Photo: Louisiana Downs
I continue my week of writing the Super Derby notes and articles for Harrah’s Louisiana Downs today, with a piece on the winner of the local prep, Holiday Mischief. While there have not been many Prelude winners to also win the Super Derby, the two that did are noteworthy. In 1991, Free Spirit's Joy surprised a great bunch that included Best Pal, Olympio, and Lite Light, and just three years ago, Apart won both, before going on to become a multiple graded stakes winner.
On a personal note, I think very highly of race favorite, Departing, and fully expect him to win on Saturday. But hey, this is horse racing, and anything can happen. If Departing does not fire his best shot in the Super Derby, I like two horses to take advantage. One is the morning line second choice, Bashaar, while the other is a long shot, that you can read about below ...
Two years after the first Super Derby, came the Prelude. First run in 1982, the Prelude was created by Harrah’s Louisiana Downs to showcase the best 3-year-olds in the area. It also gave the winner an express ticket to the prestigious Super Derby. All fees paid, Prelude winners have flocked back to the track’s signature event, almost without exception. While the local contingent have often found the classy out-of-town shippers tough to handle in the Grade 2, 500,000 Super Derby, the lucrative double has been completed by a pair of Louisiana based runners. On Saturday, Holiday Mischief will attempt to join Free Spirit’s Joy and Apart as Prelude winners who came back to hit it rich in the Super Derby.
Going into the Prelude, Holiday Mischief had run well in a few stakes, but had never made the winner’s circle in five attempts. His second place finish to Super Derby favorite, Departing, in the Texas Heritage Stakes on March 2, had been his best result to date. Sent off at 16-1, the son of Into Mischief stalked the early lead set by race favorite, Sunbeam, before methodically wearing down that runner through the stretch to hit the wire a head winner.
Trainer, and co-owner Joe Offolter called it Holiday Mischief’s “best race yet,” and said the winner of 3-of-11 lifetime starts, is “really doing good. Two weeks after the race, he was bouncing in his stall. He’s doing as good as he was for the last one.”
While Offolter considers Holiday Mischief as “one of the better ones,” he’s trained, he realizes the $25,000 Keeneland yearling bargain needs to keep improving to tangle with the big boys.
As for that previous meeting with Departing at Sam Houston, Offolter says, “He ran a good race, and was better than the rest. The winner was too good. He’s like a hundred pounds heavier now, and still progressing.”
After a pair of disappointing efforts following his second to Departing in Texas, Holiday Mischief ran a strong race when missing by a head against older horses in an allowance at Lone Star Park. The Carter Thoroughbreds co-owned, bay validated that good performance with his upset in the Prelude, in which he earned a solid 93 Beyer Speed Figure.
Offolter looks for similar stalking tactics from his gelding on Saturday, and will give a leg-up to Cliff Berry once again. The veteran jockey rode Holiday Mischief for the first time in their Prelude success. Like Free Spirit’s Joy 22 years ago, this Prelude winner is not expected to get a great deal of support at the betting windows. If Holiday Mischief can pull off another upset victory on Saturday, though, it would give his trainer, and co-owner the biggest win of a career of better than 800 wins.
“It would mean the world. [Winning the Super Derby] would be the biggest one of my career,” said Offolter. “Unreal. This is one race that everybody wants to win.”