By Richard Rosenblatt
With the road to the Kentucky Derby – and the Kentucky Oaks – set for a stop in New Orleans on Saturday, we can picture ourselves settling in at Liuzza’s, ordering a bowl of gumbo, a BBQ shrimp po boy, and a beer or two, and then moseying over to the Fair Grounds for the races.
You may miss a race or two, but you can catch the early races on TV, enjoy a feast of Cajun cuisine, and actually go to the track now that limited clubhouse seating has recently been made available.
The qualifying points for both the Derby and Oaks kicks into high gear with the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) and the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), each race offering 100-40-20-10 points to the first four finishers.
NBCSN will air live coverage of the Louisiana Derby on Saturday, from 6-7 p.m. ET, and likely the Oaks will be shown live since it has a 6:14 p.m. post time, with the Louisiana Derby next up at 6:44 p.m.
America’s Day at the Races, in partnership with Fox Sports, will air live coverage Saturday of races around the country: 2-2:30 p.m. on FS2; and 2:30-6:30 p.m. on FS1.
And maybe after the races at The Big Easy, dinner at Café Degas could work if you like La Gratinée d’Oignons [French onion soup] and L’onglet de Boeuf [steak and pomme frites].
Here’s a brief rundown of some top races, with approximate post times listed by Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).
Post time: 6:44 p.m. (Race 14)
The first of eight Derby preps offering points of 100-40-20-10 features a field of eight 3-year-olds with Mandaloun the 8-5 morning-line favorite.
Trained by Brad Cox, Mandaloun comes into the race off a win in the Risen Star (G2) at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 13. Five rivals from that race are back to challenge, including runner-up Proxy and third-place finisher Midnight Bourbon.
The Louisiana Derby is run at 1 3/16 miles.
Fair Grounds Oaks
Post time: 6:14 p.m. (Race 13)
Clairiere and Travel Column, the 2-1 favorite, will meet again in the 1 1/16-mile Oaks in a field of eight 3-year-old fillies.
The fillies first met in the Golden Rod (G2) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28 with Travel Column winning by one length. In the Rachel Alexandra (G2) on Feb. 13, Clairiere made a late charge to beat Travel Column.
Also in the field is Obligatory and Li’l Tootsie.
Other races of note:
Fair Grounds: $300,000 Muniz Memorial Classic (G2): Colonel Liam is the 3-1 favorite in a 12-horse field for 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles on the turf (Post time: 5:43 p.m., Race 12); $400,000 New Orleans Classic (G2): Five-year-old Owendale is the 9-5 favorite over 3-1 Roadster, making his first start in more than a year [and with a new trainer in Mike Stidham], in the 1 1/8-mile race for 4-year-olds and up.