This coming Saturday, the Kentucky Derby Prep Trail shifts into high-gear, as the Louisiana Series comes to an end. At stake are KYD148 “Points” for WPS-4th. The collection process now becomes inordinately higher. To be specific, the LA Derby hands out 100-40-20-10, and the standings will significantly move … like tectonic plates. This history of this $1 Million race is one that has seen some important names roll into the starting gate. Although all are special runners, it was not until last year’s participant, Brad Cox’s Mandaloun, that a runner actually won a Triple Crown contest. Why is that? The style of the track in the way it sets up with that long stretch? The distance of 1 3/16ths? Is it just the types of trainers that enter the race? Questions abound … Maybe this year’s race will yield a champion that has the legs to continue on and win the Kentucky Derby?
Now, let’s find out about this field…
#1 Silent Power (Jky: G. Melancon/Trn: S. Gelner):
Trainer Scott Gelner does not enter many of these types of contests, but you can never write-off a barn … this is horse racing. There is no question that his colt by Strong Mandate is going to be tested like never before. Running 4th last time at Delta Downs in a “Non-G” $75k is not really up to scratch when it comes to the class meter. Local LA riding legend Gerard Melancon (known as “G-Money”) will have the call, and at least his mount is getting an experienced jockey. Tough to see this one being even remotely competitive … the colt is going to have to run out of shoes for Norman Stables.
#2 Zozos (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: B. Cox):
Owners Barry and Joni Butzow have quite a homebred on their hands. If you did not see their colt by Munnings run at Oaklawn Park back on 11 Feb. in a tough OC100kn1x, then you missed quite a kick down the lane. Florent Geroux served as pilot during that 10-length victory, and if Brad Cox’s 3-yr-old can improve off of that effort, then he might have a legit Derby contender on his hands. All of a sudden … The post-modern Derby Trail is about rapid development late in the game, and with a win over this track on his debut, the colt looks primed to take on these “veteran” runners. I like his chances, and probably will make this one my top pick come Saturday.
#3 Call Me Midnight (Jky: J. Graham/Trn: K. Desormeaux):
Old hand Kent Desormeaux really celebrated when he watched his colt by Midnight Lute cross the wire 1st in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds back in late January. That was a surprising “signature” score at odds of 29/1. Most would agree that the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) back in November produced some impressive runners (Smile Happy, Classic Causeway, and White Abarrio … among others). With James Graham aboard once again (FG’s hottest jock), this 3-yr-old is going to try and marshal that devasting late speed he possesses for one more attempt at his home base. Maybe a return to Louisville is in the cards, giving Desormeaux yet another opportunity for his 1st victory on horse racing’s biggest stage. It will not be easy … can lightening strike twice? Not too sure …
#4 Curly Tail (Jky: C. Hernandez/Trn: D. Stewart):
The Willis Horton Racing outfit bred this one from the start, and the last time he hit the track (@OP), the result was a maiden victory. The wily Dallas Stewart is looking to up the ante, and like any great riverboat gambler, he is going to the high-stakes table for some action. What this son of Curlin has going for him is not only a famous father, but the way he finished that MSW84k contest displayed a quality burst of speed. If he can ratchet that effort up even more, then he has a legitimate shot to at the very least, hit-the-board. The best news of all … Colby Hernandez takes the mount, and his skills have really elevated over this past season in New Orleans. I am not sure this one’s prospects are quite in-line with other “maidens,” but skills are present, for sure …
#5 Kupuna (Jky: R. Gutierrez/Trn: B. Calhoun):
The Bret Calhoun Stable is ready for action on this LA Series Day, and here is their attempt to jump on the Derby Trail to Churchill. Bred by Stonestreet Stables, this son of Hard Spun, missed winning at the OC50kn1x level at the Fair Grounds back on 19 Feb. That was still a game effort because Cyberknife (the winner) was excellent in that spot. Working well since for Calhoun, you have to think that he has the skills to match many of the other entries in this spot. Going back to his maiden score at Oaklawn, one has to wonder if Calhoun should have left his charge in Hot Springs. Maybe Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch wanted their colt to take the “deep southern” route … whatever the case, I think this one has a chance to make some noise.
#6 Epicenter (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: S. Asmussen):
If there is a clear “favorite,” that is also “deserving,” then it has to be Steve Asmussen’s colt by Not This Time. He almost needs no introduction, since his run through this “Series” continues to be virtually without a blemish. Sure, the Winchell-owned router was beaten in the Lecomte S. (G3), but that was only by a head. With regular jockey Joel Rosario aboard once again, he silenced the critics with a front-running score in the Risen Star (G2). Asmussen’s stellar steed probably has the “Points” to enter the starting gate on May 7th, but he needs one more “test” before shipping can commence. Will this be a workout? Or will the HOF conditioner be giving the clear order … “go” … to the Eclipse Award winning rider? That is an easy one … it’s the latter. If this one does get loose, the race could be over by the 1st call.
#7 Pioneer of Medina (Jky: T. Gaffalione/Trn: T. Pletcher):
Here is the only other alum from the Risen Star S. (G2) that is back in action. Trained by the expansive-minded Todd Pletcher, he did not run too poorly in that race at the Fair Grounds. After all, nobody was going to catch Rosario that day. In his defense, jockey Luis Saez tried to keep up, but it just was not in the cards … the son of Pioneerof the Nile got tired. Let’s face it, what Pletcher needs is for new pilot Tyler Gaffalione to bully his way to the lead. Controlling the pace up front is going to be the only anti-dote to Rosario’s “on-the-engine” mount. If Gaffalione cannot manufacture at least a speed duel, then there will be little chance for victory.
#8 Galt (Jky: J. Alvarado/Trn: B. Mott):
Based on his “figs” in the Holy Bull S. (G3) at Gulfstream in early February, you would have thought that this Bill Mott-trainee would have fared well next out in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. Traffic trouble at the top of the lane (the reckless riding of Paco Lopez, to be specific), led to what could have been a disastrous result. Luckily, Joel Rosario and this son of Medaglia d’Oro were both able to walk away. Now, Mott sends this high-priced colt ($400k at the Keeneland Nov. ’19 Sale) to New Orleans with Junior Alvarado taking over the riding duties. We know he has talent, but it is just an unknown how he will react in this spot. I would like to think that it is business as usual, especially since his latest work at Payson Park appeared fine. More to prove as he takes to the track …
#9 Rattle N Roll (Jky: B. Hernandez/Trn: K. McPeek):
It seemed like at the end of 2020 no stable had a stronger Derby hand than Kenny McPeek. That kind of forward momentum can turn very easily … in the other direction. Some colts, between their 2-yr-old and 3-yr-old campaign, might not be able to take the step-up into stiffer competition. I am not sure whether this McPeek runner is one of those, yet. We know that Lucky Seven Stable made a solid investment in this son of Connect, and they are hoping that he can improve on that 6th place finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2). Brian Hernandez, this colt’s regular jockey, is once again in-tow. Maybe the long stretch will suit this one … otherwise, it is going to be a long trot back to the barn area.
Join us Saturday for all of our Louisiana Derby Day selections! Should be a great set of races from the Fair Grounds! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!