The Louisiana Derby will be contested at nine furlongs at Fair Grounds Saturday afternoon. It is one of the three major Kentucky Derby preps to be run on Saturday, along with the Florida Derby and the UAE Derby. 170 Kentucky Derby qualifying points will be divided among the top four finishers.
Todd Pletcher‘s Revolutionary will likely be the favorite in the Louisiana Derby, coming off an adventurous victory in the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct in February. In the Withers, he found about as much traffic as possible, steadying multiple times during the course of the running. Miraculously, Revolutionary found the wire before the rest of his competition in what is undoubtedly the most troubled trip of the prep season. There is no question he gained some experience in that race and was incredibly green, but I’m genuinely not sure how good he’ll end up being. He could very well win this race, but I wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole at odds near his morning line of 3/1.
Titletown Five could prove to be a very serious contender to win the Louisiana Derby. Stretching out to a route of ground for the first time in his career, he’s the only true speed on paper. He’d have to get brave to do it, but Wayne Lucas’ runner may have the front end all to himself. Titletown Five isn’t without a chance in this spot.
Departing took an odd route to get to this position, racing at Sam Houston earlier this month in an overnight stakes race as a prep for this spot. He’s going to get the old “acid test” in this situation, taking a significant jump in class. He’s bred to like the added ground, and Al Stall knows how to get horses ready in the Bayou. B. J. Hernandez has the mount – and a potentially live one at a nice price.
It seems like Bob Baffert has to have his hand in any and every Derby prep that there is, and the Louisiana Derby is no different. Baffert sends out Code West for Gary and Mary West Saturday afternoon with Martin Garcia aboard. Coming off a nose defeat in the Risen Star Stakes, Code West is sure to take some money in this spot. He’s eligible to improve off that last effort, but I thought he had every opportunity to take down the victory. I’m not sure how much better this field is than the one he nearly beat last month, so I think he’ll be involved – I just don’t think he can get it done.
As a whole, I don’t love any of the runners coming out of the Risen Star. That said, I do like Palace Malice, and he’s going to be my selection. The “second” Pletcher runner in this race, Palace Malice was making his second start coming off of a layoff, as well as his first start going two turns. I felt as though he was farther back than he would have liked, and apparently Pletcher thought the same thing. I’m expecting Edgar Prado (who has had somewhat of a resurgence this winter in South Florida) to have Palace Malice much closer to the pace, within a length or two of Titletown Five. He should get first run on the closers, and I expect Palace Malice to take down the Louisiana Derby and 100 precious Kentucky Derby qualifying points, which would assure him a starting spot in Louisville.
SELECTION: 2 – Palace Malice, Edgar Prado; ML 5-1