Louisiana Derby’s 13 Seek Share of $750,000 Purse

by Greg Melikov

posted on March 24, 2010 in General Discussion, Other Events | 1 Comment >>

Discreetly Mine is the likely favorite in the 97th Louisiana Derby Saturday, when the historic stakes race is staged for the fourth year since Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area.

The premier Fair Grounds stakes contest, canceled in 2006 for the first time since World War II, was bumped up $150,000 from a year ago to $750,000.

The Grade 2, richest race ever run in the state, attracted a full field going 1 1/8 miles, a bit farther than the Risen Star won by Discreetly Mine. The colt closed out his juvenile campaign with a pair of second places at Belmont in the Futurity and Champagne for trainer Stanley Hough.

Conditioner Todd Pletcher took over this year and the son of Mineshaft finished fourth in the Spectacular Bid at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 9, followed by his wire-to-wire triumph in the Risen Star at 1 1/16 miles.

The morning line 7-2 favorite drew post 7 while Javier Castellano retains the mount. Several in the 13-horse field that chased him on Feb. 20 will try again:

Drosselmeyer, fourth, breaks from the outside 13th post at 5-1, with Kent Desormeaux aboard. It was only his second trip on dirt.

Stay Put, fifth, post 9, 10-1, Jamie Theriot. The local standout ran out of ground and could outrun his odds.

Ron the Greek, sixth, post 6, 6-1, James Graham. The Lecomte Stakes winner also staged a rally from far back.

Hotep, 10th in 12-horse field, post 1, 30-1, Patrick Husbands.

Faster opening fractions are in the cards since two horses set the pace in seven of their last 11 races:

Bob Baffert trainee The Program, 10-1, post 4, led or pressed the pace in four of his past six routes on synthetic surfaces, winning twice. The son of Harlan’s Holiday, who led in the Sham into the stretch before finshing third behind Alphie’s Bet and Setsuko, is debuting on dirt.

D. Wayne Lukas’ Wow Wow Wow, 30-1, post 10, set the pace in three of his past five races on dirt, winning two routes.

Pletcher also sends out Mission Implazible, 8-1, post 2, who might play a pace-setting role for Discreetly Mine. The son of Unbridled’s Song, fourth to Conveyance in the Southwest Stakes, is making his fifth career start at different tracks.

Closers surely would benefit. At the post position draw, trainer Steve Margolis said Stay Put “has a lot to overcome with the slow pace and a he’s training really well since the (Risen Star) race. We are very excited about how he is coming into it. With a little more distance we are hopeful that we can run a big race.

“It’s a competitive race, but I think having two races over the track and having more distance in our corner hopefully we can have a good showing.”

Stay Put won his previous two outings at Fair Grounds, both routes including a 1 1/8-mile contest.

Conditioner Tom Amoss admitted his Ron the Greek “doesn’t have any real speed early. You know, this race has some different variables from the Risen Star and by variables I mean horses coming into it that did not run their race in the Risen Star. So we can get a lot more speed in there. I think it will be a fair race and that’s what we want.”

Tony Dutrow’s A Little Warm, 4-1, post 5, is stretching out after running in a pair of sprint stakes at Gulfstream and might be closer to the pace. The son of Stormin Fever won the Spectacular Bid and was runner-up to D’Funnybone in the Swale.

Nick Zito’s Fly Down, 8-1, post 3, also shipped from Gulfstream where the son of Mineshaft won an allowance contest at Saturday’s distance.

Three locally based runners are stepping up in class:

Island Soul, 20-1, post 8, won an off-the-turf route in January and ran second in an entry-level allowance race earlier this month.

Mister Mardi Gras, 30-1, post 11, broke his maiden on the grass last month after running second twice on dirt.

Backtrack, 30-1, post 12, undefeated in two sprints this year.