The Louisiana Derby – Grade II – $600,000 – Fair Grounds – 1 1/16 Miles, by Brian Nadeau
In honor of next month’s Masters at August National, let’s deem this Saturday Moving Day at the racetrack. There are no fewer than four major prep races that should further clarify the Kentucky Derby picture. Let’s check out the first of four: the Louisiana Derby.
Free Country: Disappointed in the Sam Davis, but he would hardly be the first horse not to take to the deep and sandy surface at Tampa Bay Downs. Blinkers now go on and he should sit a dream trip behind the speed. It’s time to step up to the plate.
Soul Warrior: Another who adds the hood, this colt passed several tiring rivals in the Risen Star and didn’t run poorly in what was his first start after breaking his maiden. The blinkers could add a little more speed to the package, but he’ll need to improve several lengths to challenge.
Patena: Building quite a reputation, but is it because of his talent or his Derby winning connections? Maybe it’s a bit of both. Ran well behind Friesan Fire in the LeComte, but the waters get much deeper here. He’s probably going to be a much shorter price than he should be, so I’ll play against.
Terrain: Ran well in the BC Juvenile on synthetic, but his run in the Delta Jackpot on the main was forgettable. He added blinkers that day, and they are removed here, so maybe he can right the ship, but I’m not counting on it.
Flying Pegasus: His return from a minor injury and a four-month layoff in the Risen Star was mighty impressive. He stalked the pace, dragged the jockey to the leaders turning from home, and tired in the lane to the fit and ready Friesan Fire. That was also his first two-turn start and the screws should be much, much tighter Saturday. The feeling here is a major breakthrough is coming. He should be right off of the slow pace and make a winning move entering the stretch. Choice for the win goes to the head of the Derby class after Saturday.
Giant Oak: Trip handicappers have been waiting for him to return after his nightmare run in the Risen Star, where he was blocked and lacked room for much of the running. Once free he did come running, but it was far too late. At this point it’s more reputation than performance and that’s going to make him a big underlay at the window, so I’ll side against.
Uno Mas: He’s quietly climbed the ladder and improved each time, so believers have a nice price on a top barn and a horse who could be set for an all-time best. The only question: Is it going to be good enough to get by several others who figure to improve? He’ll be a nice price, but a midpack finish seems likely.
Papa Clem: He’ll try to emulate I Want Revenge and go from a solid synthetic horse to a freak on conventional dirt. He actually beat that rival in the Robert Lewis, so he does have a lot going for him. The problem is that every Saturday afternoon handicapper will have that angle on the tip of his tongue, so don’t expect a decent price. He could fall into a nice trip, but I don’t see lightning striking twice.
Friesan Fire: The favorite has done little wrong and will look for the Hat Trick and sweep of the local 3-year-old series. Solid wins in the LeComte and Risen Star stamp him as the horse to beat, but while he was fit and ready in the last two, the others have reason to run better today. No major knocks on this tactical sort, so we’ll call him second best today.
Nowhere To Hide: No one will mention it, but this guy ran huge in the Risen Star, which was his first local start and first start versus winners. The pace in here is tricky, but it’s moderate at best, so he can use his speed to secure position and not get caught wide into the first turn. He’s not the likeliest winner, but heck, you could do a lot worse than taking 15-1 on a horse who might be getting good at the right time. He’s worth a saver for the win and should be used underneath to spice up your exotics.