Late last October, Al Stall Jr.
was just a little busy. He had this horse, Blame, who readers may recall was prepping for a start against (and eventual victory over)
Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. So jockey
Jesse Campbell, checking
in after working a runner at Fair Grounds, wasn’t very surprised when
the trainer didn’t answer his phone. He left a message.
“It was about three days before the Breeders’ Cup,”
recalled. “I left him a voicemail and said, ‘Look, Al, I know you’re
busy, but I just wanted to let you know I really like this horse. It’s
hard to say that about one that’s three months
away from even starting, but for whatever reason, I do.’”
“This horse” is
Left, an unbeaten son of
Arch who makes his third career start in Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana
Derby. Going into the 1 1/8-mile event against stakes-savvy horses like
Risen Star winner
Mucho Macho Man and Southwest Stakes runner-up
Elite Alex is no small
order, but so far this colt has done nothing wrong. He won his debut by a
neck on the turf here on Jan. 29, then increased his margin of victory
in a first-level allowance on the dirt on Feb.
26 over stablemate Sour, whose next start will be in the April 9 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Park.
Louisiana Derby is certainly a test, and he’s a lightly raced horse,
but at this time of year most 3-year-olds get put in that position and
either pass the test
or don’t,” Campbell said. “I couldn’t have more confidence in a horse
than I do in this one. Everything he does, I like. He’s so confident
right now, which has me confident in him. I’m looking forward to
Saturday, and not because it’s the Louisiana Derby –
I’m excited every time I get to ride him.”
According to Stall, there’s no pressure on the gelding, bred and owned by
Claiborne Farm & Adele Dilschneider. He’s perfectly at home at Fair Grounds, the only track he’s ever known, and he doesn’t know what it’s like to lose.
looked good every day he’s been here, and he’s only been here, he
wasn’t at Churchill Downs or Keeneland earlier in the year,” the trainer
said. “We’re trying
to figure out what level the horse is at, but it’s not that big of a
deal as opposed to a horse that’s already been there and has proven that
he’s something and you have to make sure he shows it to everybody. This
one, if he doesn’t run any good, we’ll just
regroup and do something else like an allowance race on the grass or
Regrouping is something Stall is hoping to avoid with another Saturday contender, 2010 Super Derby winner
Apart, who starts in the
Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap. The 4-year-old Flatter colt has
not won since November 5 of last year, when he took the Grade III Ack
Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs.
finishing eighth in the Grade I Clark Handicap at that track on Nov.
26, he got a little break, then came back here on Jan. 22 to run second
in the Louisiana Handicap
behind Recapturetheglory. His most recent start came in the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap, where he finished third by 3 ½ lengths behind
he doesn’t run good in this race, he’s not going to go run against
tough horses the rest of the year,” Stall said. “We’ve been pointing for
the New Orleans Handicap
for this whole meet, this is his race that we’ve had earmarked since
last year, so we’ll see if he shows up. I mean, he’s shown up in his
other races, he’s run second and third, it’s not like he’s been eased or
anything like that.”
Campbell also has the mount on Apart, who he rode to victory in the Super Derby and in Apart’s
prep for that race, the Prelude Stakes. The duo was reunited in the Mineshaft after jockey
Garrett Gomez had been aboard for the colt’s three starts in between.
first race off that little layoff, he didn’t break that sharp and had
some work to do and came running for second,” the jockey said. “When I
rode him last time
he didn’t have any excuses, he just kind of came home a little flat.
But since then, he’s been training very well. I’ve worked him twice
since then and I can tell you his last breeze was everything you want to
see from a horse; he was very willing and did
everything well within himself. All signs are positive, there’s nothing
negative about him going into this race.”
from stakes contenders, Stall’s string will be represented by two
additional runners on the Louisiana Derby Day card. Impressive maiden
Bind, who earned a 105
Beyer Speed Figure for his 9 ½-length victory in 1:08.80 for six
furlongs here on Feb. 19, runs in the fourth race on Saturday.
Might, full sister to 2010 Champion Older Male Blame and second by a head in her debut here on Feb. 20, is entered in race 12.
Rosie Napravnik gets the call on both.
she goes, whizzing on by,” Stall said of Might as he stood by the rail
this morning. “She’s her normal fiery self, very fiery. In hindsight,
I’m glad she didn’t
win her first race because she got a lot out of it and she can run
against maidens again. So she’s back in going two turns, and we’ll see
how that works. Hopefully she gathered a lot of information from her
the season winds to a close at Fair Grounds, Stall will deploy strings
to Keeneland and Louisiana Downs. All four of his Saturday starters will
Kentucky by van on March 30 to join about 10 runners already there with assistant
Glenn Brookfield. Stall himself heads up about a week before the
Lexington oval’s April 8 opening day, where he initially considered running Bind.
thought of a race at Keeneland on opening day, but then the condition
book came out here and there was a two-turn race on Louisiana Derby Day,
so we started pointing
for that,” he said. “He’s had three breezes since he broke his maiden,
and everything seems fine with him. You can’t expect a horse to run 1:08
and four like that, although we knew he was a nice horse, good to go,
so we were pleasantly surprised by his debut.”
Asked if he got tired of people inquiring if the promising 3-year-old would contest the Triple Crown trail, Stall smiled.
“’No’ is a pretty short answer,” he said. “It doesn’t take much energy to say that.”