The $1,000,000 – Grade 2: Louisiana Derby this Saturday from The Fair Grounds drew only nine entries for the 1-1/8 mile event which will be the 11th race on the race card. Risen Star winner Girvin will battle for favortism with a newcomer to the Derby prep series in Louisiana, Todd Pletcher trainee PATCH will look to follow up his maiden breaking victory at Gulfstream with a Kentucky Derby qualifying win in the Louisiana Derby. It’s not going to be easy with a slew of contenders looking to earn their ticket to Louisville in his way, but Todd Pletcher has already proven with ONE LINER and MALAGACY that no matter how limited their background is on paper, he can get them to the winners’ circle in a graded stakes.
Here is the field looking to get to the winners circle this Saturday in New Orleans, Louisiana….
#1 – PATCH (Tyler Gaffalione/Todd Pletcher)
The wizard Todd Pletcher eyes an army of entrants for the 143rd Kentucky Derby. He looks to win the first Louisiana Derby since Revolutionary took the 100th running of event.
The fact that Pletcher doesn’t send in one of his A-level jockey’s can’t be great for the lightly raced PATCH. He has only two starts and we have no clue what kind of field he beat to earn that maiden breaking victory in February. He did post a nice Brisnet Speed Figure (BSF) of 101. That doesn’t mean a whole lot when we haven’t seen what he can follow it up with, and it’s a definite fact there will be a pace presence in this race again which does bode well for PATCH. He is a closer and will like it if there is blistering fractions set up front like their was in his lone victory.
OUTLOOK: It’s hard not to put this one in the picture somewhere with everything that Pletcher has done thus far. He seems to be pushing all the right buttons at the right time, and this horse has improved in his previous two starts just like a couple other horses that have already punched their tickets to Kentucky. The problem is this horse has not faced allowance or stakes company yet, and both ONE LINER and MALAGACY passed two tests before taking that big step forward. I think that’s where the fault will come with PATCH and I think he just gets beat and runs 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. He likely will still qualify for the Derby if he doesn’t win and runs 2nd or 3rd, but I will picking against him this Saturday. ADDED NOTE: I just wanted to add this about this horse, if he is willing to take off the pace and attack from midfield he could be in the mix, if he decides to send, I think it’s game over. Pletcher isn’t stupid however so I see him taking back after seeing the field.
#2 – HOLLYWOOD HANDSOME (Francisco Torres/Dallas Stewart 0/11)
Dallas Stewart looking dapper as his horse Hollywood Handsome drills a five furlong bullet prior to the race.
Began career with a nice 94 BSF in debut at Keeneland last October running just behind Derby prospect WARRIOR’S CLUB to get 3rd. He followed that up with three lackluster performances at Churchill and Fair Grounds. Then he finally broke through in his 3-year-old debut scoring a BSF of 81 on a muddy track coming from off the pace and running in a relatively low time. In his first allowance attempt he improved on that 81 BSF running an 85 into a slightly slower pace than his debut win. Sons of Tapit are doing very well with their first crops, HANSEN got his first Derby runner last week and TAPIZAR is looking for his, but HOLLYWOOD HANDSOME is going to have to improve big on his recent numbers and do much more closely to his first career race to have even close to a chance in this one.
OUTLOOK: As I just said, it is going to take a career best number for HOLLYWOOD HANDSOME to have a chance. If any trainer can do it, Dallas Stewart has proven over the year’s that he can get Derby contenders to pop at anytime. If that is going to happen, he is going to need a hot pace, and the race to fall apart. I said the same thing about FAST AND ACCURATE last week and look what happened. It’s not impossible and it could happen, but I don’t think lightning will strike twice in two week’s so I am going to turn the page on HOLLYWOOD HANDSOME and make him prove it to me before I take him seriously to win a race. However, with the pace scenario that presents itself, I am going to put him in the fourth position, I believe he closes in for a piece. If the pace is extreme, he could close well enough to earn a Derby birth which would just be insanity, but I have seen crazier things in my life.
#3 – LOCAL HERO (Florent Geroux/Steven Asmussen 27% 22 starts)
We talked about the history of LOCAL HERO in the Risen Star preview, he has shown good speed continually, but has unable to sustain twice. At Churchill in November in start number two, he blistered through the first half, but faltered in the final furlong. In the Risen Star, he set the early pace through the first half and opened up a :47. He showed no resilience in fending off GIRVIN and UNTRAPPED after opening up a six length lead at the first call.
OUTLOOK: I do like LOCAL HERO’s last race, he showed speed and opened up an unnecessary lead that could have been managed a bit better by Florent Geroux. If that can happen in the Louisiana Derby that does give LOCAL HERO a punchers chance at winning this race. I actually do like LOCAL HERO in this race, I think he is prime condition, but there is a major problem. LOCAL HERO has only shown he can do it one way, on the front. Unless he takes back and tries something different, I have to assume he will be a clear part of the pace scenario with a couple others and that seals his fate. I really wanted to pick this horse in this race. Unless there is some serious kind of pace bias which I will tweet about if I notice it, than I just simply think he fails by being a victim of circumstance.
#4 – SENIOR INVESTMENT (Channing Hill/Kenneth McPeek 33% 18 starts)
Kenny McPeek has long shot SENIOR INVESTMENT in Saturday’s Race
This jockey/trainer combination has done extremely well of late as you see above, Kenny McPeek is looking to establish his first top level Derby entrant. This horse has gradually improved since he debuted on the turf at Ellis Park in July as a 2-year-old. He ran well against a solid group, finishing 3rd. Then he followed that up three weeks later routing on the dirt at Ellis Park with top jock, James Graham up and he ran into elite company in that maiden event. The top three finishers all came back to win their next starts, it was a legit key race to come out of. After a three month layoff, SENIOR INVESTMENT came back in his third start and ran 3rd behind legitimate Derby prospect SILVER DUST. There was a solid pace in that one turn mile event at Churchill, but he finished well behind the aforementioned Derby prospect who has yet to win any races over at Oaklawn. After shipping to the Fair Grounds, the maiden breaking voyage was over and it seemed to do the trick. He has won three consecutive races while not improving a great deal as far as BSF’s are concerned, but he has won at a solid 4-1, 6-1, and 5-1 in those three starts. The horse he defeated in his last start at Oaklawn Park ran a couple weeks ago in the Rebel and did absolutely nothing. It’s not worth a strikethrough, but this horse is another one that is going to have to hope for improvement and a pace breakdown up front.
OUTLOOK: I’ll give it to Kenny McPeek, he always finds a way of getting his horses into the Kentucky Derby starting gates, but this horse has not faced the toughest 3-year-old company out there. He has came out of some key races at Ellis Park, but let’s face it they were at Ellis. He has been soundly beaten by SILVER DUST, but has improved a late and will need a big jump up to win this million dollar race. I am passing but he could be worth a shot in the exotics if you think the pace will fall apart. I do think that with Joe Sharp’s rabbit on the outside, this one has the closing kick to get into the exotics late.
#5 – MONACO (Rajiv Maragh/Todd Pletcher 0% 6 starts)
Pletcher’s other entrant Monaco will have to deal with a pace scenario up front.
Debuted at Saratoga in August and ran into a tough group including MO TOWN. Had you through MONACO in this race before MO TOWN had got throttled in the Risen Star than the odds on this horse and his chances may be a bit different, but it has been proven that the Remsen Stakes was simply very weak. No one has come out of it to race with any kind of progress in their next start. MONACO has had two races since losing in his debut, they were slight improvements as far as BSF’s are concertned, but they were big improvements as far as hitting the board was concerned. He finished 2nd routing on a wet-fast Gulfstream surface in early January, lost a tough duel. In his 3rd start at Tampa, MONACO blew the doors off the track going gate to wire and opening up to win by 12 lengths. It was a race against 3-year-olds and up, there were some longtime maidens in the group and it wasn’t the strongest of groups, however it was a win, but at the other hand it produced his lowest BSF of his career.
OUTLOOK: Whether or not this one gets the lead, there is going to be an extreme pace presence early. Unless most of the speed horses completely change tactics which is unlikely, it appears on paper that MONACO and LOCAL HERO are going to both be dueling to be the pace-setter. It’s not going to be easy either. Going 9furlongs for the first time, if they can’t slow this thing down to :48 and change, my top pick in LOCAL HERO might have to be changed to someone else. I would also pay very close attention to the weather the next couple days and how the track is playing later on in the card tomorrow. With Johnny V not coming into, it’s pretty obvious that this is not Pletcher’s go-to spot or maybe he is tricking us all and will be adding another player to his army.
#6 – GUEST SUITE (Robby Albarado/Neil Howard 11% 45 starts)
We have gone into depth about GUEST SUITE in the LeComte analysis and the Risen Star, so I am not going to go crazy. If you want to go back and watch his replays of both races on Youtube I would encourage you to do so, you really get a feel for how the races developed. He has shown improvement in every single start since his debut at Ellis in August. He has three wins all with Albarado in the irons. His LeComte victory was as impressive as they come, I thought I would get much better odds. After breaking a little slow in the Risen Star, he dropped back to near the rear of the field, made up ground while running 3wide on both turns, but flattened out after drifting out to be 4wide nearing the quarter pole.
OUTLOOK: GUEST SUITE definitely has the breeding and what it takes to move forward when the races get longer. The Kentucky Derby could just be the right mix of perfect track at the perfect time if he can qualify. The LeComte only got him 10 points, so he needs a good effort on Saturday to secure a spot in the starting gate. I think GUEST SUITE would love to see a wet track in New Orleans if things work out perfectly, but Robby Albarado needs to make sure he gets this horse warmed up well in the warm up and out of the gate well. If he drops out of touch, there may not be enough pace to close into it. I do think GUEST SUITE gets it down for the big prize in the Louisiana Derby. It should be clear how the public feels with GIRVIN and GUEST SUITE. Either GIRVIN goes at even money or I think they both are around 2-1.
#7 – SORRY ERIK (Kent Desormeaux/Keith Desormeaux 20% 81 starts)
This California shipper has a ton of racing experience coming into the Derby prep season, but let’s face it, this horse is just not fast enough to make any kind of impact in this race or beyond. His best effort came in a MSW effort against nobody when he went for a 50k tag for the first time, then he was claimed for $20k by the Desormeaux crew, won a couple starts, went off at 60-1 in the Risen Star and was 4wide or more during the entire race. This race isn’t going to be any easier.
OUTLOOK: Although he ran a career best pace figure in his past race in the Risen Star, he was no where close to GIRVIN and doesn’t belong in any serious discussions until he proves it.
#8 – GIRVIN (Brian Hernandez Jr./Joe Sharp 10% 114 starts)
I admittedly underestimated GIRVIN a bit on paper during my last assessment of him. Once I saw him out on the track warming up though, I completely turned my though process on him from mediocrity to a serious Derby threat. The son of TALE OF EKATI looks the part and showed very good tracking speed in the Risen Star and pounced on the group with a very fast closing kick in his last start on this track.
OUTLOOK: With enough speed in this race to keep GIRVIN honest, he should be tracking the pace about 3 to 5 lengths off the pace-setter, he should be have every chance to run past LOCAL HERO if things go similarly to the way they did last time. If Florent Geroux is able to slow down the fractions up front and finds more in the final 3/16 than GIRVIN could find a bit of trouble if he is forced to use up any horse before the turn. If there is a stumble at the start or he has to gear up at all early, than LOCAL HERO has the talent to get away. This horse however deserves to be on all of your tickets through an through in all positions.
#9 – HOTFOOT (James Graham/Joe Sharp 27%)
Trainer Joe Sharp and former jockey, now wife Rosie Napravnik model with one of their horses.
It was a very smart decision of Joe Sharp to throw this horse in the mix for this race to provide pace pressure on LOCAL HERO. Had he not entered HOTFOOT in this race, there was a possibility of LOCAL HERO getting away late if he was able to run comfortably up front. This should ensure that he has enough pace presence to give GIRVIN the best opportunity to win. As far as winning the race HOTFOOT really has not put up any of the kind of numbers you want to see to be a legit Derby prospect at this point.
OUTLOOK: He unofficially gets the nickname of rabbit in this race, but he has to be a little chance of winning it unless LOCAL HERO completely goes against his norm and this horse ends up on the front end all by himself and the rest of the field bounces off their efforts. It’s extremely unlikely and this horse deserves to be 99-1 or close to it. Joe Sharp is not going to give up the chance he has with GIRVIN
TOP PICKS FOR THE LOUISIANA DERBY
#6 – GUEST SUITE
#8 – GIRVIN
#4 – SENIOR INVESTMENT
#2 – HOLLYWOOD HANDSOME