Saturday’s 96th running of the Louisiana Derby (Grade 2) at Fair Grounds is arguably the strongest betting race of the 4 major Kentucky Derby prep races of the day (including the San Felipe, the Tampa Bay Derby, and the Rebel). That’s due to the fact that several highly touted horses have entered in what appears to be an extremely competitive race. When all is said and done we should be able to answer several burning questions, including whether Friesan Fire, Patena, and Flying Pegasus are the real deal(s), and whether Papa Clem can follow in the footsteps of I Want Revenge, who came east from California last week to win the Gotham at Aqueduct.
- Free Country (K. Desormeaux/ K. McPeek) 12/1
- Soul Warrior (S. Bridgmohan/ S. Asmussen) 20/1
- Patena (R. Albarado/ R. Dutrow) 7/2
- Terrain (J. Leparoux/ A. Stall Jr.) 10/1
- Flying Pegasus (J. Velazquez/ R. Nicks) 8/1
- Giant Oak (J. Graham/ C. Block) 4/1
- Uno Mas (B.J. Hernandez Jr./ S. Asmussen) 12/1
- Papa Clem (R. Bejarano/ G. Stute) 8/1
- Friesan Fire (G. Saez/ L. Jones) 5/2*
- Nowhere to Hide (C. Lanerie/ N. Zito) 15/1
Friesan Fire is your morning line favorite at 5/2. He’s a guy who doesn’t get a lot of respect, yet quietly sits within most Derby lists in one of the top 5 slots. Larry Jones is as solid a trainer as there is when it comes to getting 3-year-olds ready for the big time. When teamed with jockey Gabriel Saez they create a human connection battery that is extremely formidable. The son of A.P. Indy really turned it up a notch in his most recent workout, a bullet of 5 furlongs in :58 and change on March 9. He’s exiting back to back wins in Grade 3 races; the LeComte and the Risen Star. Jones seems to be bringing him along splendidly, and it’s encouraging to note how he took the added 1/16 of a mile in the Risen Star last out. He’s obviously the one you’ve got to beat.
Patena is a horse that has to live up to his hype. It’s now or never for this guy. Quietly, despite the presence of Stardom Bound, this colt has been IEAH Stables prime Kentucky Derby contender in the minds of many. We’ll see if he’s worth it on Saturday. An encouraging note for handicappers to play on is that his last victory was over Hooh Why, who went on to run well against Stardom Bound in the Santa Anita Oaks. Yes, that was a filly, but evidently a decent one (especially on synthetics). He ran well chasing Friesan Fire in the LeComte last out, and that was at a weight disadvantage that he won’t have to face today. Hopefully we’ll be able to tell a lot about this guy in the post parade. Dutrow has been training him up for this and if he lives up to the hype he might rocket up the Derby rankings.
Flying Pegasus overcame a wide post in the Risen Star to run well behind Friesan Fire for 2nd. I get the feeling this son of Fusaichi Pegasus is starting to put it all together and I would not be surprised to see him both improve and threaten for the victory. Trouble is, he’s running into a deeper field than last time out, so he’ll have to improve. I could go either way with this guy.
Papa Clem is the sneaky horse of this field. If you’re feeling a bit of deja vu, it’s because we’ve seen this story before: a horse who ran big against Pioneer of the Nile comes east, brings their jockey with them, and tries to go synthetic-to-dirt. Watch out. This guy made an extremely sharp impression on many in the post parade of the Robert B. Lewis and then went on to run huge, finishing ahead of I Want Revenge, who went on to take the Gotham (Grade 3) last weekend. He’s a Smart Strike colt, much like a certain someone we all know. At odds of 8/1 he’s an intriguing play, although I’d prefer having a posted workout to give us an indication of how he takes to the surface. We’ll have to wait for the post parade. If he makes a similar impression as he did last month, he’s the value play here in the win pool. (NOTE: See Edit Note in Selections section – apparently Papa didn’t ship very well)
Free Country, Uno Mas, and Nowhere to Hide all look usable underneath. I don’t know why, but I’m just not a Giant Oak guy. Especially not at 4/1. If his odds trickle up a bit he’s worth including, but he’s just not one of my top choices. Hopefully the Oak doesn’t make me choke on Saturday.
I’ll play Papa Clem and Friesan Fire for the win, in a bit of a departure from the norm. I know that’s a bit odd. I just don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. Weather could also play a role on Saturday, so I’ll spread my chances out by going in two slightly different directions. I’ll settle on Friesan Fire for the Superfecta play, and I’ll add in Patena and Flying Pegasus for place, with Uno Mas and Free Country for show. I guess I’ll add in Giant Oak for 4th. If Nowhere to Hide runs here instead of the Tampa Bay Derby I might add him in as well.
- $20 Win #8 Papa Clem (EDIT: I’m hearing over on Facebook that Papa Clem did not ship very well and my have a scraped leg. If true it would be wise to downgrade a bit…I may not be placing this wager)
- $20 Win #9 Friesan Fire
- $.10 Superfecta: 9/3,5,8/3,5,6,7, 8/1,3,5,6,7,8 ($4.80)