Louisiana Derby (Grade II)

4/1/2017 Fair Grouds Race Course-Race 11

The Louisiana Derby-$1,000,000—Grade II

1 & 1/8th Miles on Dirt for Three-Year-Olds

Post Time: 3:21 P.M. PST

Analysis by Michael Patricks

It’s now crunch time with racing’s calendar turning to April and this week there are two Kentucky Derby Points races to be set down for decision: The Louisiana Derby from Fair Grounds and the Florida Derby from Gulfstream Park.  100 points will be given to the winner of each of these races. 40 points will be accrued for a second place finish and 20 points added to the ledger for a third place finish.  The Kentucky Derby point standings are available for viewing at: http://www.drf.com/news/kentucky-derby-2017-point-standings.

Given that the Florida Derby appears to be quite chalky on paper, the weekly analysis will focus on the 104th running of the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby which has drawn a largely competitive field of nine.  For the record, I did select Gunnevera in the Fountain of Youth at 4/1, and although it’s difficult to endorse him as a win bet from the outside post at 9/5 on the morning line, I still believe he can get the job done in the Florida Derby. His selection lacks imagination though so let’s tune up our creative powers in Cajun country.

1-Patch 9/2 ML- Calumet Farm struck last Sunday with Hence in the Sunland Derby and this will be their second push to solidify another place in the starting gate for Kentucky Derby #143. Patch was beaten by Impressive Edge in his debut and Impressive Edge is 12/1 on the morning line of the Florida Derby which goes about 20 minutes after this race.  If Patch fires in the Louisiana Derby, make sure to use Impressive Edge in your Florida Derby handicapping calculus.  Trained by Todd Pletcher, (who seems to be winning every prep race across the land) Patch leaves Gulfstream for the first time in order to take on winners.  Patch improved by a whopping 25 Beyer points between maiden races and he has potentially the best breeding and handling combination of any runner signed on.  Noticeably, John Velazquez stays at Gulfstream and Pletcher and Gaffalione are 0-for-9, so that’s disheartening even if a limited sample size.  Experience is the greatest teacher and in my experience I’ve found horses typically run better at Fair Grounds with at least a start over the track.  For the foregoing reasons I fancy Patch somewhere beneath top honors.

2-Hollywood Handsome 12/1 ML- It’s been a very wet last 24 hours in New Orleans but the track is expected to dry out on Friday and be clear and fast by Saturday.  Hollywood Handsome closed well over a muddy surface while graduating two starts back.  Prior to that, he was 0-for-4 with two bronze medals to show over fast surfaces.  In his first start against winners last time, Hollywood Handsome sat back behind reasonable splits against allowance runners and made a belated bid to finish third at odds of 11 to 1.  Now I’m asked to swallow 12 to 1 against a fellow Grade II and Grade III winner, along with another runner who is graded-stakes placed?  I don’t think so.  In order to win this race he will have to carve out a better trip than Guest Suite, Senior Investment and Girvin–AND outkick them to the wire in the process. Could it happen? Sure.  Is it likely? No.  He’s a bet against at his morning line price for sure but at 20 or 25 to 1 odds he might make some sense, exotically speaking.  A mop up effort for fourth place seems like the ceiling for this one.

3-Local Hero 7/2 ML- My selection in the Risen Star and Local Hero ended up being a bit of a run off type, eventually surrendering the lead while clinging desperately for third.  Local Hero figures to move up off the experience against this caliber of horse and undoubtedly he will be up and on the early gallop, most likely showing the way down the backstretch.  My chief concern for him is over racing–especially given the added distance today.  While I think he will rate a little more kindly up the backstretch, doomsday appears to be forecast by the auspicious presence of Monaco and Hotfoot, both rabbits for others in this race.  Like a freight train passing a hobo, Girvin blew right by Local Hero in the Risen Star and it’s difficult to imagine that won’t be the case once again in the Louisiana Derby.  If Monaco and Hotfoot scratch then Local Hero’s chances improve greatly as a gate to wire threat.  Short of that, I’m afraid I’ll have to make reservations at a table somewhere else since it’s clear as a bell that Monaco is out to do Patch’s dirty work, and likewise Hotfoot for Girvin.

4-Senior Investment 12/1 ML- Has crossed the wire first in three straight races and typically shows up with a representative effort on race day.  Senior Investment chased home divisional lesser lights Silver Dust and Dilettante late last year before finally putting it together in New Orleans.  He deserves credit for three straight solid efforts but his come home time of 25 seconds two back here at Fair Grounds just doesn’t class up.  He achieved his lifetime number at Oaklawn Park last time of a 78 Beyer, but he also beat some meager runners that don’t exactly flatter his running line.  Silver Bullion came back to get shanghaied and dismantled in the Rebel while Curtis was his own worst enemy at a short price when running back at the same level, failing to hit the board at Oaklawn.  It feels like he’s giving up a bit too much seasoning and experience when you put him under the microscope and he seems to be way more form over substance to mollify the concerns outlined; outsider.

5-Monaco 12/1 ML- Wishing I were writing this article from the French Riviera of Western Europe brings me to Monaco, the son of Uncle Mo, not to be confused with the French soccer team, or the band Monaco who made a splash in 1995 with their album Music for Pleasure and hit single “What do you Want from Me”, peaking at #61 in the United States.  The equine version is the Blinkers-adding rabbit from the Todd Pletcher stable that looks likely to be in the platoon of torch bearers early on.  Further dampening any real enthusiasm is the inescapable truth that Pletcher and Rajiv Maragh are 0-for-10 together and though his connections paid $1.3 Million for him, he’s been unable to top a 65 Beyer in three races.  Monaco is up against it here and it would be surprising to say the least if he got a call inside the final furlong of this Grade II.

6-Guest Suite 4/1 ML- Son of Quality Road has kept good company along his six-race career which includes three victories and two third-place finishes.  His company lines are extremely salty and note that Untrapped came back with a bang up third behind Malagacy in the Rebel.  Neil Howard’s horses always work well and he’s no exception.  His Risen Star was a bit disappointing off his other running lines and he may prefer a wet surface.  Albarado sticks with him and in his third start off a layoff he should be set on go.  Guest Suite sits at #22 on Kentucky Derby points so he needs to make an impression in the Louisiana Derby.  I’d expect Robby Albarado will put him in the race a little bit earlier than usual and try and get a jump on Girvin into the far turn.  Sticking with the reality that Guest Suite needs this more than Girvin does, I’m apt to side with him in a mild upset.  Make no mistake about it though, “The Iceman” will come calling and this is more than likely set up to be a Garrison finish in the dying strides; the narrow choice.

7-Sorry Erik 30/1 ML- In a sense, he’s more intriguing at 30 to 1 than some of these are at their registered morning lines.  Sorry Erik had an obvious excuse with the ultra-wide draw and he was shoved into the deep end of the pool after having faced $20,000 claimers only two races prior.  It’s also encouraging to see Kent Desormeaux into town to ride Sorry Erik for his brother, so that’s a plus sign.  He does draw better for the Louisiana Derby than he did the Risen Star and there will be legitimate pace to chase in this race.  The question becomes whether he’s flat out good enough.  His 77 Beyer last time in a nondescript seventh place finish is his lifetime best, and while he appears to lack the quality to tackle the likes of the top three morning line choices, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him run on and complete Superfecta tickets since it will be a stagger fest in the final eighth of a mile for several of them; best used underneath.

8-Girvin 8/5 ML- Sent off at 8 to 1 last time and shows up at 8 to 5 today.  As someone who looks under every rock and shakes every tree for value, that’s brutally difficult to swallow. If you missed the wedding at 8 to 1 last time, why go to the funeral at 8 to 5 today?  The obvious point to be made is Girvin can win and deserves to be favored. But if you are always jumping on band wagons you are missing your opportunities at finding value and that is a pitfall hazard every horse player has to reconcile in their approach to this game–the most successful players do that sooner than later.  There’s a good chance that Girvin should be 4 to 5 and will run like it in the Louisiana Derby, but given he ran his lifetime best number in the Risen Star and his connections will want that to be the case once again at Churchill Downs on May 6th, it’s possible he may not be fully cranked to lay his body down with bigger fish to fry further down the road.  Every race is a stepping stone, but I’m sure his connections’ primary objective here is that he runs well and gets a lot out of the race, not in the outcome per se; obvious contender.

9-Hotfoot 30/1 ML- Former claimer and gelded son of Aikenite is brilliantly fast, and as such should set the pace and pull away with devastation from Local Hero, Girvin and Guest Suite.  Hotfoot will then go on to take down the Kentucky Derby in front running fashion and will coast through the Preakness. After his tour de force over Big Sandy at Belmont Park, Hotfoot will be the thirteenth Triple Crown Winner and regaled by all of America.  And if you believe all that, let me tell you something else…April Fools!  Hotfoot is a stable mate to Girvin and is strictly entered here to be another rabbit up front for Local Hero.  Inspecting his last win, you quickly realize he’s not facing Cookies Are Good and Red Corvette this time around.  Hotfoot should keep the early tempo honest but I fully expect a match race in reverse involving himself and Monaco when they turn for home.

Selections 6-8-1-7