2015 Louisiana Derby Picks with Odds and Expert Betting Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 3/26/2015
If you are going to go to the races at Fair Grounds on Saturday and you want to stay all day, you will want to work on your stamina in advance. Get lots of rest. Drink plenty of fluids. Pace yourself at the bar. And bring lots of money. The Louisiana Derby is part of an absolutely ridiculous 14-race card. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
The Louisiana Derby is the second major Kentucky Derby prep race of the weekend along with the Florida Derby. It has not been a particularly fertile ground for Kentucky Derby contenders, though. Despite having been run in one form or another since 1894, only Black Gold in 1924 and Grindstone in 1996 have won both this race and the Kentucky Derby. In 1988 Louisiana Derby winner Risen Star got outrun by the great filly Winning Colors in the Kentucky Derby but went on to win the Preakness and the Belmont. Not a lot of success from a high-profile race. The Florida Derby, by contrast, has been around only since the 1950s and yet has produced 57 Triple Crown race winners.
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There are nine horses entered in the race on Saturday. Only five, though, are interesting enough to deserve consideration.
International Star (3/1): The favorite in this race is going for the clean sweep - he has already won the LeComte Stakes and the Risen Star, which are the first two of the three main Kentucky Derby preps run each spring at Fair Grounds. Interestingly, though, he isn't based in Louisiana - he trains at Gulfstream in Florida and ships in for the races. I don't really like how he has trained up to this race. I'm also a bit concerned about motivation - he already likely has enough points to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, so a win here may not be the first priority. He's also a New York-bred, and in major races betting on a horse from New York always seems to be a way to go home sad at the end of the day. He's a son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, though, so we know he can handle this distance and more. Add it all up and I'll look elsewhere for better value.
War Story (4/1): War Story has faced International Star in both at the Fair Grounds, and he had the lead late in both before the eventual winner chased him down. There are excuses, though. He was lightly-raced the first time, and he got beat by a much more experienced horse. He wasn't even supposed to be in the second race. He was supposed to run in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park and had already headed to that track, but the post position draw wasn't kind to them and the forecast was lousy, so they pulled the plug and headed to the Risen Star instead. Of note, there is a jockey change here. Kent Desormeaux had been riding him, but Joe Talamo is flying in to his home state from his current base in Southern California for the ride. He had to commit to two races to get the mount, so this is his Derby mount if he gets that far. Maybe he can do a better job of realizing what seems to be a lot of potential for this horse. I am not entirely convinced by him, but I like him a little better at this price than I do International Star at his price.
Mr. Z (4/1): This horse was third in the Southwest Stakes that War Story skipped, and he has picked up the jockey, Desormeaux, that that horse has discarded. The horse needs to do something - he has run 10 times and has just one win. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas knows a thing or two about winning Triple Crown races, though, and he has been training with renewed vigor the last couple of years despite his advanced age. Still, I'm just not impressed enough to bet him at this price - though the fact that he is running without blinkers after wearing them in his last four races intrigues me.
Keen Ice (5/1): This horse is a son of Curlin out of an Awesome Again mare, so his breeding just jumps off the page and slaps you in the face. This horse should be better than he has been. He has raced in four graded stakes races and has two third- and two fifth-place finishes to show for it. Just not good enough. He has upside, but I won't bet him unless his odds go up from this morning line price.
Stanford (5/1): It is tougher than usual to get a sense of Todd Pletcher's stable this year. He has a pile of horses like usual, but we have to guess more than usual about where, if anywhere, the quality is. This horse has two wins but has struggled in his two biggest races. Last time out he was beaten badly by stablemate Materiality, who is a second-tier contender in the Florida Derby. He was also disqualified in that race for an erratic stretch run. He has talent, and I like his breeding, but he just hasn't been good enough when it matters. He's still raw, though, so he could improve at any time as he gains experience. I'll probably regret it, but I'll be using this horse liberally in my exotic bets.
Raphael Esparza will be handicapping the Louisiana Derby and the Florida Derby this weekend. Esparza is one of the best horse racing handicappers in the nation, and he is expecting a big payday this weekend and throughout the Road to the Kentucky Derby. He scored a big profit last weekend in the Spiral Stakes with $20 across the board on a 16-1 long shot, and he expects more profits this weekend. Get his weekend picks for both races here for only $30, or new clients can take advantage of Doc's no-hassle $60 free picks offer and get Esparza's weekend racing picks and still have a $30 credit to use for any picks from any handicapper on the site. Click here for $60 worth of free picks.
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