The Major 2019 Kentucky Derby Prep-Races begin Saturday, when the Fair Grounds hosts the Grade 2, $1 Million Dollar Louisiana Derby, offering qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 basis to its first four finishers. It is run at a distance of a Mile & 1/8 with a scheduled Post Time of 6:13 Eastern Time.
WAR OF WILL is squarely the horse to beat, as he has already taken the local Lecomte Stakes (G2) in January and Risen Star Stakes (G2) in February. He would be the second horse in the last four years to accomplish the sweep of the Fair Grounds’ Preps, as INTERNATIONAL STAR did so in 2016.
Beyond WOW it’s an evenly matched group of 10 other contenders, and you can make a case for most of them to Place, or perhaps Win.
Here then is a look at the field with the Official Morning Line:
1. ROILAND (12-1) Trainer: Tom Amoss. Jockey: James Graham. He doesn’t offer the speed figures to suggest he can upset here, but those are only a measure of how fast he has run, not how fast he could run. Amoss has always been high on this colt, expecting a coming out party at some point. Perhaps it’s in the Louisiana Derby, a race in which the trainer’s had plenty of success collecting points for that trip to Churchill Downs.
2. LEMNISCATE (15-1) Trainer: Kenny McPeek. Jockey: Brian Hernandez. Last time out broke his Maiden on a turf route at Gulfstream Park Winning by a length. He will appreciate the added distance, but the colt didn’t go particularly fast in any of his previous efforts. Facing a deep field here, this is a tough task for him.
3. LIMONITE (20-1) Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Jose Ortiz. Ran into some traffic coming into the stretch to be fifth in the Risen Star, but part of succeeding is creating your own luck. He typically gets away slowly from the gate and relies on a pace setup for his late run. Even under the best of circumstances, he’d need to navigate through plenty of horses while the top picks here are positioned far ahead.
4. SUENO (8-1) Trainer: Keith Desormeaux. Jockey: Corey Lanerie. Well-traveled, with five starts at four tracks, this modestly bred colt fits the mold of a Desormeaux-trained overachiever on the trail. After being overtaken by closing GUNMETAL GRAY in the Sham (G3) to open the year, he just missed in the Southwest (G3) after SUPER STEED took advantage of the short stretch at Oaklawn Park.
5. BY MY STANDARDS (12-1) Trainer: Bret Calhoun. Jockey: Gabriel Saez. Calhoun saddled this colt for a 4 1/4-length breakthrough Maiden Victory going a Mile & 1/16 on the Risen Star under-card. The trainer always had high regard for this horse but waited for him to come around mentally. Big step up in class.
6. WAR OF WILL (6-5) Trainer: Mark Casse. Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione. Casse said after the Risen Star that this colt seems to be thriving on the grind of the Derby Trail, and he’ll get another chance to prove it as a big favorite here. WOW is 3-for-3 since switching to the dirt, shows the type of tactical speed that makes him a threat from any Post Position and given just about any trip.
7. MR. MONEY (20-1) Trainer: Bret Calhoun. Jockey: Adam Beschizza. Same sire, owner and trainer of BY MY STANDARDS. What about a potentially better talent? It’s plenty possible given his fourth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile off a Maiden Victory. After a long layoff, he ran seventh in the Risen Star, but should run better in his second race off the shelf.
8. COUNTRY HOUSE (9-2) Trainer: Bill Mott. Jockey: Luis Saez. The thought here is, no matter how many times they circled the Fair Grounds oval, this one wasn’t going to catch WOW in the Risen Star. He remains lightly raced, and as a closer remains a threat, but…
9. BANKIT (20-1) Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. He looked like a legitimate KD contender coming into the new year after a close second to stablemate LONG RANGE TODDY in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park. But then he missed the board in two prep starts at Oaklawn. Either he didn’t like the surface, he hasn’t progressed, or BANKIT doesn’t have the class to contend in Graded Stakes. That’s a lot of question marks.
10. SPINOFF (8-1) Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: John Velazquez. Surprisingly empty so far on the Derby Trail, Pletcher sent this colt out for an 11 3/4-length victory last time out (February 22nd) in a Tampa Bay Downs Allowance Race. He appeared to be looking for some competition in that race before Velazquez urged him forward, and from there he absolutely took over. His speed figures reflect a solid effort, and Pletcher enters looking for a second straight Louisiana Derby score following NOBLE INDY’s win last year.
11. HOG CREEK HUSTLE (12-1) Trainer: Vickie Foley. Jockey: Miguel Mena. Going nine furlongs with this long home-stretch could be where pedigree catches up to this consistent, competitive runner. Second in the Lecomte and fourth in the Risen Star, he’s certainly a fit to compete here, but does he get the distance?
Given all that, #6 WAR OF WILL is the deserving favorite in this contest. Is he vulnerable? Perhaps. He has already earned a spot in the gate for the Kentucky Derby, so he doesn’t need to Win. If you read the previous column from the Daily Racing Blog, you realize that history is on the side of WOW, but at 6-5 Morning Line he is not a DRB type of play.
We will try to beat the prohibitive favorite with #4 SUENO and #10 SPINOFF, both of which offer more Value than #6. So our wager will be a Trifecta Key using the #4 & #10 on top, with the #1-3-(4)6-8-(10). We’ll also do a 4-10 Exacta Box, with Win bets on both those horses as well. If WAR OF WILL beats us then so be it, but DRB will always seek the Value. No matter how you play it best of luck.