Brian Nadeau of Horseplayer Now offers his analysis of Sunday’s Louisiana Derby.
Fair Grounds: The Grade II, $1 million Louisiana Derby at 1 1/8 miles
#2 Fire Arm: Steps up off a slow optional claiming win over the track and will try graded stakes foes for the first time in what represents a monumental class jump. Drew well and did close nicely in his last, so with an expected hot pace, he could pass a few late, though others entice more; longshot.
#3 Windsurfer: What would an expensive 3yo stakes be without a lightly raced but immensely talented 3yo from the Pletcher barn? Well-bred son of sprint champion Speightstown enters off a two-turn MSW win at Gulfstream Park and drew well, so he should be forwardly placed throughout, though we did mention the pace figures were heated. Nice to see JV keep the mount and we know these 3yos can jump up and improve open lengths overnight at this time of the year, but it’s tough to envision this guy threatening for the win at a distance that may be stretching him thin; playing underneath, if at all.
#4 Finnegans Wake: Son of turf stud Powerscourt enters off a decent third in Aqueduct’s GIII Gotham, when he rallied past some tiring runners to finish well behind 2yo champion Hansen. On the face of it, the effort wasn’t much, but it was his first start on the main track since he was beaten the length of the stretch in his debut at Churchill Downs in November, so at least you know he’s going in the right direction. And he’s yet to run over fast dirt, so maybe he’s got another forward move in him, which would be necessary to crack the top few spots in here; somewhat intriguing underneath.
#5 Flashy Sunrise: Was a distant second to the impressive maiden winner and fellow rival Cigar Street in a local MSW and is still a maiden after eight career starts, so he’s in way too deep today; needs much, much softer to threaten.
#6 Cigar Street: Son of Derby winner Street Sense absolutely freaked on the lead in his local MSW win when he set modest splits and drew off by over 13 lengths in what was an eye popping performance. Steps way up today and should meet a lot of other pace pressure, so you have to think he’s going to be hard-pressed to repeat that performance, though obviously he’s on the improve; talented, but this seems too much too soon.
#7 Shared Property: Started his year off with a fine third in the local GIII Lecomte then disappointed over the track in the GII Risen Star last time, so you have to wonder if he’s classy enough to handle a group like this. Adds blinkers today in an effort to get a bit more focus early, but there are several others in here who want to be on or near the lead, so not sure that’s going to work out too well. Working up a storm since his last and seems none the worse for wear, but the gut says he’s just not this good; minor award appears to be his ceiling.
#1 Mr. Bowling: The Lecomte winner was a disappointing 11th in the Risen Star, and it’s a bit ambitious to think he’ll be able to rebound and threaten here off such a dismal run. The other bad news is that he’s coupled with hotshot Mark Valeski, so you won’t get fair value on a colt that has some talent but brings questionable form; tough to envision a drastic form reversal.
#1a Mark Valeski: So just how big was that second in the local GII Risen Star, when he was beaten just a nose by potential Kentucky Derby favorite El Padrino? Well, first off it was his route and stakes debut, not to mention just his second start of the year, so yeah, it was a giant run. The big horse runs Saturday in the Florida Derby, so it’s this son of Proud Citizen’s race to lose, and you get the feeling that even if he regresses, he could still win this, as the competition hasn’t run all that fast to date. Drew perfectly and figures to set up shop just off what is shaping up as a fast pace, which should allow him to get first run on the closers and try and break this open off the far turn; poised for a monster run.
#8 Arm Force: Well-bred son of Tiznow gets thrown to the wolves off just two lifetime starts and a MSW win at Santa Anita when blinkers were added for his last start. Brings a ton of California speed to the party, and that’s not a good thing; as we’ve already mentioned, there are a few others that want to see the front as well. Tries a route for the first time, but the good news is that he is a full brother to Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed, though this is a giant leap for a colt with just 14 lifetime furlongs under his belt; stop and pop seems likely.
#9 Comisky’s Humor: Speedster stretches out after a pair of local romps, and he’s yet another who should be rolling along early. Son of Sharp Humor (second to Barbaro in the 9F Florida Derby) has a ton of talent and you know he likes the course, but if he wins this with his running style off three sprint races, he’s bordering on immortal status; can’t see him threatening.
#10 Z Dager: Thought he had a big, big shot in the Risen Star, but when push came to shove, he didn’t fire through the lane and checked in a well-beaten third, some 5 ½ lengths behind Mark Valeski. Tipped his hand with a second in the Lecomte, when he was beaten just a head by Mr. Bowling, but we already mentioned that that colt threw in a clunker last time, so that GIII really comes into question. At least he continues to progress and is in expert hands with Asmussen calling the shots, so there’s no reason to think he can’t fit somewhere in the number; exotics player.
#11 Rousing Sermon: SA invader has spun his wheels in a pair of 3yo graded stakes in California and heads out of town with the hopes that his closing style will work better away from the speed-favoring strips back home. Chased a pair of toughies in Creative Cause and Bodemeister in the GII San Felipe last time, but he never really made a dent, even after the early fractions were sharp enough to aid his stretch run; he should like this longer stretch today. While his two best runs have come on the Hollywood Cushion track, he does show a two-turn win over conventional dirt and we’ve already mentioned that the pace should be hot today, so there’s a chance that he rallies for a big piece late; upset special.
#12 Hero Of Order: Set the pace and finished a surprising fourth in the Risen Star at 79-1 and prepped for this with a game second (though he was DQ’d to fourth) in a local turf stakes. Drew poorly and will likely have to gun early to gain position or risk losing a ton of ground, so it’s unlikely he’ll get away with soft fractions like he did in the Risen Star. Underrated sort has some talent and will be another big number, but he’s probably just going to be throwing gasoline on the pace fire; tough to endorse.
#13 Afford: Gave him an upset chance in the Risen Star but he was a well beaten sixth, so he’ll need to jump up to be a factor today from a dismal draw. As a son of Street Sense out of an Unbridled mare, he’s got Derby blood on both sides of his pedigree, so you know the distance won’t be an issue, but unless he improves about eight lengths, he’ll be running for a minor award at best; passing.
#1a Mark Valeski
#11 Rousing Sermon