Saturday’s running of the Louisiana Derby looks to be yet another interesting prep race for the 2008 Kentucky Derby. The $600,000 Louisiana Derby is a one of the premier prep races in the country, having last served as a preview for a future Kentucky Derby winner in 2003 with the victory of Funny Cide.
The 2008 version of the Louisiana Derby features some big names in it’s own right. We last saw Pyro putting in a jaw-dropping performance in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds where he circled the field going from last to first in the stretch. The run instantly made me think of his training partner for much of the year, fellow Steve Asmussen trained colt Curlin. Prior to the Risen Star, I had been a little harsh on Pyro and had suggested he may have lacked the “killer instinct” necessary to have a chance and run down War Pass this May. I think it’s safe to say that Pyro showed the instinct we were looking for with his performance in the Risen Star, and his stock has been skyrocketing ever since. Pyro is already widely considered either the best or 2nd best 3 year old in the country, depending on who you ask. While his main rival War Pass will not be here in the Louisiana Derby, Pyro does run into several heavy hitters who are members of my current Road to the 2008 Kentucky Derby rankings.
Majestic Warrior is the horse I’m most interested to see in addition to Pyro. We haven’t seen him since a disappointing 6th place finish in the Champagne last October at Belmont, from which the colt returned with some minor injuries. He’s been working well at Payson Park recently for trainer Bill Mott and is still thought of as a potential serious contender for the roses in May. He prevailed in the Hopeful last summer at Belmont against the then highly regarded Ready’s Image and Maimonides. He sure looked good running late in the Hopeful, but it’s hard to tell how much we can make of that race as it was a 4 horse field and the two favorites duked it out the entire way along the track. Majestic Warrior is a son of A.P. Indy. Garrett Gomez is slated to ride Majestic Warrior, who is listed at odds of 9/2.
Tale of Ekati also returns to action after finishing 4th in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile last October. The son of Tale of the Cat had a very impressive run in the Grade 2 Futurity last year that hinted he was to be taken seriously on the Derby trail. I’m a little worried that we haven’t seen him recently, but his connections have been pointing to this race for quite some time. Edgar Prado will ride Talke of Ekati, who is currently listed at odds of 7/2.
Yankee Bravo, who folks may remember from his gutsy performance in the dead-heat finish in the Delta Jackpot, and Blackberry Road, who finished 5th in Pyro’s victory in the Risen Star, round out the list of likely contenders. The rest of the field includes Stevil, My Pal Charlie, J Be K, and Unbridled Vicar.
I haven’t handicapped the race yet, but this one well could be another victory for Pyro. His main competition seems to be Majestic Warrior and Tale of Ekati, who will be returning from long layoffs. Yankee Bravo may end up offering more value than his 4/1 morning line odds suggest, and if so he may be worth using underneath in the exacta. I’ll have full handicapping of the race later in the week.
The post positions and morning line odds for the field are listed below, with jockey’s name in parenthesis.
Stevil (Calvin Borel) 15/1
My Pal Charlie (Jordan Leparoux) 20/1
Pyro (Shaun Bridgmohan) 7/5*
J Be K (Kent Desormeaux) 12/1
Unbridled Vicar (Corey Lanerie) 20/1
Tale of Ekati (Edgar Prado) 7/2
Blackberry Road (Robbie Albarado) 10/1
Yankee Bravo (Alex Solis) 4/1
Majestic Warrior (Garrett Gomez) 9/2
Here are the race replays for Pyro (Risen Star Stakes), Majestic Warrior (Hopeful Stakes), and Tale of Ekati (Futurity Stakes) that I thought might assist players in forming some pre-race opinions.
Pyro circles the field to win the Risen Star:
Majestic Warrior pulls the upset to win the Hopeful:
Tale of Ekati finds late running room to win the Futurity: