Risen Star Winner Epicenter Favored in Louisiana Derby
So far, just two horses in history have completed the Louisiana Derby (GII)/Kentucky Derby (GI) double yet the Pelican State’s premier prep for the Run for the Roses still is one of the most important stops on the Triple Crown trail. Even before points determined who would make the gate or before the $1 million purse attracted the connections of prominent 3-year-olds from across the country, the now 1 3/16-mile race always seemed to feature some exceptional horses attempting to make the Derby starting gate.
The Louisiana Derby was first run as the Crescent City Derby, a common nickname for the famous and historic French Quarter in New Orleans which, due to a prominent bend in the Mississippi River, is shaped like a crescent. The race was later renamed to honor the entire state of Louisiana and was first held at the long-since-gone Crescent City Race Course in 1894. The contest made a brief stop a stop at the now defunct Jefferson Park and then went on to Fair Grounds in 1839 where it remains.
Though the Louisiana Derby wasn’t held in different years for various reasons, in 2006 the race was cancelled because the track was partially destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. This year, the New Orleans area is recovering from a devastating tornado that touched down days ago, but the show will go on and with spectators for the first time in two years.
Once again, the race will be shown as part of TVG’s daily coverage and is again sponsored by TwinSpires.com this year.
Black Gold (1924) and Grindstone (1996), who passed away this past week at the grand old age of 29, are the lucky two to have swept both the Louisiana Derby and Kentucky Derby, but that’s not to say some good horses haven’t run in the Pelican State’s main Derby prep. Risen Star won in 1988 before finishing third in the Derby and then winning the Preakness Stakes (GI) and Belmont Stakes (GI), and 2017’s Horse of the Year Gun Runner won in 2016. Other recognizable names to win the Louisiana Derby throughout the years include Friesan Fire, Circular Quay, Peace Rules, Master Derby, Rushaway and many more.
Allied Racing’s millionaire By My Standards won this race in 2019 and went on to Louisville to finish 11th in the Derby mud, and in 2020, Wells Bayou won as the favorite but has not returned to the winner’s circle since. Last year, the highly regarded Hot Rod Charlie won here, was third across the wire in the Run for the Roses and also won the Pennsylvania Derby (GI). He is one of the leading contenders for this year’s Dubai World Cup (GI).
But the most significant recent runner to come out of the Louisiana Derby was 2019’s fourth-place finisher Country House, who we all now know was declared that year’s Kentucky Derby winner after the disqualification of Maximum Security. He never raced again after coming down will an illness and subsequently laminitis after the Derby, is now retired and is standing his second season at stud at Darby Dan Farm near Lexington, Kentucky.
The Louisiana Derby is the first of seven races this Derby season to offer 100 points to the winner, with 40, 20 and 10 on the line for second- through fourth-place finishes. Whoever takes the win will certainly earn enough points to make the Derby starting gate.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has sent out four Louisiana Derby winners (2007, Circular Quay; 2010, Mission Impazible; 2013, Revolutionary; and 2018, Noble Indy) to hold the current record of most winners. Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day owns the victory record for riders, having booted home five (1986, Country Light; 1987, J.T.’s Pet; 1991, Richman; 1992, Line in the Sand; and 1997, Crypto Star).
The fastest time for the race at the previous nine-furlong distance remains the 1:48 2/5 Clev Er Tell posted in 1977. The record for 1 1/16 miles is 1:42.60 set by Crypto Star in 1997. This year the race will again be offered at 1 3/16 miles, the same distance as the Preakness Stakes, for the third time.
The weather in New Orleans on Saturday is expected to be warm and rain-free with highs in the mid-70s. The feature race has been carded as the 12th and final race of the day with a post time of 5:44 p.m. CT.
The field of nine for the Louisiana Derby, with riders, trainers and morning line odds, is:
1. Silent Power, Gerard Melancon, Scott Gelner, 50-1
Strong Mandate—Rutledge Ballado, by Saint Ballado
2. Zozos, Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 8-1
Munnings—Papa’s Forest, by Forestry
3. Call Me Midnight, James Graham, Keith Desormeaux, 6-1
Midnight Lute—Oversee, by First Defence
4. Curly Tail, Colby Hernandez, Dallas Stewart, 30-1
Curlin—Take Charge Tressa, by War Front
5. Kupuna, Reylu Gutierrez, Bret Calhoun, 8-1
Hard Spun–Hanalei Hailey, by Malibu Moon
6. Epicenter, Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen, 7-5
Not This Time—Silent Candy | Candy Ride (Arg)
7. Pioneer of Medina, Tyler Gaffalione, Todd Pletcher, 5-1
Pioneerof the Nile—Lights of Medina, by Eskendereya
8. Galt, Junior Alvarado, Bill Mott, 8-1
Medaglia d’Oro—Ivanavinalot, by West Acre
9. Rattle N Roll, Brian Hernandez, Jr., Kenny McPeek, 6-1
Connect—Jazz Tune, by Johannesburg