News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
Discreetly Mine favored in field of 13 in the Louisiana Derby
E. Paul Robsham Stable’s Discreetly Mine, wire-to-wire winner of the Risen Star Stakes Feb. 20, has been tabbed as the lukewarm 7-2 favorite in the 97th running of the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby this Saturday at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
With its increased purse of $750,000 this year, Saturday’s seasonal showcase event at Fair Grounds will be the richest Thoroughbred race ever run at the historic New Orleans oval, and will also be the first time the race has been run at a mile and eighth since 1987. The Louisiana Derby, along with the Lane’s End Stakes from Turfway Park, will be televised live on USA Network from 5:00-6:00 p.m., ET. The Louisiana Derby is part of a 13-race Fair Grounds program with six stakes–also including the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap and the Grade 2 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, who saddled Michael and Doreen Tabor’s Circular Quay to win this race three years ago, Discreetly Mine will be ridden once again by Javier Castellano, who was also aboard for the Risen Star. In his previous test in Gulfstream’s Spectacular Bid Stakes Jan. 9, the son of Mineshaft bobbled at the start, got bumped on the turn and eventually finished fourth. As a 2-year-old last year, the homebred colt finished second in Belmont’s Futurity and the Champagne Stakes.
Providing strong competition for Discreetly Mine is Edward Evans’ A Little Warm, second choice in the morning line at 4-1. Trained by Tony Dutrow, the homebred broke his maiden by 10 1/2-lengths last fall at Philadelphia Park, won Gulfstream’s Spectacular Bid Stakes by a length and a halfand then finished second beaten a length in the Hutcheson at that same oval Feb. 20 after racing four-wide on the turn. Jockey David Cohen gets the riding assignment.
Not to be discounted in the Louisiana Derby is WinStar Farm’s Drosselmeyer, fourth in the Risen Star when the victim of a slow pace but beaten less than two and an impressive winner in first-level allowance company at Gulfstream Jan. 31. The son of Distorted Humor, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, began his career on grass without success but broke his maiden by six lengths at Churchill Downs last fall in a race that was taken off the turf and run on the main track. Regular rider Kent Desormeaux returns in the irons aboard Drosselmeyer, pegged as the 5-1 third choice in the morning line.
Jack Hammer’s Ron the Greek, winner of Fair Grounds’ Lecomte Stakes Jan. 23 as the first leg of Fair Grounds’ sophomore series, was also compromised by the slow pace of the Risen Star and finished sixth. The Tom Amoss trainee is the fourth choice in the Louisiana Derby morning line at 6-1 and has James Graham slated for the saddle.
Twin Creek Racing Stable’s Mission Impazible is a second Todd Pletcher trainee in the Louisiana Derby and is 8-1 in the morning line after finishing fourth in Oaklawn Park’s Southwest Stakes Feb. 20. The son of Unbridled’s Song was third in the Grade III Kentucky Juvenile last fall at Churchill Downs and will be ridden by Rajiv Maragh.
Also at 8-1 in the Louisiana Derby morning line is Richard Pell’s Fly Down, trained by two-time Kentucky Derby winner Nick Zito. Another son of Mineshaft, Fly Down rallied three-wide in a nine-furlong first level allowance race at Gulfstream in his only start this year on Feb. 21 and will be ridden by Jose Lezcano.
Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s Stay Put, fifth in the Risen Star Stakes but an impressive winner in first-level allowance company before that on Jan. 3, is 10-1 in the morning line but hails from the barn of red-hot conditioner Steve Margolis and has Jamie Theriot, leading rider here two seasons ago, listed in the tack.
Also 10-1 in the morning line is the Bob Baffert-trained The Program, owned by Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable. The Program finished third in Santa Anita’s Grade Sham Stakes March 6 at the Louisiana Derby distance of a mile and an eighth and won his previous start there in first-level allowance company. California-based jockey Martin Garcia will journey here for the mount.
Completing the Louisiana Derby field is Stonestreet Stable’s Island Soul, Robby Albarado up (20-1); Sam-Son Farms’ Hotep, Patrick Husbands (30-1); Marylou Whitney Stables’ Wow Wow Wow, John Jacinto (30-1); Lothenbach Stables’ Mister Marti Gras, Shaun Bridgmohan (30-1); and Al and Bill Ulwelling’s Backtrack, Shane Sellers (30-1).
New in the conditions of this year’s Louisiana Derby and worthy of note is the fact that any horse that starts in both the Risen Star Stakes and the Louisiana Derby and finishes first, second or third in either of the two races will have its $25,000 starting fee waived for the Kentucky Derby.
CONNEMARA TOPS COMPETITIVE FIELD OF 10 IN SATURDAY’S LANE’S END STAKES
Connemara, winner of the February 20 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields, will return to the site of his memorable career debut when he faces nine rivals in the Grade II, $500,000 Lane’s End Stakes at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. With a victory, Connemara could well proceed to the May 1 Kentucky Derby in Louisville.
The Lane’s End Stakes, along with the Louisiana Derby, will be televised live on USA Network from 5:00-6:00 p.m. ET.
A half-brother to 2004 Kentucky Derby runner-up Lion Heart, Connemara made his first start at Turfway last October 4, when he was badly left at the gate, but still managed to circle the field and record a 1 ¼-length victory. The Todd Pletcher trainee then shipped West for an allowance victory at Santa Anita. Having conquered Turfway’s Polytrack and Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surfaces, Connemara then shipped to Golden Gate and that track’s Tapeta surface. Paired for the first time with Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze, Connemara suffered the first lost of his career, finishing second in the California Derby to Ranger Heartley. But Connemara and Baze avenged that defeat with their win in the El Camino Real. Baze will once again have the riding assignment on Connemara at Turfway, where Baze won this race – then known as the Jim Beam Stakes – in 1998 aboard Event of the Year. Ranger Heartley, fifth in the El Camino Real, will also ship to Turfway for what will be a fourth tussle with Connemara. The two also met in Connemara’s Santa Anita allowance win.
“He liked the track at Turfway when he broke his maiden, so this looks like a good spot for him,” said Pletcher. “He has trained on dirt and turf, but synthetics seem to be his preferred surface. If he does well, whether he goes in the Derby would probably depend more on how he did training at Churchill following the race.”
The Lane’s End Stakes tops a blockbuster Saturday card at Turfway with six stakes races, including the Grade III, $150,000 Bourbonette Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. The Bourbonette should yield a starter or two for the April 30 Kentucky Oaks on Derby eve at Churchill Downs.
The complete Lane’s End Stakes field, in post position order, is: Connemara (Russell Baze): 9-5, morning line odds: Doubles Partner (Chris DeCarlo, 10-1); Chief Counsel (Francisco Torres, 12-1); Kettle River (James Lopez, 8-1); Ranger Heartley (Michael Baze, 6-1); Outlaw Man (Solis, 8-1); Northern Giant (Calvin Borel, 5-1); Letsgetitonmon (John McKee, 20-1); Dean’s Kitten (Cornelio Velasquez, 5-1);and Vow To Wager (Victor Lebron, 20-1).