The culmination of Saturday’s race card at Fair Grounds in New Orleans is the G2 Louisiana Derby. Generally, this is a big prep race for the Kentucky Derby, but the Derby has been pushed back to the first weekend of September because of the coronavirus outbreak.
That being said, this is still a loaded race with tons of competitors that will hope to run for the roses on September 5. The 12th and final race on Saturday is slated for 5:40 p.m. ET and features a lot of talented horses, trainers, and jockeys in search of a piece of the $1 million purse and a good start to the second leg of the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
The winner of this race is assured a spot in the Kentucky Derby, so long as an injury or illness doesn’t arise. This event has Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 scale, which will be good enough to get into the main event. That is one of many reasons why 14 horses and two alternates are listed in the field.
There are always going to be favorites and second favorites in these horse races, but the odds are very spread out for the Louisiana Derby.
This is also the longest of the traditional Derby prep races at 1 3/16 miles. Closers are what we want to look for here with the extra distance.
Here are the post positions, horses, trainers, jockeys, and morning line odds for the 2020 Louisiana Derby:
|1||Major Fed||G. Foley||J. Rosario||8/1|
|2||Mailman Money||W. Calhoun||G. Saez||15/1|
|3||Wells Bayou||B. Cox||F. Geroux||8/1|
|4||Chestertown||S. Asmussen||J. Velazquez||15/1|
|5||Social Afleet||D. Stewart||A. Beschizza||50/1|
|6||Shake Some Action||B. Cox||C. Hernandez||15/1|
|7||Sharecropper||A. Stall Jr.||M. Mena||20/1|
|8||Royal Act||P. Eurton||A. Cedillo||10/1|
|9||Portos||T. Pletcher||I. Ortiz Jr.||8/1|
|10||Enforceable||M. Casse||J. Leparoux||7/2|
|11||Ny Traffic||S. Joseph Jr.||L. Saez||15/1|
|12||Lynn’s Map||M. Casse||T. Gaffalione||30/1|
|13||Silver State||S. Asmussen||R. Santana Jr.||6/1|
|14||Modernist||W. Mott||J. Alvarado||6/1|
|15ae||Mr. Big News||W. Calhoun||J. Albarado||20/1|
|16ae||Farmington Road||T. Pletcher||J. Castellano||12/1|
That is a long list of runners and a great list of trainers and jockeys. We don’t see Bob Baffert’s name on the list, which is definitely surprising, but we see a lot of world-class trainers and the best jockeys in the sport. Enforceable is the favorite at 7/2, with Silver State and Modernist at 6/1 as co-second favorites. With three horses at 8/1 and nobody better than 3.5/1, this sure looks like a competitive race that will take a lot of study to handicap.
Let’s run through it with some notes on each horse and see if we can come up with some picks for the main event on March 21 at Fair Grounds.
Major Fed (8/1) – The son of Ghostzapper had a good run in the Risen Star Stakes Division 2 at Fair Grounds back in February, coming up short to Modernist, who is one of the two second favorites here. Major Fed stalked the pace for most of the race and then made a huge push late over the final two furlongs. A major push of that magnitude could be needed to hit the board here with the extra distance. The question here is whether or not Major Fed can stalk a quicker pace in a stronger field. He went off at 15/1 to finish second in that race.
It was Julien Leparoux in the mount for the Risen Star. Leparoux is with Mark Casse on the favorite Enforceable, but it isn’t like Joel Rosario is a downgrade.
Mailman Money (15/1) – The Bret Calhoun/Luis Saez team becomes the Bret Calhoun/Gabriel Saez team in the Louisiana Derby. Mailman Money ran a strong fourth in the Risen Star Stakes Division 2 here back in February. He won his allowance race at Fair Grounds in January after coming down from Kentucky after a maiden special weight win at six furlongs. The distance seemed to be hurt Mailman Money a bit in the Risen Star with a late fade and an inability to keep up with the front of the pack.
This race is even longer at 1 3/16 miles, so we can probably cross this 15/1 off the board unless something has changed over the last month.
Wells Bayou (8/1) – The son of Lookin At Lucky is one of a handful of horses that did not run in the Risen Star. Instead, Brad Cox set Wells Bayou up in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, where he finished second to Silver Prospector. It was an interesting trip for Geroux, who flew out front to pace the pack and didn’t have enough in the tank to hold off the hard-charging Silver Prospector, who coasted through three-quarters of the race before making a move in the third turn.
It is tough to like Wells Bayou at this additional distance as well. The Cox/Geroux team is a good one, but Wells Bayou looked a little uncomfortable in traffic. If Geroux can’t get to the front and set the pace, this horse is likely to fade backwards. A 96 Beyer in the Southwest Stakes may be enough to get people to buy in.
Chestertown (15/1) – Anytime you see the tandem of Steve Asmussen and John Velazquez, there will be interest. This looks to be the wild card of the race. The son of Tapit is making his stakes debut here after a second and a third in two previous allowance races at Fair Grounds. That allowance race was on the undercard for the Risen Star Stakes.
Chestertown was a closer in his most recent race that came up just short of Shake Some Action, who is also in this field. There isn’t a ton of speed in this race, so Chestertown, as a closer with some speed, could be something of a surprise contender. In the final MSW race for Chestertown on a wet track at Aqueduct, the $2 million horse blew the field away over the final quarter pole. This is a closer and a strong horse with a big price tag.
Social Afleet (50/1) – One of the few horses not given much of a shot here is Social Afleet, the Dallas Stewart colt that is making its stakes debut. The last time we saw Social Afleet, it ran sixth in a race that featured Rebel Stakes runner-up Excession in third place and fellow Louisiana Derby contender Sharecropper as the winner.
This seems like one we can cross off.
Shake Some Action (15/1) – The second of Brad Cox’s two horses in the field is Shake Some Action. The son of Into Mischief, the CashCall Futurity Stakes winner in 2007 at Hollywood Park, has won back-to-back races at Fair Grounds. Both were allowance races and Shake Some Action held off the closing Chestertown at 1 1/8 miles.
Now we see what happens here. You’ve got a good team with Cox and Colby Hernandez and a solid barn with Rupp Racing. It seems like some of these 15/1 type shots could be dangerous here. I’m not sure this is one of them, but the signs are there if everything comes together.
Sharecropper (20/1) – Albert Stall Jr. and Miguel Mena are stepping up in class here with Sharecropper. The son of Pioneerof the Nile won his maiden at Churchill Downs, a race that included Excession in third, but finished fourth in the allowance on the Risen Star Stakes undercard that featured winner Shake Some Action and place Chestertown.
Getting bunched up wasn’t kind to Sharecropper in that race and could be his primary problem in this race. This is a horse with good speed, but he needs to be unencumbered as much as possible. In a race with 14 horses, that seems unlikely. There were only eight in his allowance race and nine in his maiden, which also included Social Afleet in sixth.
Royal Act (10/1) – Royal Act will get some pub on Saturday. In case we need a reminder of how old we’ve gotten recently, Royal Act is the first true Kentucky Derby contender to come from American Pharoah. Royal Act is in his third stakes race already after finishing fifth at Santa Anita in the Eddie Logan Stakes on turf and then second in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on dirt last month. He was second to Thousand Words in the 1 1/16 mile race out on the west coast. Thousand Woods is lined up for the Wood Memorial.
Royal Act comes east to Fair Grounds after finishing second by half a head over High Velocity at 18/1 in a race with a 5/2, a 5/1, and a 3/5. It took a big effort from both jockey and horse to get up into second and it almost didn’t happen with a wide trip on the frontstretch. Royal Act stayed neck-and-neck with a coasting Thousand Words throughout the race. One was good enough to win, one wasn’t, but Thousand Words is a pretty serious Derby contender.
Even through the Peter Eurton and Abel Cedillo tandem isn’t on par with the others in this race, Royal Act is going to be a buzz horse on Saturday because of the American Pharoah bloodline.
Portos (8/1) – Tapit. Todd Pletcher. Irad Ortiz Jr. Portos makes the trip from New York to the Big Easy after finishing third in the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct back on February 1. Portos’s third-place finish is hard to accurately gauge. Portos was seven lengths back at a half-mile and made a strong charge on the frontstretch for third. Max Player dusted the other hopefuls, who all pulled up and Portos rolled past on the middle of the track to win a photo for third.
All in all, it wasn’t a great trip. Maybe Ortiz has a better ride in him than Jose Lezcano did. Portos showed good endurance with the close, but also ran away from the pack, as there were two groups of three-wide for most of the race. Stuck in the middle here of a larger field, Portos doesn’t make the cut, despite the big names in his stable.
Enforceable (7/2) – Enforceable has the most data points for us to check out and most of them have been strong, so we have our favorite for the Louisiana Derby. The most notable data points for Enforceable have come in his last four races. He was third in the Breeders’ Cup Futurity at Keeneland last October. He was fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill a month later, where he fell short to Silver Prospector, Finnick the Fierce, and Tiz the Law.
It is the last two performances for Enforceable that have made him the favorite. He won the Lecomte Stakes right here at Fair Grounds over Silver State and Mr. Monomoy. He was distant second to Mr. Monomoy and just ahead of Silver State in the Risen Star Stakes.
In the Lecomte Stakes, Enforceable stayed out of traffic, found a lane, and powered through, while Mr. Monomoy pulled up a bit after having to fight through the field to get out front. Silver State rode the outside to second. Enforceable is a great horse and showed good closing speed. A favorite? Sure. A can’t-miss horse? We’ll have to see.
Ny Traffic (15/1) – A methodical third-place finish in the Risen Star Stakes has Ny Traffic in this field with a 15/1 price. This is a tough spot for Ny Traffic. This is a decent speed horse, but doesn’t have the same burst as Modernist and Silver State in the quest to get inside. Ny Traffic had enough endurance to be a consistent threat in the Risen Star, but this will be a harder field to navigate.
Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. will opt for blinkers here. Right now, Luis Saez is listed in the irons, but Javier Castellano would be available if Farmington Road doesn’t sneak into the field based on scratches. Castellano had the mount in the Risen Star.
Lynn’s Map (30/1) – We remember the Tyler Gaffalione and Mark Casse team from War of Will during last year’s Triple Crown. Lynn’s Map is not on that level. A fifth in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn and a sixth in the Risen Star in a return to Fair Grounds after winning an allowance in December don’t bode well for this horse.
One of the few horses we can scratch off the list.
Silver State (6/1) – A tough draw here for Silver State, who has shown inconsistent speed in the Risen Star and the Lecomte. Silver State got to ride Enforceable’s draft in the Lecomte to second place when Mr. Monomoy scaled back. In the Risen Star, neither Enforceable nor Silver State had the speed to challenge Modernist. Silver State has to make a big move from the outside and that will take some time.
Silver State has impressive Equibase numbers, going 96, 94, 99 in the last three races, but this is a wide field and you wonder if Silver State can close with enough speed.
Modernist (6/1) – Modernist also draws an unfavorable post all the way out in 14th. It is a long, arduous run to the first turn and that is what takes so many of these outside horses off of the pace. On the other hand, Modernist could break well and would then be a consistent threat. This isn’t as much about the horse as it is about Junior Alvarado.
It was an easy trip in the Risen Star Division 2. Modernist had the rail and rode the rail the entire way. Not having to spend any energy throughout most of the race allowed Modernist to hold off any challengers and even get some distance on the final stretch. Alvarado won’t have that luxury here, unless he can take the wide turn and get to the rail.
Alternates: Mr. Big News (20/1) & Farmington Road (12/1) – Farmington Road looks like the better of the two horses, especially if we get the Castellano/Pletcher tandem. We could see a scratch and it wouldn’t be a big surprise, but neither one of these horses looks likely to factor if they are in the field.
Whoo boy, this could be a really wide-open race. Enforceable might be the least flawed of all of the horses with consistent numbers against top competition. Royal Act looks to be trending up, particularly with a career-high speed figure in its first dirt race. Wells Bayou is also trending up with some big figures in the last two races. Major Fed is also on a good trend line as well, but does switch to Rosario here, so we’ll have to see how that plays.
Enforceable is also a closer that can finish at this distance, so the 10 makes the card. So, too, does Wells Bayou, who draws a better post position as the 3 than the contenders on the outside. Silver State has a good chance to be a closer here from the 13 post. Royal Act from the 8 also looks like a horse on the rise with the bloodline of one of the sport’s greatest, but I need to see it a second time on dirt here, so I’m going to hold off on adding to exotics for now.
Win/Place: 3, 10
Trifecta Box: 3/10/13
For some insight on the Race 11 and Race 12 Daily Double, I’d encourage you to check out my thoughts on the Fair Grounds Oaks that precedes this race.