- From a betting standpoint, the Derby prep season has been a big bust thus far; short fields and a parade of favorites. But the Louisiana Derby offers a race that is more wide open and difficult to handicap than the 2008 GOP presidential picture. This is definitely a race to check out the odds and make your wagers according to your opinion of who presents the best value.
A lot of people are wondering why High Limit was made the morning line favorite. Let’s allow the guy who made that decision, FG track handicapper Mike Diliberto, explain:
"Bobby has proven in the past that he can take a lightly raced colt and come here to win the Louisiana Derby, like he did with Peace Rules. ...Since he was installed as the 5-2 ML fave, everyone has trotted out the reasons to not bet him – He’s been out for four months, he’s run only twice, at Delaware, his last a virtual public workout in which he crushed five hopeless rivals who have combined for two wins since, earning only an 88 Beyer. Another one of those races where picking the ML choice becomes almost a contrarian view. But he’s bred to be legit, Frankel is always tough with returnees, and he may be lone speed here.
"I wasn't as impressed with the Risen Star as some other people. I just thought Scipion had the benefit of a lot of horses who were shortening stride late to make his kick look a little better than it was.” [Courier-Journal]
I’ve been writing about Kansas City Boy recently, and how he’s been so close in two stakes races even though his trainer Ken McPeek said he wasn’t comfortable from the inside posts. His last was a career high 96 Beyer which equals the best in here, and now he gets his outside post. He also sheds blinkers (McPeek explained: “I put them on him because he's quirky, but they really didn't help. With this post, and the way I want him to run, blinkers off is ideal.") and had a “monster” workout for this [Daily Racing Form]. Sounds like he won’t be challenging High Limit early, but will instead seek stalking position. But so may Vicarage, the horse just inside of him, and there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to avoid being sent wide into the first turn. Nonetheless, he's shown versatility and improvement, reader MA writes that the Sheets crowd was all hepped up on him for the Fountain of Youth from which he was scratched, and he's certainly one to fear in this spot.
Sort it Out is the other one with a 96 fig, and there’s no doubt he showed improvement over the inner track at the Big A this winter. But I can’t get past the fact that Baffert suddenly reversed course and entered him off of one workout after being pretty clear that the horse needed time. Steve Crist adds
Over the last five years, Baffert is only 2 for 34 with horses making their first start for him off a trainer switch, and just 1 for 14 when that start comes in a stakes race. Of course, that one victory was with a horse named War Emblem in the Kentucky Derby. [DRF]
Scipion unleashed a furious rally to win the Risen Star, but as the linemaker mentioned above, he collared a tiring field. Trainer Patrick Biancone:
"He's like an eagle," he said. "He sees the prey. He likes to go at them. He's very independent. He likes to do things his way." [Times Picayune]The eagle may not have as fast a pace to run at here as in the Risen Star, but it’s hard to get the picture of his most visually impressive rally from last out of my mind. That race was a nice move forward and a sign that he may be maturing into a racehorse worthy of his pedigree and $1.9 million price tag. He loves the long stretch here too, and he’ll be somewhere on any exotic ticket I bet, and on top at the right odds.
Real Dandy and Storm Surge are the local horses here, and they ran 2-3 behind Scipion. Storm Surge will likely be the closest to High Limit, and may be the only one capable of at least keeping the pace semi-honest. The switch to Bailey can’t hurt, and from the two hole, he could get a perfect stalking trip and be able to assume command around the second turn if High Limit is not the goods. He sure has the breeding as Lauren Stitch points out in the Form, as he’s "a Storm Cat colt whose second dam is a half-sister to Ballade - the dam of champions Glorious Song and Rahy - and stakes winner Saint Ballado". Real Dandy also closed nicely to get second in the Risen Star, but Scipion came from further back and passed him like he was Michael Jackson on his way to court. Nonetheless, he’s improved since coming to the Fair Grounds, is conditioned by Steve Asmussen, and could probably win this with some luck.
Wallstreet Scandal is coming off a fine allowance win on the turf. If he wins, or comes in the money, I lose. I’d love to see Vicarage win since I have one of his fillies in my pinhooking partnership, but it’s his first try around two turns and he has a lot to prove.
There, so what have I come up with? Seems as if I like more of these than Steve Haskin. Again, price is the key here and I can’t say I’ll make a decision before 2 minutes to post. I'm assuming for this discussion that High Limit will be bet to the point where I want to take a stand against. I don’t think Bailey on Storm Surge will let High Limit get away easily enough to steal the race, and that he and Kansas City Boy will be there at the end with Scipion flying late. Is that a cop out? I have to pick a winner? Kansas City Boy, with a good break and good position into the turn, can take it all, and make the people who put him in the Derby futures pool mutuel field and made Fusaichi Rock Star 15-1 have second thoughts.