The $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds on Saturday is the first domestic prep in the Kentucky Derby (G1) Championship Series, which offers Derby qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers in the 1 1/8-mile event.
The Louisiana Derby field features seven participants from last month's Risen Star (G2), but most of the attention will be on that race's winner, Gun Runner, and Lecomte (G3) hero Mo Tom, who was a belated third that day.
Making his season debut in that 1 1/16-mile heat, Gun Runner saved ground on the favorable inside part of the track before switching out to close in the stretch. The Steve Asmussen trainee, by Candy Ride, opened up a one-length lead at the eighth pole and held on to win by a half-length over longshot Forevamo, with Mo Tom another length behind.
Both Forevamo and Mo Tom also raced on inside paths early on. The latter fell well behind the pace, though, and was asked to make up as much as 16 lengths on the leaders. That awesome task was made near impossible after he was forced to check sharply in upper stretch when interfered with by a tiring rival.
Running against the bias and up the track in the Risen Star were Tom's Ready and Uncle Walter, both of whom placed in the Lecomte back in January. Also returning from the Risen Star is Candy My Boy, who set the pace before tiring to fourth.
The leading invader for the Louisiana Derby is Greenpointcrusader, last year's Champagne (G1) winner and runner-up to current Kentucky Derby favorite Mohaymen in the January 31 Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream. Greenpointcrusader was up closer to the pace than usual in that 1 1/16-mile prep and had no answer for Mohaymen, who wound up a 3 1/2-length winner.
Like Greenpointcrusader, Battery is a son of Bernardini trying the Fair Grounds surface for the first time. The Todd Pletcher charge makes his stakes debut off a two-length allowance win at Gulfstream February 10.
(Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography