Kentucky Derby Prep: Louisiana Derby

As the road to the 147th Kentucky Derby rolls along, US Racing looks back at some history of many of the prep races that now offer qualifying points to Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 1.

By Margaret Ransom

Mandaloun – Photo Courtesy of Coady/ Fair Grounds

Only two horses have completed the Louisiana Derby (G2)-Kentucky Derby (G1) double, yet the state’s premier prep for the Run for the Roses remains one of the most important stops on the Triple Crown trail.

Even before points determined who would make the gate or before the $1 million purse attracted the connections of prominent 3-year-olds, the 1 3/16-mile race always seemed to feature some exceptional horses.

The Louisiana Derby was first run as the Crescent City Derby, a common nickname for the famous and historic French Quarter in New Orleans which, thanks to a bend in the Mississippi River, is shaped like a crescent. The race was later renamed to honor the state of Louisiana and was first held at the long-since-gone Crescent City Race Course in 1894.

The contest made a brief stop a stop at the now defunct Jefferson Park and then went on to the Fair Grounds in 1839 where it has remained ever since. Though it wasn’t held in different years for various reasons, in 2006 the race was canceled because the track was partially destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

On Saturday, the show goes on despite COVID-19 concerns and without spectators for the second year in a row. It will be shown as part of TVG’s daily coverage and is again sponsored by TwinSpires.com.

Mandaloun, trained by Eclipse Award winner Brad Cox, is the likely favorite in a field of eight. He comes into the race off a victory in the Risen Star (G2), with Proxy, second in the Risen Star, the likely second choice. Midnight Bourbon, winner of the Lecomte (G3), is also entered.

Black Gold (1924) and Grindstone (1996) are the two to have swept both the Louisiana Derby and Kentucky Derby, but that’s not to say some good horses haven’t run in the Pelican State’s main Derby prep.

Risen Star won in 1988 before finishing third in the Derby and then winning the Preakness (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1), and 2017’s Horse of the Year Gun Runner won in 2016. Other recognizable names to win the Louisiana Derby include Friesan Fire, Circular Quay, Peace Rules, Master Derby, and Rushaway.

Two years ago, Allied Racing’s By My Standards won and went on to Louisville to finish 11th in the Derby mud, and after taking the rest of 2019 off, he had an awesome 2020, winning a pair of Grade 2s and placing in a couple of other graded stakes. After some time off in the winter he’s back in training at the Fair Grounds with his connections looking for a return to action.

Last year, Wells Bayou won as the favorite and after a fifth in the Arkansas Derby (G1), which was delayed a month due to COVID-19, spent 2020 on the sideline, returning to finish third in the Louisiana Stakes two months ago.

The most significant recent runner to come out of the Louisiana Derby was 2019’s fourth-place finisher Country House, who was declared the Kentucky Derby winner after the disqualification of Maximum Security [Country House finished second]. He never raced again after coming down will an illness and subsequently laminitis after the Derby, is now retired and is standing his first season at stud at Darby Dan Farm near Lexington, Kentucky.

The Louisiana Derby is the first of eight races this Derby season to offer 100 points to the winner, with 40, 20 and 10 on the line for second- through fourth-place finishes. Whoever takes the win will certainly earn enough points to make the Derby starting gate.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has sent out four Louisiana Derby winners [2007, Circular Quay; 2010, Mission Impazible; 2013, Revolutionary; and 2018, Noble Indy)]to hold the record of most winners. Hall of Famer Pat Day owns the record for jockeys with five wins: 1986, Country Light; 1987, J.T.’s Pet; 1991, Richman; 1992, Line in the Sand; and 1997, Crypto Star).

The fastest time for the race at the previous nine-furlong distance remains the 1:48 2/5 Clev Er Tell posted in 1977. The record for 1 1/16 miles is 1:42.60 set by Crypto Star in 1997. This year the race will again be offered at 1 3/16 miles, the same distance as the Preakness, for the second time.

The weather in New Orleans on Saturday is expected to be warm and rain-free with highs in the mid-60s. The feature race has been carded as the 14th and final race of the day with a post time of 5:44 p.m. CT.

The field for the Louisiana Derby by post-position, with jockeys and riders:

  1. Starrininmydreams (Luis Saez, Dallas Stewart)

Super Saver–Boy Crazy, by Sky Mesa

  1. Rightandjust (Colby Hernandez, Shane Wilson)

Awesome Again—Pussyfoot, by Tiznow

  1. Run Classic (Brian Hernandez, Jr., Bret Calhoun)

Runhappy—Pledge Pin, Chatain

  1. Proxy (John Velazquez, Michael Stidham)

Tapit—Panty Raid, by Include

  1. Hot Rod Charlie (Joel Rosario, Leandro Mora)

Oxbow—Indian Miss, by Indian Charlie

  1. Mandaloun (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox)

Into Mischief—Brooch, Empire Maker

  1. Midnight Bourbon (Joe Talamo, Steve Asmussen)

Tiznow—Catch the Moon, by Malibu Moon

  1. O Besos (Marcelino Pedroza, Greg Foley)

Orb–Snuggs and Kisses, by Soto

Margaret Ransom
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters, Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.

After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager. She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several race horse retirement organizations, including CARMA.

Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull as her favorite horse of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, three Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.