2015 Louisiana Derby Preview
The Road to the Kentucky Derby has three races on Saturday with the second race of the Derby Preps coming from the Fair Grounds in the form of the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. The other two races are the Group 2 UAE Derby from Meydan Racecourse in Dubai and the Grade 1 Florida Derby from Gulfstream Park.
The Grade 2 Louisiana Derby features ten three year olds going a mile and an eighth for a purse of $750,000. The field is deep in terms of quality with the likes of Mr. Z, War Story, and International Star set to race. The winner of the Louisiana Derby will receive 100 points, the second place finisher will receive 40 points, third place will receive 20 points, and fourth place will receive 10 points. The points go towards the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard, which determines the entrants for the Kentucky Derby.
The Grade 2 Louisiana Derby is the 11th race at the Fair Grounds on a mega card of 14 races that includes 7 other stakes races. Post time for the Louisiana Derby is scheduled for 6:24 PM Eastern time and free past performances can be found here.
1. Stanford (5-1 Morning Line) – This three year old son of Malibu Moon is Todd Pletcher’s only in this race. He broke his maiden at Monmouth in June 2014 and then tried the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, but failed to contend with a sixth place finish by 11 lengths. A four month break saw him return in February with a length and a half win in an optional claiming event. His last race was the listed Islamorada Handicap at 9 furlongs (same as the Louisiana Derby’s distance) at Gulfstream Park. He was second by 5 3/4 lengths, but was disqualified to sixth for interference. That 9 furlong race was his first start beyond 6.5 furlongs and he has reason to improve in his second route race.
2. Mr. Z (4-1 ML) – The most experienced horse in the race has been a stalwart on this year’s Kentucky Derby trail. He has 10 consecutive stakes races with 9 of those being of the Graded variety. Going back to December, he was third by a neck to the undefeated Dortmund and then spent the next two races at Oaklawn Park. He was third in the Smarty Jones when he veered out in the stretch that undoubtedly cost him second place in that race. He then ran in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes where he ran very well on the lead, but lost by three quarters of a length and finished third. One change that has been made is the blinkers are coming off. He will probably hit the board again, but betting on him to win here requires much higher win odds given his 1 for 10 record.
3. Defondo (12-1 ML) – He started his career at Churchill Downs with a second place finish by a length before coming to the Fair Grounds with a fourth place finish. He rebounded in his third start to win by 3 1/4 lengths and was then stretched out to a mile and 70 yards where he finished second by a half-length. He can certainly improve in his second route race, but he will need to improve dramatically to have a chance at the win.
4. Fusaichi Flame (20-1 ML) – This entrant has not raced outside of Louisiana. He started with three races at Evangeline Downs with each start resulting in a better finish. He was third in his debut, then was second in his second start (and first start on the turf), and won his third start by 2 lengths (also on turf). He then raced in a dirt stakes race where he was second by 2 lengths. An off the turf event resulted in a third place finish in his fifth start and he was then trounced in a turf stakes race by nearly 10 lengths. His last start was another off the turf event and he romped in the slop by 5 1/4 lengths. The jury is still out on his quality and he is a pass in this spot.
5. A Day In Paradise (12-1 ML) – He began his career at Monmouth going one mile in his debut, which resulted in a third place finish. He then went to Keeneland in his second start where he won by a nose and then finished fourth in an allowance race. A move down to Fair Grounds led to a second place finish in an optional claiming event and he was then sent to Sam Houston Park where he won by 3 1/4 lengths. He is light on class and will have company if he goes to the lead.
6. War Story (4-1 ML) – This guy has been chasing International Story home in the past two races. After winning his first two starts, he was entered in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes when he had the lead in the stretch, but finished by 2 1/2 lengths. Last time out he made a huge rally around the far turn in the Grade 2 Risen Star, but once again fell to International Story. Perhaps the extra sixteenth of a mile will help turn the tables and he certainly could come out on top in this race.
7. Keen Ice (5-1 ML) – He broke his maiden in his second start and has since run in four consecutive Graded stakes races. He was fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October and then tried the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct where he was third by 8 1/2 lengths. A try in the Grade 3 Holy Bull left him with a poor showing (fifth by 10 lengths) before he came to the Fair Grounds. Here, he ran in the Grade 2 Risen Star and made a strong rally in the stretch to finish third. He does not seem as good as the top two horses, but that does not mean he cannot pull the upset.
8. St. Joe Bay (10-1 ML) – He has been on the Derby Trail as well with an appearance at both Santa Anita and here at the Fair Grounds. He tried to take the Grade 3 Sham Stakes gate-to-wire at Santa Anita, but found that too difficult with a fourth place finish by 9 lengths. He was then entered in an optional claiming and finished second by 5 1/4 lengths. Last time out, he tried to wire the field once again in the Grade Risen Star, but was outfinished. He finished a respectable fourth beaten only 2 3/4 lengths, but he will have far more company on the lead here.
9. International Star (3-1 ML) – The morning line favorite is deserving of the low odds considering his affinity for the Fair Grounds main track. He started his career with 3 of his first 5 starts on Turf, but only came away with one win in his debut. After a ninth place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, he was moved to dirt with the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club where he finished fourth by 5 3/4 lengths. A trek to the south and Fair Grounds did him well as he rallied to win both the Grade 3 Lecomte and the Grade 2 Risen Star over War Story. It is tough to ignore him in this spot.
There is definitely quality at the top of this race and there is also a lot of speed in here. #1 Stanford, #2 Mr. Z, #3 Defondo, #5 A Day In Paradise, and #8 St. Joe Bay all like the lead or to be near the lead. That really sets the race up for #6 War Story or #9 International Star. Even #8 Keen Ice has a chance to rally for the win if the pace is hot enough.
1. International Star
2. War Story
3. Mr. Z
A recap of the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby will be posted on Saturday evening.