Handicapping the 2016 Louisiana Derby

Handicapping the 2016 Louisiana Derby
Photo: Steve Dalmado/Eclipse Sportswire

The Louisiana Derby is one of the final prep races for the 2016 Kentucky Derby. The last horse to contest the Fair Grounds feature and win in Kentucky was Funny Cide, in 2003.  He finished second in the Louisiana Derby behind Peace Rules, but turned the tables in Kentucky, when Peace Rules finished third.  

Since 2003, the 1 1/8 mile Grade 2 event has been a good place to find contenders to hit the board at long odds in Kentucky. In the last two years, Revolutionary, Commanding Curve and Golden Soul all finished second or third in the Kentucky Derby. In 2011, Nehro and Mucho Macho Man finished second and third, respectively, in the Louisiana and Kentucky Derbies. The Louisiana Derby is normally a good betting race. Six of the last ten editions paid either double (or triple!) digits for the win or place spots.  

Eleven Kentucky Derby contenders will vie for the winner’s share of 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points and a spot in the starting gate the first Saturday in May.  Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast and I are jazzed up for the race and this time, we see things totally different. 

Ashley

Laurie

Gun Runner—Was my top selection in the Risen Star and came home a winner for me that day. He retains Florent Geroux's services for this date but will have to travel an extra sixteenth against some pretty stiff competition. Last time around Mo Tom lost all momentum in the stretch and was still charging hard at the end. The wire came just soon enough for Gun Runner then, but the colt arguably needed the race after being off for a few months. He posted a second back bullet breeze and looks like he will continue to move forward. Contender.

Gun Runner (Candy Ride (ARG) - Quiet Giant, by Giant's Causeway) inherited the lead from a tiring Candy Boy barely held off the gaining Forevamo in the final stages of the Risen Star. Ashley nailed the winner at a price while I left him off of my ticket in favor of Airoforce.   As Ashley noted, the Steve Asmussen trainee had the right to get a little tired at the race conclusion, since he had been off for 3 months. Gun Runner has the pedigree to mature and go long but the visual impression of the Risen Star and his mediocre late pace speed figures say that he’ll do it slowly.  I may regret it, but I’ll pass again.

 

GreenpointcrusaderTried his best against Mohaymen   in the Holy Bull but was only second best that day. He's been off since then, making this his likely last chance at earning some much needed Kentucky Derby points. The colt is obviously talented and is a Grade 1 winner, but he will need to bring his A+ game to face a field that will be twice as big as what he faced in the Holy Bull. Contender.

Greenpointcrusader (Bernardini - Ava Knowsthecode, by Cryptoclearance) was a little too eager in the early stages of the Holy Bull Stakes and rather than fight with the colt, Johnny V. let Greenpointcrusader take a narrow lead over Fellowship. Mohaymen was also in the early mix. The current Kentucky Derby favorite eyeballed Greenpointcrusader for about ¼ mile before cruising off into the Florida Sunset by 9 ¼ lengths.  Greenpointcrusader’s blacktype earning siblings are all G3 – G2 types. Justin Philip finally earned a G1 after years of trying. Also, 1 1/8 miles might be a bit far, this is a sprinter/miler type family.  Nonetheless, the Dominick Schettino trainee fits with this field and like the rest his siblings, he’s a hard trier. Contender.

 

Battery—Makes his stakes debut for Team TAP and faces a tall task in doing so. His speed figures have improved with each outing, but they still aren't fast enough to beat the best in this field. Experience tells me not to write off any from the Todd Squad, but my gut says otherwise. Pass.

Battery (Bernardini - Flawless Diamond, by Saint Ballado) beat winners in his previous start at 1 1/8 miles. The Todd Pletcher trainee is well bred. All 8 half siblings are winners, one is a listed winner, two are stakes placed. A half sister bore the stakes veteran C Zee.  Battery was totally dominated by Cherry Wine two starts ago. That one was a half-hearted fourth in the Rebel. Pletcher has won the Louisiana Derby every two years without fail since 2007, and it’s his turn again. Battery has the speed figures to fit here. and oh, did I mention that he was trained by Todd Pletcher? Contender.

 

Conquest WindycityA son of Tiznow, Conquest Windycity broke his maiden in the slop in career start #3 back in October and followed that up with a sharp allowance win last month on a fast track. He had a nice breeze over the Fair Grounds track on March 20th, but I'm not convinced. Pass.

Conquest Windycity (Tiznow - Lasting Appeal, by A.P. Indy) won his first start of the year going a mile. He had been pointing towards the Rebel, but missed training time due to a foot abscess. Trainer Mark Casse drilled the colt with two bullet preps at Oaklawn, then gave him a 4F tour of the Fairgrounds. The colt has a classic pedigree. His dam is a full sister to Saratoga Special winner and sire Jump Start, but while all 3 of his half siblings to race found the winner’s circle, they haven’t distinguished themselves. Conquest Windycity has a tough assignment. He missed training and is taking on a longer distance at a new track. Now isn’t the time to be playing catch-up. Pass.

 

Candy My Boy—Set the pace in the Risen Star before fading to fourth after being headed at the 3/16th pole. He will likely have some company on the front end of things and with an extra sixteenth to travel, will likely fade down the lane again. He does like the Fair Grounds track, however, and had a sharp bullet breeze in his final work for this spot. I don't think he can win, but he could hang around to complete the exotics again.

Candy My Boy (Candy Ride (ARG) - Runway Rosie, by Include) has the pedigree of a two turn horse, but the mentality of a sprinter. He just can’t relax unless he’s in front away from other horses.  Take the blinkers off already. Riding the colt for the first time in the Risen Star, Shaun Bridgmohan let Candy My Boy go way too fast early, yet the colt hung around for fourth place. Four things interest me here. 1 – Francisco Torres won with Candy Boy two starts previously, and is back on board. He will likely scale the pace back to a reasonable :24. 2 – the other speed horses are pace pressers and will be content to sit in 2nd – 4th position. 3- Roger Brueggemann gave Candy Boy a sweet pre-race 4F bullet. 4 – Candy Boy may be overlooked at longer odds, if everyone bets Ashley’s picks over mine.  Contender.  

 

Mo Tom Looked a winner while finishing third in the Risen Star after having his momentum completely shut down by a fading rival. The Uncle Mo colt has an obvious first-third-first-third pattern, so if the trend continues, he should win this one. I don't like how he tends to find trouble, but there's no denying that a trouble-free trip will be a winning one for Mo Tom. Contender.

Mo Tom (Uncle Mo - Caroni, by Rubiano) was 16 lengths behind early in the Risen Star. He made his usual late run in the stretch and had to check slightly behind a faltering Bistraya at a crucial time. Once the LeComte winner got going again, he showed willingness to close. Mo Tom’s pedigree indicates that 1 1/16 miles is at the top of his distance range, yet his stalking style could help him go longer. Mo Tom had to alter course in the LeComte too. The colt is willing, but he doesn’t have a huge burst of speed. He looks good passing tired horses.  If Corey Lanerie steers clear of trouble, perhaps they’ll hit the board. If the pace is too fast early, Mo Tom could have a shot to win. Contender.

Tom's Ready—Either runs well or completely flops, and it all depends on the level of competition he's facing. The Risen Star field proved to be too much for him, as did the Kentucky Jockey Club and Hopeful fields. He is essentially facing the same foes here, so I don't expect the results to differ all that drastically. Pass.

Tom's Ready (More Than Ready - Goodbye Stranger, by Broad Brush) is following in the hoof prints of the other Dallas Stewart charges, Golden Soul and Commanding Curve. Both either won or placed before finishing sixth in the Risen Star. Both returned to fill out the exactas in the Louisiana and Kentucky Derbys. Tom’s Ready was second in the LeComte, the same as Commanding Curve last year. My prediction of his chances in that race proved accurate. Tom’s Ready should handle 1 1/8 miles. He doesn’t seem interested in winning, but could fill out the exotics at a price. Why change a good thing? Stewart isn’t!

Uncle WalterThrew in a complete clunker in the Risen Star after running a game third in the LeComte. Trainer Mike Maker said the colt, who was wide on both turns before backing up down the lane, had a bit of a breathing issue that has since been taken care of with a change of equipment and treatment. Speaking of change in equipment, Uncle Walter will add blinkers for the LA Derby. Maker gets 17% winners with trainees in first-time blinkers and hopes the equipment change will put Uncle Walter back into the race early. I'm willing to put a line through the Risen Star and key Uncle Walter in the exotics.

Uncle Walter (Uncle Mo - Look for Good, by Unbridled's Song) was a lackluster third in the LeComte. He returned for the Risen Star, retreated out of the race and took a detour to Bourbon St. before crossing the wire 41 lengths behind Gun Runner. Mike Maker won the last two editions of the Louisiana Derby, but both winners had a better running line than Uncle Walter. Uncle Walter had nice two-year-old form, so I’m speculating that the breathing issue may have been a trapped epiglottis. If so, we may see a new horse. I’m with Ashley on this one.

Dazzling Gem—One of the reasons that I like Dazzling Gem is because of the colt he beat in his debut, American Pioneer. In case you're wondering, Brian Zipse shares this particular opinion. Owned by Gary and Mary West, American Pioneer won in his second start, the 1 1/16 mile finale on Rebel Day. But back to Dazzling Gem...Undefeated in two starts, this son of Misremembered has raced exclusively at a mile and beyond. Trainer Brad Cox has been posting some impressive stats over the past 365 days: 34% winners off 31-60 day layoffs, 37% winners who won their last start, 28% stakes winners and 34% winners with jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, Dazzling Gem's regular jockey. At 12-1 on the morning line, Dazzling Gem is a must use. Contender.

Dazzling Gem (Misremembered - Dazzler, by Vindication) sparkled in his first two starts. In his last, he conquered   Gray Sky and Madtap, who were unplaced in the Rebel.  Dazzling Gem was pointing for the Rebel Stakes too, but missed five days of training due to a foot abscess. He’s coming in off of only one bullet breeze in more than two weeks and is expected to run an additional furlong while shipping to a new track. That’s a lot to ask a young horse with only two lifetime starts. Plus, Dazzling Gem’s pedigree indicates that 1 1/8 miles might be a little too far. Pass.

 

Zapperini—Improved his position in the Risen Star to finish a non-threatening fifth after racing at the back of the field. He will need to do much better than that here, and I don't see that happening here. Pass.

SCRATCHED

Zapperini (Ghostzapper - Bobby's Babe, by Smart Strike) just ran around the track in the Risen Star. He should like the extra distance, but nothing indicates that he has any speed. Pedigree says Zapperini is a later maturing type and he could be a colt to watch later in the year either on dirt or turf. Pass.

 SCRATCHED

Forevamo—Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. And so goes my “relationship” with Forevamo. I completely dismissed him in the Risen Star, and he ended up running a bang up second to Gun Runner. I'm not 100% certain what to do with him here, but I know better than to completely write him off. He could definitely be a contender, but I wouldn't use him on top. Exotics.

Forevamo (Uncle Mo - Candlelightdinner, by Slew Gin Fizz) never seems to put it together for the victory. I liked him to hit the board in the Risen Star and he just missed the victory by ½ length. I don’t like to pick on jockeys since they’re smaller and tougher than me. They also ride better and put their lives on the line every day. I do however, have to wonder, if the colt could use a jock switch.  With a better trip. Forevamo could have won his last two starts. His pedigree is borderline for 1 1/18 miles, but the running style indicates that distance might be what he wants. Contender.

 

Final Thoughts:

Ashley: Look for Gun Runner, Battery, Candy My Boy and Dazzling Gem to be part of the early pace. I see Candy My Boy as the most likely to establish the lead with the other three hot on his heels. The pace was not super contentious in the Risen Star, and I suspect that the same will pan out in the Louisiana Derby. Uncle Walter is the wild card for me in that I do not know exactly what to expect given the issues he had in the Risen Star. A clean trip for Mo Tom puts that one in the winner's circle, but Gun Runner has proven to be tenacious. Greenpointcrusader deserves a look, but was his Champagne victory due to the mud? Dazzling Gem will get the acid test, but I think he could be good enough. Lots of questions will hopefully be resolved after this.

 

Laurie: Ashley’s early pace scenario is spot on. If Torres can keep the early pace fractions in the :24 and :48 range, Candy My Boy could have enough left to hold them off. The pacesetters in this Grade 2 race normally finish in the top three if allowed to set the aforementioned fractions.  I’m not sold on Gun Runner. He inherited the lead by default when Candy My Boy ran out of sugar and was desperate to hold off Forevamo. I like Forevamo, and with a better trip, he can win this. Five colts are capable of filling out the bottom half, contingent on their trip and the early fractions. Mo Tom, Greenpointcrusader, Tom’s Ready and Battery. I’m with you, Ashley, I have no clue what to do with Uncle Walter, but at 20-1, I’m not excluding him.

 

SELECTIONS:

Laurie:                                                       Ashley:

#5   CANDY MY BOY (15-1)                      #9 DAZZLING GEM (12-1)

#11 FOREVAMO (10-1)                             #6 MO TOM (5-2)

#3   BATTERY (10-1)                                #1 GUN RUNNER (3-1)

#8   UNCLE WALTER (20-1)                      #11 FOREVAMO (10-1)

 



Meet Laurie Ross


 HRN Pedigree Analyst 

 Handicapper 

 Published Author

 Pedigree Research/Consultation/Sales 

 ThoroFan Board Member

 Member – NTWAB


Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 


I support clients with all aspects of pedigree/breeding analysis, research, sales, catalogue review, and recommendations on claims or private sales. Clients include national leading owners, racing/breeding syndicates, the little guy with one mare, and everyone in between. 10-20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue & retraining groups. Check out my website, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds, and the IMTBreds blog.

I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping, and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic, please contact me. 

Twitter: @IMTBreds
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LinkedIn: Laurie Ross

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