Using History to Handicap the 2019 Louisiana Derby

Gambling
Noble Indy (right) and Lone Sailor race down the stretch of the 2018 Louisiana Derby.
Noble Indy (right) and Lone Sailor race down the stretch of the 2018 Louisiana Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The final round of Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve prep races kicks off on March 23 with the Grade 2 TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, and if recent history is any indication, nothing too surprising should happen in this 1 1/8-mile, $1 million race.

Studying the past results of major graded stakes races often reveals common threads tying the winners together. Identifying these threads can give us guidelines to use while handicapping future editions of the race in question, so let’s dig through the recent history of the Louisiana Derby and see what sort of trends we can uncover.

Pace Pressers/Trackers Tend to Dominate

Front-runners haven’t had much luck in the Louisiana Derby with just one win over the last 10 years, but pace-pressing/tracking types have performed significantly better. Four of the last 10 Louisiana Derby winners were racing in second place after the opening half-mile, while another was sitting a close third. Occasionally, a deeper closer prevails in the Louisiana Derby (Revolutionary in 2013 being the best example), but generally speaking, tactical speed is an advantage in this race.

Year

Winner

Position after first 1/2-mile

½-mile & ¾-mile times

2018

Noble Indy

2nd by 1 length (10 starters)

46.61, 1:11.47 (fast)

2017

Girvin

4th by 6.5 lengths (9 starters)

47.00, 1:11.15 (fast)

2016

Gun Runner

3rd by 2 lengths (10 starters)

48.24, 1:12.94 (fast)

2015

International Star

7th by 7 lengths (9 starters)

48.59, 1:13.27 (fast)

2014

Vicar’s in Trouble

1st by 0.5 lengths (10 starters)

47.86, 1:12.14 (fast)

2013

Revolutionary

12th by 12.25 lengths (14 starters)

46.34, 1:11.84 (fast)

2012

Hero of Order

2nd by 1.5 lengths (13 starters)

47.27, 1:11.55 (fast)

2011

Pants On Fire

2nd by 1 length (12 starters)

47.53, 1:12.02 (fast)

2010

Mission Impazible

5th by 1.75 lengths (13 starters)

47.89, 1:12.07 (fast)

2009

Friesan Fire

2nd by 1.5 lengths (9 starters)

48.75, 1:13.34 (sloppy, sealed)

It’s Hard to Beat the Favorites

Meaningful upsets have been few and far between in recent renewals of the Louisiana Derby. Five of the last 10 winners started as the betting favorite, while two more went off at less than 4-1. Actually, only one Louisiana Derby winner has started at higher than 7-1 in the last 10 years, that being the memorable Hero of Order, who prevailed at 109-1 in 2012.

2010 Louisiana Derby winner Mission Impazible
2010 Louisiana Derby winner Mission Impazible (Eclipse Sportswire)

Watch Out for Todd Pletcher

Trainer Todd Pletcher doesn’t run horses at Fair Grounds very often, but he’s certainly been successful in the Louisiana Derby. Pletcher has won this race four times over the last dozen years, and he’s also saddled three second-place finishers during that timeframe. They haven’t all been short prices either—Mission Impazible won at 7-1 in 2010, and Stanford finished second by a neck at 7-1 in 2015.

Local Runners Tend to Prevail

Horses without experience at Fair Grounds rarely succeed in the Louisiana Derby. Eight of the last 10 winners exited the Risen Star Stakes, the local prep for the Louisiana Derby, including four horses (Girvin, Gun Runner, International Star, and Friesan Fire) who won both races. The lone exceptions were the Todd Pletcher trainees Revolutionary (who prepped at Aqueduct in New York) and Mission Impazible (who entered off a start at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas).

Conclusions

Judging from recent history, it’s going to be tough for anyone to defeat #6 War of Will, the 6-5 favorite on the morning line. The talented son of War Front is undefeated on dirt and won the Risen Star Stakes last month by 2 ¼ lengths, in addition to the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds two months ago.

If anyone can upset War of Will, it’s probably #10 Spinoff. Granted, the son of Hard Spun last ran at Tampa Bay Downs in Florida and has never competed at Fair Grounds, but he also hails from the barn of Todd Pletcher, the only trainer to win the Louisiana Derby with an out-of-state shipper over the last decade. Spinoff has plenty of tactical speed, so his running style should be a nice fit for the Louisiana Derby, and he’ll also be among the favorites in the wagering. This seems like a logical spot to play the exacta, boxing War of Will and Spinoff so we win if they run 1-2 in either order.

Good luck, and enjoy the race!

2019 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby
March 23rd, 2019

Winning Time: 1:49.53
  • Purse: $1,000,000
  • Distance: 1 1/8 Miles
  • Age: 3 yo
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Winning Time: 1:49.53
Results
Win
Place
Show
1st
5 By My Standards
$47.00
$16.60
$9.40
2nd
10 Spinoff
$6.80
$5.40
3rd
4 Sueno
$6.00
4th
8 Country House
5th
7 Mr. Money
6th
1 Roiland
7th
9 Bankit
8th
11 Hog Creek Hustle
9th
6 War of Will
  • Owner / Gary Barber
  • Breeder / Flaxman Holdings Limited
10th
3 Limonite
Payoff
Pick 3
7-3-5
7-3-5
$196
Pick 4
11-4/5/7/9/10-3-5
11-4/5/7/9/10-3-5
$2,291
Pick 5 Jackpot
1-11-4/5/7/9/10-3-5
1-11-4/5/7/9/10-3-5
$19,633
Daily Double
3-5
3-5
$327
Exacta
5-10
5-10
$166
Superfecta
5-10-4-8
5-10-4-8
$542
Trifecta
5-10-4
5-10-4
$481
Race Replay
Play
Payoff
Pick 3
7-3-5
7-3-5
$196
Pick 4
11-4/5/7/9/10-3-5
11-4/5/7/9/10-3-5
$2,291
Pick 5 Jackpot
1-11-4/5/7/9/10-3-5
1-11-4/5/7/9/10-3-5
$19,633
Daily Double
3-5
3-5
$327
Exacta
5-10
5-10
$166
Superfecta
5-10-4-8
5-10-4-8
$542
Trifecta
5-10-4
5-10-4
$481

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