The final Saturday in the month of March closes things out with a bang on the 2016 Kentucky Derby Trail with the running of this year’s million dollar Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds Racetrack.
Fair Grounds Racetrack is the place to be this Saturday with a full card of major stakes racing highlighted by the Louisiana Derby as the main event. After handicapping the field, I have put together a solid exacta play for your sports picks for this race. The field is strong for this year’s race with a number of legitimate Kentucky Derby contenders taking aim at the top prize.
Louisiana Derby- Fair Grounds Racetrack
The Louisiana Derby is a Grade 2 stakes race that is open to three-year old thoroughbreds and the total prize purse for this year’s event has been set at $1 million. It will be contested on the dirt track at Fair Grounds over a distance of 1 1/8 miles.
This year’s field stands at 11 horses currently listed as entered and, while it is definitely deep in talent, there is one colt that stands out from the rest. Gun Runner was bred in Kentucky and he is trained by Steve Asmussen. With jockey Florent Geroux expected to get the ride, this three-year old comes into this race with a lofty 7.52 rating by Horse Racing Nation.
More importantly, he is coming off a big victory in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at this same track over a distance of 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 20. As a juvenile, Gun Runner placed fourth in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28 after winning a pair of non-graded events to start his career.
My second choice to form a winning exacta bet in the Louisiana Derby would be Mo Tom with a HRN rating of 6.78. This Kentucky-bred colt is coming off a third-place run in the Risen Star after winning the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds in this three-year old debut. Trained by Tom Amoss and ridden by jockey Corey Lanerie, Mo Tom is one of three horses in the field (along with Mo Tom and Forevamo) for Saturday’s race whose pedigree can be traced to famed horse Uncle Mo.
Mo Tom’s juvenile campaign was highlighted by a victory in the non-graded Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs in early November. He followed that up with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at that same track.
Bonus Pick: Fair Grounds Oaks- Fair Grounds Racetrack
An important stakes race for some of the top three-year old fillies in the nation is the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks as part of this Saturday’s card. The total prize purse for this year’s event is set at $400,000 and it will be contested on dirt over a distance of 1 1/6 miles.
This year’s Oaks has a field of eight fillies listed as entered. My top choice to win is Venus Valentine even though she is a bit further down the list when it comes to her HRN rating (5.59). The main reason I am really high on this three-year old Kentucky-bred filly is her recent victory in the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds on Feb. 20 over a distance of 1 1/16 miles.
This is another horse on this Saturday’s race card at Fair Grounds that is backed by the duo of trainer Tom Amoss and jockey Corey Lanerie. This team has helped her make some great strides in her recent workouts as a three-year old after finishing out of the money in three events as a juvenile.
Picking the right pairing for an exacta bet in this race could be a tall task given some strong competition deep into this field, but I have confidence that Stageplay will be able to break through the pack in the place position. Trained by Steve Asmussen, this three-year old Kentucky-bred filly has a lofty HRN rating of 6.92, but she does come into this race off a disappointing fifth-place run in the Rachel Alexandra.
I am banking on a much better performance this time around after watching her win the non-graded Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds in her three-year old debut on Jan. 16. She also earned some high marks as a juvenile with a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes over a distance of 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs in late November.