Less than three weeks ago, Jake Ballis and Rashard Lewis’s Cigar Street
had never won a race, and less than a week ago, trainer Steve Margolis
was still undecided about entering his colt in Sunday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby, but following a five-furlong breeze last Sunday, accomplished in 1:01.20, the New York City-born Margolis pronounced
his quickly-developing colt accomplished enough to contest the showcase event of the New Orleans racing season.
Fair Grounds morning-line odds maker
Mike Diliberto agreed, installing
Cigar Street as the 7-2 second choice for Sunday’s the Grade II local
Derby – always a significant step stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby less than five weeks later.
“Good,” whispered Diliberto at Monday’s Derby Draw when
name was drawn to leave from the #5 post stall in the starting gate.
“The two favorites both got good draws. Now, I don’t have to change the
odds that I think they should
Mark Valeski, who Diliberto
considers the stronger half of the Jones-owned entry grouped as a
single wagering interest, drew the #8 post with entry mate
Mr. Bowling slated to leave from the #7 spot. Together, that Larry Jones-trained duo was pegged for 2-1 Louisiana Derby favoritism.
“I guess when (Todd Pletcher-trained)
Discreet Dancer didn’t show
up, my horse moved up to second,” said Margolis Wednesday morning,
speaking of a well-regarded Louisiana Derby prospect whose connections
declined participation in Sunday’s main event.
“Otherwise, I guess I would have been the third choice.
“This is exciting,” Margolis added. “To have
jump up and run big in a maiden race (a 13 3/4-length victory at Fair
Grounds March 10) and now go into the big race as the second choice is a
big thrill for me. Also, we’ve
got Inny Minnie going in the Fair Grounds Oaks on Saturday (also owned by Ballis and Lewis as the $500,000 Oaks’ projected 4-1 third choice) and (Richard, Bertram and
Elaine Klein’s) Cash Refund in the ($150,000)
Duncan Kenner (as the 5-2 second choice) on Sunday.
are all doing great and I’m looking forward to this weekend,” concluded
Margolis. “This has been a good meet for us. Now, I hope we can
end it up on a good note.”