.27, five at 1:02.12 and four at 49.65. 

At 6/1 odds seems my Tweeter and Todd Pletcher aren’t the only ones with confidence in this colt.

Flavien Prat gets the call breaking from post 6.

Cherie DeVaux trainee Cagliostro is another of the lightly-raced entries who still could factor in. 

After a lackluster debut at Saratoga in September, the Upstart colt broke his maiden on second asking Jan. 21 at the Fair Grounds and nearly missed a second win in an allowance a month later having made a game rally getting caught by a neck. 

The bay colt out of Hard Spun mare A Rosefor Isabelle was bred in Florida by Lance Colwell and Janice Clark and is owned by David Ingordo, Talia Racing James D. Spry, West Point Thoroughbreds and Nice Guys Stables.

Conditioner DeVaux had excellent works with Cagliostro in March: four furlongs at 48.40, five at 1:01.20 and another four at 48.60.

Cagliostro will have Christian Torres in the iron breaking from post 7 at 12/1 odds.

Trainer Keith Desormeaux shot onto the Leaderboard when his Confidence Game won the Rebel at Oaklawn. This Saturday, Desormeaux brings a fresher face in Single Ruler to the Louisiana Derby.

Rocker O Ranch’s Single Ruler has graded stakes experience and Derby points with a fifth-place finish in the Risen Star. The remainder of his six-start resume is average with his lone win coming just before his Risen Star run.

The Empire Maker colt was bred in Kentucky by Don Alberto Corporation and is out of Storm Cat mare Smara, quite a notable pedigree. 

Desormeaux has been giving Single Ruler good works going longer in each session. Four furlongs in 48.40, five in 1:01.20 and six in 1:14.40. 

David Cohen has the leg up loading into post 8 with 15/1 odds.

Tapit’s Conquest going out for a morning work under T.C. Stevens. (Fair Grounds Photo)

Another of Brad Cox’s brigade of trainees on the Derby Leaderboard is Tapit’s Conquest who sits at No. 36 with 10 points for his fourth-place finish in the Risen Star. 

Owned by Robert V. LaPenta, e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Madaket Stables LLC, the Tapit colt is lightly raced with only one win under his belt. 

In actuality, the Risen Star was his poorest performance as he has two close seconds and that one win on his resume. He lost his debut by half a length and nearly missed by a neck in an allowance after breaking his maiden in the start just before. 

The chestnut (Surprise! Not gray) colt is out of Horse Greeley mare Conquest Lil Miss and was bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, LLC & Tapit Syndicate.

Manny Franco will pilot Tapit’s Conquest from post 9 at 12/1 odds.

Another Gun Runner colt and Kenny McPeek trainee is Denington, a homebred for Fern Circle and Magdelena Racing, Sherri McPeek’s nom de course.

With eight career starts under his girth, Denington may be the most experienced in the group of contenders. He has two wins, a second and a third for his efforts.

The gray colt scored Derby qualifying points with a fifth in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (1 pt.), a third in the Smarty Jones (3 pts.) and a fourth in the Lecomte (4 pts) and sits at No. 38 on the Leaderboard. 

Out of Congrats mare Stronger Than Ever, Denington won his last race on Feb. 18 by a neck over Cagliostro who he will face again on Saturday. 

The gray colt’s works have been four furlongs in 48.40 and two at five both at 1:01.20. 

Junior Alvarado will ride Denington from post 10 at 12/1.  

Jace’s Road with Florent Geroux aboard wins the $100,000 Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds Dec. 26. 2022. (Hodges Photograph /Lou Hodges, Jr.)

Albaugh Family/West Point Thoroughbreds’ Jace’s Road sits at No. 24 on the Derby Leaderboard with 15 total points having won the Gun Runner (10 pts), finishing third in the Iroquois (3 pts.) and fifth in the G3 Southwest (2 pts.)

The Quality Road colt is one of the several Brad Cox trainees on the Derby trail with several graded stakes starts under his belt.

A Kentucky-bred by Colts Neck Stables LLC, the bay colt is out of Silver Deputy mare Out Post.

Cox has given his charge two works this month that Jace’s Road has handled nicely. He breezed four furlongs in 48.40 on March 2 and five furlongs in 1:00.40 on March 13. 

At 12/1 odd, Jace’s Road loads in post 11 under Florent Geroux.

Lothenbach Stables’ Baseline Beater is a recent maiden winner on Feb. 18 in his fifth start. Making two starts this season, he was second to Single Ruler Jan. 21, a fellow contender on Saturday. 

The Flatter colt has two things going for him: Pedigree and distance. He likes to route.

Out of Tiznow mare Seize The Ring, the dark bay was bred in Kentucky by Chippewa Bloodstock.

Trainer Neil Pessin has been preparing the colt on a steady distance of five furlongs since early February. His last three works in March were: 1:01.40, 1:01.60 and 1:02.80. 

At the longest odds of 20-1 Baseline Beater will break from post 12 with Corey Lanerie aboard. 

One thing is for sure, depending on how the odds shake down on the day, this could be a very lucrative punters race if the under is selected artfully. 

The Fair Grounds is presenting the 100th Louisiana Derby (G2) on a 15-race card that includes the Fair Grounds Oaks presented by Fasig-Tipton (G2).

First post is noon CT. Scheduled post time for the Louisiana Derby post is 5:42 p.m. CT.

Let’s Hear It For The Girls!

The fillies will also earn points toward entry to the Kentucky Oaks (G1) to run for the lilies. Top finishers in the Fair Grounds Oaks will earn the same big points structure as the boys–100 for the winner, then 40, 30, 20 and ten for second through fifth places, respectively.

FG Oaks/KY Oaks Fun Facts

>> Steve Asmussen has won the Fair Grounds Oaks four times including last year with Echo Zulu. She was ridden by Joel Rosario, who will guide Christian d’Oro (post 2 at 15-1) for the barn on Saturday. Asmussen scored the FG Oaks/KY Oaks double with Untapable in 2014 and Summerly in 2005. His other FG Oaks winner was Lady Tak in 2003.

>> Brad Cox won the Fair Grounds Oaks in back-to-back years – 2020 with Bonny South and 2021 with Travel Column. He has The Aly’s Look (post 4 at 2-1 ML) this year.

>> Trainer Tom Amoss has an interesting history in the Fair Grounds Oaks. He won the 2018 edition with Chocolate Martini, a filly he claimed just six weeks prior for just $30,000. In 2020, his Serengeti Empress ran 7th in the FG Oaks as the favorite but returned to win the Kentucky Oaks at 13-1. On Saturday he will saddle the enigmatic Hoosier Philly (post 5 at 2-1), who was undefeated from three starts prior to her disappointing third place finish in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) last out.  

Despite her disappointing effort in the Rachel Alexandra, Hoosier Philly closed as the 7-1 third choice in the lone Kentucky Oaks Future Wager Pool that closed on March 12. 

The Rachel Alexandra was tight going for Pretty Mischievous and Tyler Gaffalione who needed that final kick to get the win over Miracle and John Velazquez. (Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography)

Fellow Fair Grounds Oaks competitors Pretty Mischievous (15-1) (post 3 and the 8-5 ML FG Oaks favorite), The Alys Look (36-1) and Southlawn (147-1) (post 1 at 8-1) were also offered in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wagers.  

Here is the complete field for the Fair Grounds Oaks from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds):

1. Southlawn (Rey Gutierrez, Norm Cassie, 8-1)

2. Christian d’Oro (Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen, 15-1)

3. Pretty Mischievous (Brian Hernandez, Jr., Brendan Walsh, 8-5)

4. The Alys Look (Luis Saez, Brad Cox, 2-1)

5. Hoosier Philly (Edgar Morales, Tom Amoss, 2-1)

Fair Grounds Oaks past performances courtesy of Brisnet

Happy racing, fans! 

Contributing Authors

MariBeth Kalinich, Senior Editor, Past the Wire

Maribeth Kalinich, Senior Editor, Graphic Designer

Maribeth Kalinich grew up in a family with a love for horses, a passion for Thoroughbred horse racing and a taste for playing the ponies....

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