Louisiana Derby 2017: Odds and Picks

April 1, 2017

The $1 million, Grade 2 Louisiana Derby today will either allow horses to prove they belong on the Road to the Kentucky Derby 2017, or it will prove other horses more deserving of a chance to step up and claim a spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday of May.


Girvin enters tomorrow’s one-and-one-eighth miles test off a two-length win in the Grade 2 Risen Star. When the favorites in the Risen Star didn’t show up, the lightly raced Girvin was there to claim the prize. The Louisiana Derby will only be the fourth start for the Tale of Ekati colt, but with two wins and one second so far, Girvin has given no reason as to why he would not be able to step up once again, and this time, 100 points toward the Kentucky Derby is on the line.


Guest Suite, winner of the Grade 3 LeComte and fourth in the Risen Star, is hoping to once again be the top Derby contender at Fair Grounds. The Quality Road gelding will most likely be making another late run, and the extra distance should help him sustain his rally. Local Hero also returns from the Risen Star, where the well-regarded son of Hard Spun finished third, a neck in front of a closing Guest Suite. While Guest Suite was making his late bid, Local Hero was backing up from the front, where he had gone out on the lead by himself. If he does not run away with the lead in the Louisiana Derby, he may stand a better chance of capturing those coveted points.


Todd Pletcher, who has been entering horses in Kentucky Derby preps left and right, brings two maiden winners into the Louisiana Derby. The first is Patch, by Union Rags, with two impressive races to his name. Patch rallied in his debut to finish second by a neck, and battled out the win in a 14 horse field his second time out. His stablemate, Monaco, was a $1.3 million two-year-old purchase. The Uncle Mo colt enters off a 12-length win. Monaco first made his debut at Saratoga back in August. The same race also featured Grade 3 Sunland Derby winner, Hence, and Mo Town, who won the Grade 2 Remsen as a two-year-old.


The smaller Kentucky Derby 2017 preps are over. It's time to get serious. Saturday is going to be a big day on the Derby Trail. There's the Florida Derby down at Gulfstream Park, as well as the race featured here, Saturday’s $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby. The lightly raced Girvin will look to validate his Risen Star upset in the signature affair at Fair Grounds. The Grade 2 race, run at 1 1/8 miles, has attracted a field of nine. With 170 qualifying points on the line for the first Saturday in May, including 100 for the winner, the importance of the next series of preps is clear. Let's take a look at this interesting field in order of preference, with my analysis and projected odds...


1) Patch (6-1) - Todd Pletcher trained horses have been gobbling up 2017 Kentucky Derby prep wins. That's not completely new news, but it seems more than ever this year. Will the Louisiana Derby be more of the same? It could well be, as the Hall of Fame trainer brings two more promising horses to New Orleans. A son of Union Rags, out of an A.P. Indy mare, this one has classic breeding to stretch out to nine furlongs and beyond. Despite his inexperience, I see a world of pontential in his first two races, when he flew late to be second in a maiden sprint, before wearing down a foe in a flat mile maiden, both at Gulfstream Park. The Calumet Farm homebred earned strong speed figures from that one, in a race where the top two left the rest in their dust. Another move forward makes the one-eyed colt a huge threat in here. Ready to Step Up


8) Girvin (2-1) - Another who has done nothing wrong in his brief career. It may have been a bit of an upset when he scored by two lengths in the Risen Star, but I doubt it was a fluke. The way he won that day, as well as the consistency of each of his three starts, point him out as a legitimate favorite. Like the top pick, he should get a good trip from the middle of the pack on Saturday, albeit, a different one than he enjoyed last time. That day, the son of Tale of Ekati rode the rail to victory for trainer Joe Sharp. This time he is positioned on the outside. Considering his consistency, versatility and fondness for the track, I expect a similar performance in the Louisiana Derby, which very well could put him in the winner's circle again. The One to Beat


6) Guest Suite (7-2) - It will be interesting to see what this late running son of Quality Road can do with a more contentious pace up front. Last time he was left with too much to do, and could only manage a fourth-place finish. I believe the Neil Howard charge has a lot to like in a bounce back spot this time. He gets an extra sixteenth of a mile to uncoil his rally this time around, as well as what appears on paper to be more early pace pressure for Local Hero. If you think his win in the Lecomte two starts back was aided by the muddy track, you can look elsewhere, but I believe the last one was the real outlier. Look for him to make his presence known down the Fair Grounds lane. Strong Contender


4) Senior Investment (8-1) - Of all those making their stakes debut in Saturday's seven-figure feature, this son of Discreetly Mine is the most established. Trained by Kenny McPeek, Senior Investment has rattled off three straight strong rallying performances, with only the stewards preventing a three-race winning streak. The first two of those came at Fair Grounds, including finishing ahead of the impressive winner of the Battaglia, It's Your Nickel. Another who should be picking them up down the lane. Dangerous Late Runner


3) Local Hero (9-2) - The $500,000 juvenile purchase opened up a big early lead in the Risen Star, probably too big an early lead, and had little left late for the rally of Girvin and Untrapped. Still learning, supporters will look for a more judicious use of his early speed. Certainly there is reason to believe he can improve off that effort under Florent Geroux, but both the likely pace pressure, and the added distance, only make this spot that much tougher. He's a threat, but I am willing to take a stand against. Potential to Improve


5) Monaco (8-1) - Blinkers on for the Todd Pletcher trained son of Uncle Mo in the Louisiana Derby. Coming off a 12-length maiden win at Tampa Bay Downs, it's hard to know how much the equipment change will help. It looks like they hope to prevent any greeness that he has demonstrated in the past. He's progressed nicely in three career starts, although his speed figures are comparitivly a bit light. Look for him to be one of the horses that push Local Hero early. Pletcher is hot in Derby preps, but I like his other entry better. Should Show Speed


2) Hollywood Handsome (20-1) - Another who seems to be on the improve, he's run consecutive solid races locally, both times at 11-1. He should be even higher in here, as the son of Tapizar has only won once in six career starts. Still, his recent form, and ability to rally for trainer Dallas Stewart, gives him at least a fighting chance. Improving Sort


7) Sorry Erik (20-1) - Unlike a few longshots from the barn of Keith Desormeaux, this son of Wilburn did not show much in his step up to graded stakes racing, when seventh in the Risen Star. While it's promising that his connections are willing to give him another shot, it's hard to get overly optimistic about him turning it completely around in this one. Desormeaux Bomber


9) Hotfoot (20-1) - His only two wins came on off tracks, and they came against much cheaper. From the same connections as the favorite, his job appears to be securing an honest pace. I cannot see him sticking around when the real running begins. Pace Factor Only