A well-matched, competitive field is set for the $1 million dollar, Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on Saturday.
It is listed as the final race on a marathon card of 14, with a scheduled Post Time of 7:45.
Here is a look at the field:
1. STARRININMYDREAMS [ML 20-1] Trainer: Dallas Stewart. Jockey: Luis Saez. Stewart knows how to prep long-shots for the Kentucky Derby, but this guy is hopelessly overmatched on paper. The 27-length loss in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) is a good indicator of what to expect here. The only positive is the presence of Saez, who figures to give him a decent ride.
2. RIGHTANDJUST [ML 20-1] Trainer: Shane Wilson. Jockey: Colby Hernandez. Took a step forward in the Risen Star by earning a 107 Speed Figure, the highest of his four-race career. Unfortunately, he faded to 6th in the stretch, losing by 7 3/4 lengths. He stretches out beyond nine furlongs against the same trio who completed the Risen Star Trifecta after fading against them before. He should be a pace factor once again before weakening against constant pressure.
3. RUN CLASSIC [ML 12-1] Trainer: Bret Calhoun. Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr. Had an eye-catching February 13th Maiden Win here- after stalking the pace, he took over on the turn and put the field away with mild urging to score by 3 1/4 lengths. His pedigree indicates more of a sprinter, but sometimes horses outrun their bloodlines. He lacks important Graded-Stakes experience and jumps into the big-time here after only a Maiden Win in his second career start.
4. PROXY [ML 7-2] Trainer: Michael Stidham. Jockey: John Velazquez. Receives blinkers for the first time. Stidham took this route with another long-winded runner in his barn, MYSTIC GUIDE, who went on to capture the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) and finish second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) after the equipment change. PROXY is a grinder, and has trouble shifting gears, so the thinking is that the blinkers will help him focus more on the task at hand. He gets blinkers, added distance, and Johnny V. aboard, so if not now, when?
5. HOT ROD CHARLIE [ML 3-1] Trainer: Leandro Mora. Jockey: Joel Rosario. Off the layoff, he put in a decent effort in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) to finish 3rd. Last year, HOT ROD CHARLIE ran 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, losing by only 3/4 of a length. His best speed figures are on par with the top three here. This west-coaster is tough one to read in this field.
6. MANDALOUN [ML 8-5] Trainer: Brad Cox. Jockey: Florent Geroux. After losing in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) as the 4-5 favorite, he took the Risen Star Stakes (G2) with blinkers added. He Won by stalking the pace and taking over in the stretch over a stubborn MIDNIGHT BOURBON. Assuming he can handle the slightly longer distance and new faces, he is going to prove tough a tough customer here. Given that he Won at nine furlongs, an extra half furlong is not supposed to beat him. His supporters will receive short odds again, which is why DRB will look elsewhere.
7. MIDNIGHT BOURBON [ML 5-1] Trainer: Steven Asmussen. Jockey: Joseph Talamo. The Lecomte Winner faded slightly to 3rd in the Risen Star Stakes after pressing the pace through moderately fast fractions. From a speed figure standpoint, his 112 is only one point off MANDALOUN in their last out. MIDNIGHT BOURBON also draws well in Post 7, allowing Talamo to watch the break, and assess who will press the pace early on.
8. O BESOS [ML 15-1] Trainer: Gregory Foley. Jockey: Marcelino Pedroza. Came in 4th by a nose in the Risen Star Stakes, which was apparently enough justification for his connections to give this prep race a shot. He never made a real move in that race while hovering five or six lengths behind the leader for most of the way, and he still lost by 7 1/2 lengths even though his position improved to 4th. Now, he faces the same triad that finished in front of him before. Seems unlikely.
Conclusion: Ya gotta love Fair Grounds. It seems every year we get to see three or four colts exchange blows throughout the Louisiana Road to the Kentucky Derby. This year is no exception.
On paper, MANDALOUN is the horse to beat, it’s his race to lose. But PROXY gets our vote. It seems like he was left with a little too much to do in the Risen Star (G2) in that he was a couple lengths further back than he should have been with such an average pace. Blinkers get added, so that, along with a slight adjustment by the wily veteran Johnny V should do the trick and get him home first.
THE PLAY: If everyone runs to form there won’t be a lot a Value to be had here. We will use #4 PROXY on top of a Trifecta Key with #5 HOT ROD CHARLIE, #6 MANDALOUN, #7 MIDNIGHT BOURBON, and #8 O BESOS underneath.
In multi-race wagers (Pick 4, Pick 5) we will use the #4-5-6.
Best of luck no matter how you play it.