2021 Louisiana Derby Cheat Sheet

Mandaloun, shown winning the Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 13, headlines Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby, the final Kentucky Derby prep at Fair Grounds. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Action on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve heats up this Saturday, as Fair Grounds hosts the $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby.

upcoming Livestreams

La Trifecta: Thursday, March 18 at 8 p.m. ET

Always Be Racing: Friday, March 19 at 3 p.m. ET

The Winner’s Circle: Monday, March 22 at 11 a.m. ET

The Grade 2, 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby has plenty at stake aside from the large purse, as the winner will get 100 qualifying points towards Derby 147 on May 1 while the runner-up will earn 40 points, all but ensuring a spot in the Derby starting gate.

The Louisiana Derby is one of the oldest Derby prep races, having first been contested in 1894. The last horse to win both the Louisiana Derby and the Kentucky Derby was Grindstone back in 1996. However, two Louisiana Derby also-rans since then went on to win the Kentucky Derby: Funny Cide in 2003 and Country House in 2019.

The Louisiana Derby drew an eight-horse field, headlined by the top three finishers in Fair Grounds’ two earlier Derby preps, the Lecomte Stakes and the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford.

The race will be televised on NBCSN beginning at 6 p.m. ET as part of NBC Sports’ “Road to the Kentucky Derby” coverage as well as on TVG and TVG2. The Louisiana Derby has a scheduled post time of 6:44 p.m. ET.

Let’s meet the field for this year’s Louisiana Derby.

Coady Photography

1. Starrininmydreams (20-1)

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Owners: Stewart Racing Stable and WinStar Farm

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $97,064

Earnings per start: $32,355

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 88

Kentucky Derby Points: 0

Pedigree: Super Saver – Boy Crazy, by Sky Mesa

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After showing speed in his first two races, this son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver broke slowly and was unable to get to the front in his last start, the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford. He was never a serious contender and ended up beaten 27 ¼ lengths. While he’s not as bad as he looked last out, it’s not clear if his best is enough to win the Louisiana Derby facing off against horses that defeated him soundly last time. His top Equibase Speed Figure – which he earned in each of his two wins – is a cut below those of Saturday’s top contenders. The Risen Star also exposed him as a horse who has to be near the pace to have a chance. If he can’t get to the front, his chances of winning are severely diminished. His best hope is to break well under new rider Luis Saez, go right to the front, and try to slow things down as much as he can. Trainer Dallas Stewart won this race in 1999 with Kimberlite Pipe, a 21.70-1 upset. Co-owner WinStar Farm has two wins in the Louisiana Derby: Revolutionary in 2013 and Noble Indy in 2018.

Eclipse Sportswire

2. Rightandjust (20-1)

Jockey: Colby Hernandez

Trainer: Shane Wilson

Owner: Wayne Davis

Career record: 4 starts - 2 wins - 0 seconds - 0 thirds

Career earnings: $54,820

Earnings per start: $13,705

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 90

Kentucky Derby Points: 0

Pedigree: Awesome Again – Pussyfoot, by Tiznow

Color: Bay

Running Style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Rightandjust drew the far outside post in the Risen Star, his previous start, and his jockey Mitchell Murrill knew there was only one way to win. Murrill gunned Rightandjust to the lead and angled in from the extreme outside post, and his mount held on to the top spot until the last quarter-mile. It was a gutsy effort, to be sure, after two relatively easy trips in his starts prior to his stakes debut. Rightandjust caught a break in the Risen Star, however. If Starrininmydreams had broken cleanly he likely would have challenged Rightandjust for the lead and made Murrill’s pace-setting strategy more difficult. Both horses have similar profiles going into Saturday’s Louisiana Derby and are drawn right next to one another. It would be a surprise if Rightandjust could take this field gate to wire this time when he could not do it last time, especially with an extra half-furlong to travel. This son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again gets a new jockey for the Louisiana Derby in Colby Hernandez, who currently ranks fourth in the Fair Grounds standings based on wins.

3. Run Classic (12-1)

Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Trainer: Bret Calhoun

Owner: Tom Durant

Career record: 2 starts - 1 win - 1 second - 0 thirds

Career earnings: $46,000

Earnings per start: $23,000

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 94

Kentucky Derby Points: 0

Pedigree: Runhappy – Pledge Pin, by Chatain

Color: Dark bay/brown

Running Style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This colt is the least experienced member of the field but the only one who has never lost against winners. He won a maiden special weight race over this track on Feb. 13, drawing off impressively for a 3 ¼ length victory. While that win was at 1 1/16 miles, the jury is still out as to Run Classic’s distance limitations. His sire Runhappy was a multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter, while his damsire (maternal grandfather) Chatain won graded stakes around one turn but struggled whenever he tried two turns. The average winning distance of Chatain’s progeny is only 6 ½ furlongs. What’s more, even though Run Classic’s lone win came at a route, he earned a higher Equibase Speed Figure in his debut when he went six furlongs. He had a rough trip in his first start, recovering to finish a strong second. It’s possible Run Classic can handle a longer distance just fine, but racing 1 3/16 miles in a horse’s third start is a tall task. Trainer Bret Calhoun won this race in 2019 with By My Standards. Brian Hernandez Jr. also has a Louisiana Derby victory under his belt, winning aboard Girvin in 2017.

Eclipse Sportswire

4. Proxy (7-2)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Michael Stidham

Owner: Godolphin

Career record: 5 starts - 2 wins - 3 seconds - 0 thirds

Career earnings: $187,700

Earnings per start: $37,540

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Kentucky Derby Points: 24

Pedigree: Tapit – Panty Raid, by Include

Color: Bay

Running Style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Proxy has been knocking on the door this year and is well-respected in Derby rankings but has yet to win a stakes race. This superbly-bred Tapit colt was second in both the Lecomte Stakes and the Risen Star Stakes. In each of those races, he rated just off the leaders and looked primed to strike in the stretch but couldn’t get the job done. He took giant steps forward in those two races, earning his first Equibase Speed Figures in the 90s. In his first three races, he had never earned better than an 83. Trainer Michael Stidham adds blinkers to this colt and has worked him very strongly since the Risen Star. He’s also going to be in close attendance to the early leaders and should get his usual trip. Will his closing kick be good enough this time? Jockey John Velazquez, who traveled to Fair Grounds to ride Proxy in the Risen Star, returns to ride him again Saturday. The Hall of Fame rider won the 2007 Louisiana Derby on Circular Quay and the 2018 renewal on Noble Indy.

Eclipse Sportswire

5. Hot Rod Charlie (3-1)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Leandro Mora

Owners: Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing and William Strauss

Career record: 6 starts - 1 win - 1 second - 2 thirds

Career earnings: $395,700

Earnings per start: $65,950

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Kentucky Derby Points: 10

Pedigree: Oxbow – Indian Miss, by Indian Charlie

Color: Dark bay/brown

Running Style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Although he has only one win to his credit so far, Hot Rod Charlie has some high-profile performances under his belt. Last November, he finished second to Essential Quality in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance at a whopping 94.40-1. He finished third in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in his 3-year-old debut, losing in a stretch battle to Medina Spirit and Roman Centurian. Those two returned two weeks ago in the San Felipe Stakes, finishing second and fourth, respectively. Hot Rod Charlie tends to make decent closing rallies but struggles to pass horses once he draws alongside them. He’s hoping to take a step forward in his second start of his 3-year-old season. He’s also coming off the longest layoff of anyone in the race, having last competed 49 days ago.

Lou Hodges, Jr. /Hodges Photography

6. Mandaloun (8-5)

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Juddmonte Farms

Career record: 4 starts - 3 wins - 0 seconds - 1 thirds

Career earnings: $351,252

Earnings per start: $87,813

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Kentucky Derby Points: 52

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Brooch, by Empire Maker

Color: Dark bay/brown

Running Style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Although he’s generally thought of as the second banana in the Brad Cox barn behind champion Essential Quality, Mandaloun has quite the résumé himself. Despite racing wide most of the way, he stalked the pace and drew off to a sharp 1 ¼-length win in the Risen Star while defeating many of the horses he’s scheduled to face again Saturday. Two starts back, he finished a game third in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes. He’s earned figures of 97 in each of his last two starts, putting him squarely in the mix of the major contenders for Saturday’s race. Mandaloun should once again rate off the pace on the outside, and if the leaders fall apart, he’ll be right there to pick up the pieces. Brad Cox won his first Louisiana Derby last year with pace-setting Wells Bayou. Florent Geroux was aboard for that win, which was his second in this race. His first win came in 2016 on eventual Kentucky Derby third-place finisher and 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner.

Lou Hodges, Jr. /Hodges Photography

7. Midnight Bourbon (5-1)

Jockey: Joe Talamo

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds

Career record: 6 starts - 2 wins - 1 second - 3 thirds

Career earnings: $261,420

Earnings per start: $43,570

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Kentucky Derby Points: 26

Pedigree: Tiznow - Catch the Moon - Malibu Moon

Color: Dark bay/brown

Running Style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: As a 2-year-old, Midnight Bourbon showed promise, finishing second in the Iroquois Stakes Presented by Ford at Churchill Downs in September and third in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in October. He leapt on the Derby scene in his 3-year-old debut, going gate-to-wire to win the Lecomte Stakes. In the Risen Star, he was unable to get to the front, electing to rate in second off the early leader. Although he made a serious bid for the lead turning for home, he was outkicked in the stretch by Mandaloun. Still, Midnight Bourbon managed to hold on to third, beaten 1 ¾ lengths. His 3-year-old season has been a bit of a mixed bag so far, but he’s run two Equibase figures in the 90s this year, representing dramatic improvement from his 2-year-old season. It will be interesting to see which strategy will be employed by jockey Joe Talamo in Saturday’s marquee race. Will Midnight Bourbon be sent right to the lead and try to clear to the front from the outside, or will he be rated and run the risk of getting caught wide? Winchell Thoroughbreds and Steve Asmussen have won the Louisiana Derby together twice, with Pyro in 2008 and Gun Runner (co-owned with Three Chimneys Farm) in 2016. Asmussen also won this race with Fifty Stars in 2001.

8. O Besos (15-1)

Jockey: Marcelino Pedroza

Trainer: Greg Foley

Owners: L. Barrett Bernard, Tagg Team Racing and West Point Thoroughbreds

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $72,624

Earnings per start: $18,156

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 94

Kentucky Derby Points: 5

Pedigree: Orb – Snuggs and Kisses, by Soto

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This son of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb stretched out around two turns for the first time in the Risen Star. After getting hung wide on both turns, he made a mild rally in the stretch and finished fourth. Although he’s once again drawn towards the outside, he has much less early speed than his rivals. If jockey Marcelino Pedroza wants to, he can take back, drop his mount to the inside and save ground. O Besos’ Equibase Speed Figure declined a bit when stretching out in the Risen Star, from a 84f earned in his win at six furlongs down to an 86. He would have to take some steps forward to turn the tables on his rivals in Saturday’s Louisiana Derby, three of which he finished behind in his last start.

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