Brian Nadeau’s Road to the Triple Crown 2020: The Louisiana Derby

Fair Grounds: The GII, $1 million Louisiana Derby at 1 3/16 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 100-40-20-10)

by Brian Nadeau

Brian handicaps at Capital OTB and Horseplayer Now, and he’ll offer analysis and selections of Derby points races, hoping to make us all a little money as we head to the Belmont Stakes. Follow him on Twitter here.

Modernist and Junior Alvarado winning the Risen Star at Fair Grounds. Hodges Photography

#1 Major Fed (8-1): The first of five to exit the slower division of the local prep, last month’s GII Risen Star, was a good second behind fellow rival Modernist for Foley off nothing more than a MSW win and in only his third lifetime start, so it’s pretty obvious that’s there’s talent here and that he’s going the right way fast. Son of Ghostzapper should also trip out nicely from this draw and be close to what looks like a very moderate pace, so there are positives, though the one negative is that he exits a slow race and several others rank higher on paper; mixed signals here.

#2 Mailman Money (15-1): Stalker saw his modest unbeaten streak end at two when he was fourth behind Modernist, though he ran well after an extremely wide run into the first turn from a wide draw. Things get better with this draw for this Goldencents colt, Calhoun is as solid as they come, and he, too, should be close to the pace, but like ‘Fed next door,  he better raise his game if he wants to make a dent; minor award may be his ceiling.

#3 Wells Bayou (8-1): Potential loose speed finally ran over a fast main track for the first time in his career and posted the defining last-out run when he was a very fast second in Oaklawn Park’s GIII Southwest last month and clearly looks like the one to catch today. The first of two for Cox is by Lookin At Lucky, who won the Preakness at this trip, so there’s no reason to think that he can’t stretch out here, and if he repeats that Hot Springs run, he’d be throwing down a race the rest of these haven’t been able to reach just yet. The other huge plus is that Geroux rides, and he’s also shown a ton of early initiative wiring a pair of Derby preps this winter, so in a race without a lot of early lick, this dude looks primed to forget to stop; come and catch the pick.

#4 Chestertown (15-1): Highly touted $2 million 2-year-old in training purchase is a New York-bred son of Tapit that has shown promise in his four starts but hasn’t quite put it together yet and still seemed green and unfocused in a troubled second in a local AOC on the Risen Star undercard last time, in slower time than both divisions. The less accomplished of the two Asmussen runners does appear to have some talent, and he seems to be trending upwards, too, but this still seems like a reach; maybe down the road.

#5 Social Afleet (50-1): Huge longshot starts for Stewart, who has had success in this race before with runners at big numbers, but this Northern Afleet colt looks way, way out of his element here; easy toss.

#6 Shake Some Action (15-1): Cox’s second was all-out to beat Chestertown in the 2/15 AOC in just his third lifetime start, so he still has a lot of upside for a potent barn. Yet another son of Into Mischief that looks like he has a future, but at this point in his career, this seems a bridge too far; needs softer to threaten.

#7 Sharecropper (20-1): Arguably the second longest shot in the race was fourth, four lengths behind ‘Action last time, so while Stall must always be respected, this Pioneerof the Nile runner isn’t a threat in here; next.

#8 Royal Act (10-1): Dangerous California invader hit the dirt for the first time in Santa Anita’s GIII Robert Lewis last month for Eurton and was a big second to Thousand Words, who was undefeated at the time for Baffert, so right away you better take notice here. American Pharoah colt also chased the pace that day, so he figures to be close to the pick throughout, while owning a pedigree that suggests this trip will be to his liking. There are knocks though, since ‘Words didn’t run an inch in the GII San Felipe next time out at SA (in the best Derby prep to date, though), he ships for the first time, and you won’t see anywhere near this 10-1 ML, but still, if you’re judging him just off that dirt debut, he fits like a glove with these; major player.

#9 Portos (8-1): Long-striding Tapit colt has been logging plenty of miles under his girth for Pletcher, as he’s started at 1 1/8 miles in four of his five lifetime starts, while never running poorly but never impressing, either. Versatile sort exits a decent enough third in Aqueduct’s GIII Withers last month in his stakes debut, but that’s not scaring anyone here, so while the distance and long stretch should help him, others still entice more; must improve.

#10 Enforceable (7-2): ML favorite backed up his local GIII Lecomte win for Casse with a no-chance but fast-closing second to a loose winner in the faster division of the Risen Star, and his running style will surely appreciate this longer trip today. The third son of Tapit entered is always going to be at the mercy of the pace, which looks like it’s on the slow side here, and he’s going to have to weave his way through 13 other runners as well, which isn’t an ideal set of circumstances, either. Still, there’s something to be said for a runner that you know will like the distance, and you know darn well that he’ll be rolling through the lane, too; the one to beat.

#11 Ny Traffic (15-1): The second New York-bred dueled and then held well to be third behind Modernist in his graded stakes debut, so he definitely answered the bell on the ship from Florida for Joseph. The blinkers go on today, too, so he should be close to the early lead, though this wide draw won’t help, which kind of puts this son of Cross Traffic in no man’s land today; playing against.

#12 Lynn’s Map (30-1): The much less fancied of Casse’s duo lagged at the back then passed some tired runners to be sixth to Modernist, while never threatening at any point. Son of Liam’s Map did have a bit of a troubled trip that day, and his prior runs suggest that he’ll be closer to the pace today, but that still doesn’t mean he’s making waves here; no thanks.

#13 Silver State (6-1): Asmussen’s second was favored over Enforceable last time and ran his race to be third, though he once again showed that he may have hit his peak and that he’s just not the type to win one of these big Derby preps, as that followed a similar second in the Lecomte. Hard Spun colt usually runs his race, and he tries every time, too, but up to this point that has left him behind one or two every time as well, and the waters are a lot deeper here, not to mention he drew terribly; tread lightly if landing here.

#14 Modernist (6-1): The aforementioned Risen Star winner deserves a lot of credit, as he did it off just an Aqueduct MSW win for Mott, and he did it impressively, too, saving all the ground then kicking clear inside off the far turn. Of course, that’s nothing like what’s happening here for this son of Uncle Mo, as he’s marooned in the parking lot and is now the hunted, as opposed as the hunter, so there’s little doubt that he’ll need to earn it right back. Still, there’s a ton of talent in this corner, and enough tactical speed to get some kind of position into the long run to the first turn, so while he’s not at the top of the list, he figures to make his presence felt; in the mix.

#15 Mr. Big News AE (20-1): The second for Calhoun needs a defection to run, and even if this Giant’s Causeway runner gets in, he’d be hard-pressed to better that fifth behind Modernist in the Risen Star; tough to tout.

#16 Farmington Road AE (12-1): The more attractive of the two Pletchers isn’t likely to make the ship, plus he needs two defections, though if this son of Quality Road does somehow run, he’d be an interesting longshot off the better-than-it-looks fourth in the faster Risen Star; remember the name.

 

Selections:

#3 Wells Bayou

#10 Enforceable

#8 Royal Act

#14 Modernist

 

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