Louisiana Derby; Let History Be Your Guide

The Road to the Kentucky Derby will take a big turn on Saturday with the running of the $1 million dollar, Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.

Two hundred Kentucky Derby qualification points are up for grabs in the 1 3/16-mile race, divided in 100-40-30-20-10 fashion among the first five finishers.

The Winner is all but guaranteed a spot in the Derby starting gate, and the runner-up and 3rd-place finisher also enhance their chances to qualify for the race.

With so much on the line, the Louisiana Derby annually draws a strong field, and it can be a tricky race to analyze.

But history can help with handicapping this race. Studying the historical results of Graded Stakes can reveal trends and tendencies common among past Winners, which in turn can point to future Winners.

Tactical Speed Is An Asset: Ten of the last twelve Winners were positioned in the top four after the opening half-mile, including three Winners who led at that juncture.

In contrast, the last dozen years have seen only two Louisiana Derby Winners rally from the back half of the field after the opening half-mile. Not surprisingly, one of those Victories came in 2013, which featured the fastest half-mile pace fraction of the last 12 years.

Mix Favorites And Big Longshots: For the most part, the Louisiana Derby is a predictable race. Six of the last 12 Winners started as the betting favorite, while another three Winners started at less than 4-1. The favorite should always be used in the Superfecta, because the top betting choice has finished on the board in 10 of the last 12 years.

But from time to time, strange things happen in the Louisiana Derby. In 2012 HERO OF ORDER sprung a HUGE upset Winning at 110-1. BY MY STANDARDS took top honors in 2019 at 23-1. TOM’S READY finished 2nd at 31-1 in 2016, MYLUTE was the runner-up in 2013 19-1, NY TRAFFIC battled to 2nd place at 27-1 in 2020, and 36-1 shot NEHRO also claimed 2nd in 2011.

That said, it’s best to mix the favorites with longshots at big prices. Identifying an overlooked Winner or runner-up, can trigger lucrative payoffs.

Bet Proven Graded Stakes Horses: The Louisiana Derby doesn’t play kindly toward up-and-comers without Stakes experience. Six of the last 12 Louisiana Derby Winners had previously Won a Graded Stakes, while another five had cracked the top four in a Graded Stakes.

During the same timeframe, only one horse without Graded Stakes experience – the Maiden Winner BY MY STANDARDS– has managed to claim top honors in the Louisiana Derby. It’s always tempting to think outside the box and support untested Maiden and Allowance types with the potential to develop into stars, but recent history suggests that doing so in the Louisiana Derby is not a Winning strategy.

Watch Out For Todd Pletcher: This trainer doesn’t start horses at Fair Grounds very often, but he’s certainly been successful in the Louisiana Derby. Pletcher has Won the race four times since 2007, and along the way he’s also saddled four 2nd-place finishers. They haven’t all been short prices either, just last year, Pletcher’s 16-1 longshot PIONEER OF MEDINA ran 3rd here.

Bet On Jockey Florent Geroux: Perhaps no jockey has enjoyed more success at Fair Grounds over the last decade than Geroux, whose Fair Grounds Win percentage since 2018 stands at a lofty 24%. Among his many Fair Grounds Victories are triumphs in the Louisiana Derby aboard GUN RUNNER and WELLS BAYOU.

Local Runners Hold An Advantage: Horses with experience at Fair Grounds have an advantage in the Louisiana Derby. Eight of the last 12 Winners previously contested the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, including four horses who Won both races. Another Louisiana Derby Winner- BY MY STANDARDS, exited a Maiden Victory at Fair Grounds.

On the other hand, two of the last three Louisiana Derby Winners (HOT ROD CHARLIE and WELLS BAYOU) Won the Louisiana Derby while racing at Fair Grounds for the first time, but they both had previously Won or placed against Graded Stakes competition, so they came to the Louisiana Derby with lofty credentials.

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