Louisiana Derby Draws Full Field To Elevate Derby Fever
Fair Grounds Soldiers On Through Global Crisis, Offers Fans Exceptional Card
By Margaret Ransom
Lecomte Stakes (GIII) winner Enforceable was labeled the early 7-2 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $1 million Twin Spires Louisiana Derby (GII) at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. John Oxley’s well-bred son of leading sire Tapit and the multiple grade 2-winning Dixie Union mare Justwhistledixie was most recently second to Mr. Monomoy in a division of the Risen Star Stakes (GII) a month ago and returns to action in the Pelican State’s main Kentucky Derby prep, which is a part of an exceptional card at one of the few tracks still running during the COVID-19 pandemic and global shutdown.
Once again the Louisiana Derby is worth 100-40-20-10 Road to the Derby points to the top four finishers to make the gate for the Kentucky Derby (G1) presented by Woodford Reserve, which has been moved to Saturday, September 5.
A year ago, By My Standards won this race and after an 11th-place finish in the Run for the Roses was sidelined due to injury for the rest of 2019. The colt came back with an allowance win at Fair Grounds last month and trainer Bret Calhoun has indicated he’s got his eyes on some of the bigger handicaps this year for the son of Goldencents.
However, the most notable runner to emerge from last year’s Louisiana Derby was fourth-place finisher Country House, who as well all know by now was promoted to the win in the Kentucky Derby after the disqualification of Maximum Security for a bumping incident at the Churchill Downs quarter pole. Country House never raced again and battled laminitis during most of 2019 and was officially retired earlier this year. His connections are still looking for a suitable stallion deal of the son of Lookin at Lucky.
This year, one runner from a full field will look to become the third Louisiana Derby winner in history to win the Kentucky Derby, joining Black Gold and Grindstone, though many of their connections would likely be satisfied with just earning enough points toward making the gate and winning in Kentucky.
Enforceable is well-traveled and makes his ninth start in the Louisiana Derby. In addition to winning the Lecomte and placing in the Risen Star, he also finished third in the Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland last year and currently sits seventh in the Derby points standings with 33. A win on Saturday would probably seal his position in the gate even with new preps and points races likely to be added over the summer.
“I think he’s doing as good, if not better coming into the Louisiana Derby than he was going into the Risen Star,” Casse’s assistant trainer David Carroll said. “He had a good breeze Saturday morning. Ideally, we’d like to have a solid pace in front of us. He’s a horse that gets into a steady rhythm and Julien (jockey Leparoux) has a lot of confidence in him. It’s naturally a stepping stone. As the distances are extended, I think it play even more in his favor.”
Casse will also tighten the girth on Prince Sultan bin Mishal al Saud’s Lynn’s Map, a promising son of Liam’s Map, who has so far struggled in stakes company but did have an excuse thanks to somewhat troubled trip last out in a division of the Risen Star.
“At 30-1 (in the morning line) this horse is not to be forgotten,” Carroll said. “I’ll take some of that. He’s a very capable horse. He ran a good race in the Risen Star, he just had a terrible trip and his race against Mr. Monomoy wasn’t a fluke. He’s doing really well.”
Marty and Pam Wygod’s Modernist returns in his first start since his eye-catching Risen Star victory last out, and the son of Uncle Mo was given 6-1 odds on the morning line, half of what he went off at to upset his division last out. The Bill Mott trainee, who owns a lot of natural early and tactical speed, is looking for his third win in a row on Saturday. Mott, who was inducted into Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1998, won his first Derby a year ago with Country House.
“(Last out) I guess we found out he has a little more natural speed than we thought,” trainer Bill Mott said. “Early from the gate, he put himself in good position. It was also the second time he won going 1 1/8 miles, so he seems to get the distance okay and has plenty of stamina. He’s a lightly raced horse, but every race has been just a little bit better. If you look at it, the progression has been very nice. It hasn’t been drastic but it’s coming a nice even keel. Nothing spectacular, but it’s the way you like to see it. We’re not there yet.
“Before we even ran him, he was working good. After we ran him the first time, he really began to pick up the pace. In his second race he finished third but his works had already started to improve going into that. Going into his third race, we had some stop and go stuff. We had him in and then he was sick and we had to scratch him and then we had to wait a little while to run him back and break his maiden but everything has gone smoothly since then.”
Wertheimer et Frere’s homebred Portos ships in off a third last out in the Withers (GIII) at Aqueduct six weeks ago and seeks to give trainer Todd Pletcher a fifth winner in the race. The Eclipse Award winner has so far held the record of four since his last winner, Noble Indy, in 2018. Portos closed a ton of ground in the Withers, racing from well back in the early going before running out of room before the wire. Pletcher is hoping the gray colt will show a little more speed under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and that a faster pace develops on the front end.
“He’s been training well since (the Withers),” Pletcher said of the son of Tapit. “We brought him to Palm Beach Downs after that race. We wanted to stay there (Aqueduct) for the Withers because we wanted to keep him at 1 1/8 miles around two turns. So we came down here preparing for this race since then. The Louisiana Derby was attractive because of the 1 3/16-mile distance. My concern is, I don’t see a whole lot of pace in this race either so I’m hoping he’ll get away a little better and get involved a little more than he did last time. But I wish there was a little stronger pace to set up a little better for him. But we’ll have to see how it unfolds and hopefully he shows a little more tactical speed this time.”
Other runners to pay attention to include Risen Star runner-up and third-place finisher Major Fed and Ny Traffic, Southwest Stakes (GII) runner-up Wells Bayou and California shipper Royal Act off a second in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (GII) last month.
The field for the $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, which is the day’s 12th and last with a post time of 4:49 p.m. CT, in post position order with riders, trainers and morning line odds, is:
1, Major Fed, Joel Rosario, Greg Foley, 8-1
2. Mailman Money, Gabriel Saez, Bret Calhoun, 15-1
3. Wells Bayou, Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 8-1
4. Chestertown, John Velazquez, Steve Asmussen, 15-1
5. Social Afleet, Adam Beschizza, Dallas Stewart, 50-1
6. Shake Some Action, Brian Hernandez Jr. Brad Cox, 15-1
7. Sharecropper, Miguel Mena, All Stall Jr., 20-1
8. Royal Act, Abel Cedillo, Pete Eurton, 10-1
9. Portos, Irad Ortiz, Jr., Todd Pletcher 8-1
10. Enforceable, Julien Leparoux, Mark Casse, 7-2
11. Ny Traffic Saez, Saffie Joseph, Jr., 15-1
12. Lynn’s Map, Tyler Gaffalione, Mark Casse , 30-1
13. Silver State, Ricardo Santana, Jr., Steve Asmussen, 6-1
14. Modernist, Junior Alvarado, Bill Mott, 6-1
15. (ae) Mr. Big News, Robby Albarado, Bret Calhoun, 20-1
16. (ae) Farmington Road, Javier Castellano, Todd Pletcher, 12-1
The 12-race Louisiana Derby Day card will feature eight stakes worth a total of $2.425 million. Run at 1 1/16 miles, the 52nd running of the $400,000 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) for 3-year-old fillies offers 100-40-20-10 points toward the $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI). Also apair of nine-furlong, high-impact events for older horses are also scheduled on the program – the $400,000 New Orleans Classic (GII) and the $300,000 Muniz Memorial Stakes (GII), which is in addition, four undercard stakes.