While it may or may not turn out to be a prep race for the 2020 Kentucky Derby, Saturday’s Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds is nevertheless a lucrative spring prize for some of the top 3-year-olds in the country. An oversubscribed field of 16 has been entered with no clear standout among the participants.
The lukewarm morning line favorite is Enforceable (#10), who won the Lecomte and finished second in a division of the Risen Star. He’s among the most reliable members of this field, having steadily improved with almost every start while showing no discernable distance limitations. The one concern with Enforceable is that he has a tendency to break a bit slowly, and that could be problematic in a field this large.
On the other hand, he owns the highest TimeformUS Late Pace Rating in the field (110) and the horse in that position is usually quite dangerous when the TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, as is the case in this Louisiana Derby. The Pace Projector indicates that Wells Bayou (#3) should be vying for the lead along with Ny Traffic (#11), with plenty of stalkers and pace pressers vying for position in behind them. Wells Bayou is certainly a threat to lead this field from gate-to-wire on the heels of his impressive 119 TimeformUS Speed Figure in the Southwest. However, it remains to be seen if he can duplicate that performance going 1 3/16 miles while sustaining added early pressure.
If the pace does fall apart, Portos (#9) should loom as another late threat. This plodding son of Tapit doesn’t have much turn of foot, but he stays on well in his races and should relish every bit of this distance while also aided by the long stretch at Fair Grounds. His recent pair of 107 TimeformUS Speed Figures compare very favorably to the local contingent of Louisiana-based runners and his TimeformUS Late Pace Rating of 107 is second in the field behind Enforceable.
I’m taking a stand against some others who figure to attract support. Modernist (#14) got a perfect trip en route to his victory in the second division of the Risen Star and projects to have a much more difficult journey from his outside draw here. Chestertown (#4) had legitimate trouble in his optional claiming prep last time, but he needs to run significantly faster to compete at this level. Royal Act (#8) earned a 114 TimeformUS Speed Figure in his runner-up finish in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita last time, but the quality of that race is debatable following a poor subsequent effort by winner Thousand Words.
I want to look for better value so I’m taking a shot with LYNN’S MAP (#12). This colt ran legitimately well to win an optional claiming race on Dec. 21, overcoming a slow pace to run down subsequent Risen Star winner Mr. Monomoy. There’s no clear explanation for what went wrong in the Smarty Jones in his subsequent start, when he put in a dull effort. However, he rebounded last time in the Risen Star and only failed to hit the board due to a poorly judged ride. Corey Lanerie reserved him at the back of the pack after a mildly sluggish start, which was a new running style for Lynn’s Map. He was just given far too much ground to make up in the lane, yet he still passed about half the field while rallying to be sixth, passing horses quickly as they crossed the wire. He doesn’t strike me as one that will have major issues with added distance, and I like this rider switch to Tyler Gaffalione. If he’s anywhere close to that 30-1 morning line price, he’s an enticing proposition.
Exacta Key Box: 12 with 1,3,4,8,9,10
Trifecta: 10,12 with 10,12 with 1,3,4,8,9,13,14
Trifecta: 10,12 with 1,3,4,8,9,13 with 10,12