The Derby preps are supposed to weed out the pretenders from the contenders as we approach the first Saturday in May. In that sense, the Risen Star did not quite work as intended, since the majority of that field will be loaded back into the starting gate for the Grade 2, $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby. All told, seven of the 11 runners in the Risen Star are in this race, including the first five finishers that day. That leaves just four new faces in this race, the most notable of which is Grade 1 winner Greenpointcrusader, who ships out of Florida to avoid the undefeated terror Mohaymen. The remaining three runners are all stepping up in class off allowance victories.
The Pace Projector is predicting a pace that is neither fast nor slow, but it does illustrate that Risen Star pacesetter #9 Candy My Boy and the undefeated Dazzling Gem should head out towards the front.
Let’s go through the field:
#1, Gun Runner (3/1): This Steve Asmussen trainee did everything right in his Risen Star victory. Florent Geroux was forced to move him into contention earlier than anticipated to secure an advantageous rail position on the backstretch and then broke the race open with his decisive bid for the lead approaching the quarter pole. If he would have gotten run down late, we would have found ourselves saying that Geroux moved too soon, but Gun Runner resolutely dug in through the final sixteenth and held on for the victory. He should have benefited greatly from that race, and all indications are that he’s continuing to train strongly into this final prep. He is the horse to beat.
#2, Greenpointcrusader (7/2):
This colt is somewhat of an enigma. His Grade 1 Champagne victory last fall may have been aided by a sloppy track that he appeared to relish. While he was hardly disgraced in the Breeders’ Cup, it was a fairly dull effort for a horse that went off favored. It’s difficult to know what to make of his three-year-old debut, in which he finished a distant second to Mohaymen. There was no pace at all that day, so he found himself up on the lead setting slow fractions (color-coded in blue). That’s not his preferred running style, and he should be able to slot into his desired stalking position in this larger field. The jury’s still out concerning his overall talent level, but we have to include him in some capacity.
#3, Battery (10/1): This well-bred son of Bernardini comes out of weaker races and has not run nearly fast enough to compete here. He has his work cut out for him.
#4, Conquest Windycity (15/1): This impressive physical specimen took a major step forward in his three-year-old debut, earning his first triple-digit speed figure—albeit one with a question mark—while beating a legitimate graded stakes performer in Rated R Superstar. The sky is the limit for this late bloomer, but we wonder if this is asking too much too soon. After all, he did get an absolutely perfect trip last time and must do better still to close into a race that features a larger field and a potentially unfavorable pace scenario.
#5, Candy My Boy (15/1):
This runner impressed us in the Risen Star. While he did spend the majority of his trip racing along the rail—which did appear to be the place to be on that Fair Grounds card—he still had to run hard every step of the way. Breaking from the outside post position, Shaun Bridgmohan had no choice but to send him to the lead. The fast pace (color-coded in red) began to take its toll on Candy My Boy approaching the quarter pole as Gun Runner sidled up alongside. All things considered, he hardly threw in the towel and actually stayed on well through the final quarter mile. There’s less speed signed on in today’s race, and he draws a more advantageous post towards the middle of the pack. Though he went off at 34/1 in the Risen Star, it’s not as if his strong performance came out of left field. He had previously defeated Risen Star runner-up Forevamo in impressive fashion when taking an allowance race, and prior to that got the better of subsequent Rebel third-place finisher Creator when breaking his maiden. There’s nothing phony about this colt, and he’s certainly bred to get the nine furlongs, considering that his dam was a specialist at this distance.
#6, Mo Tom (5/2):
This was the trip horse coming out of the Risen Star, since everyone saw that scary moment when he nearly clipped heels behind a tiring runner at the top of the stretch. It did cost Mo Tom much of his momentum, and we would not argue with anyone who feels he would have won that race if not for the incident. That said, he would have been the winner with an absolutely perfect setup, since he got a strong pace to close into and was able to work out a ground-saving trip while making his rally. It’s not as obvious where else the speed is going to come from in this race, outside of known frontrunner Candy My Boy and the naturally fast Dazzling Gem, and it seems unlikely that those two would hook up in the early stages. Mo Tom can certainly win this race, but we would side with others if he’s going off at anything close to his morning line price of 5/2.
#7, Tom’s Ready (15/1): He was wide around both turns in the Risen Star, which likely hindered his chances. That said, he’s struggled when he’s stepped up to the highest level in the past, and there’s no guarantee that the added ground will work to his advantage.
#8, Uncle Walter (20/1): A wide trip was no excuse for his debacle in the Risen Star. He’s never run fast enough to even hit the board in a race of this stature.
#9, Dazzling Gem (12/1): This undefeated colt comes in off a couple of strong performances at Oaklawn and still appears to be overcoming some greenness. The form of those races has held up well, as the runner-up in his allowance win actually gave a strong account of himself in the Rebel last weekend. His early speed should serve him well in a race that is not exactly loaded with pace players, and his most recent speed figure of 105 suggests he’s on the right track. He’d be an interesting long shot at or just below his morning line odds of 12/1, but we get the sense that there’s some buzz around this horse and would be careful here if his price dips too low.
#10, Zapperini (20/1): If he couldn’t make a late impact in the fast-paced Risen Star, it seems highly unlikely that he’d be able to better that performance here.
#11, Forevamo (10/1): He was the biggest surprise of the Risen Star, taking full advantage of a great ride and trip by Colby Hernandez to be a fast-closing second at 40/1. This runner had always hinted that he possesses real talent, but it seemed as recently as his allowance loss two back that he was not going to be able to put it all together in time to make an impact on the Derby trail. Yet, as good as he was in the Risen Star, he will likely have to be even better in this spot to overcome this unlucky wide draw. We could include him in larger exacta and trifecta wagers, but we prefer others in the top slot.
The main contenders are Gun Runner, Candy My Boy, and Mo Tom. Given that two of those are likely to vie for favoritism, it should go without saying that the value play in this Louisiana Derby is CANDY MY BOY (#5). We doubt we’ll actually get a price as high as his morning line odds, but anything at or above 8/1 would be more than fair.
Win: #5, CANDY MY BOY
Exacta Key Box (Primary): 5 with 1,6
Exacta Key Box (Backup): 5 with 2,9,11