2018 Louisiana Derby Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
The Louisiana Derby, set for Saturday at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, is an important stop on the Triple Crown trail this year for a couple of reasons. First, while it is only a Grade II, it carries a $1 million purse, and connections are attracted to that likes flies to a garbage can. And second, and as importantly, this is the first of the prep races this year that offers 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner and 40 to the runner up.
Up to this point, the totals have been half that in recent races. Fourty points is more than enough to get into the field, so a Top 2 finish here gives owners and trainers an all but guaranteed Derby option - instead of just a win in prior races. Despite those factors, the race hasn't produced a winner that went on to win a Triple Crown race since Grindstone in 1996. It hasn't been a total wasteland, though - Funny Cide was second here in 2003 before winning the Derby and Preakness, Breeders' Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man was third in 2011, and last year's Horse of the Year Gun Runner won the race in 2016. This year we have 10 horses looking to parlay success here into Derby glory. Here's how the top of the field sets up (horse, jockey, trainer, track odds):
My Boy Jack, Kent Desormeaux, Keith Desormeaux, 5/2: This California-based runner won the Southwest Stakes by an impressive 4.5 lengths last time out. You could argue, though, that the track bias played into his hand nicely there. You also have to be weary of a California horse that isn't running in a strong California field this year - perhaps that's because he isn't good enough. The brothers in charge grew up in Louisiana and know the track well, though, and the horse has hit the board in six of eight starts. I don't hate the horse, and I respect his breeding, but the price is such that I'll likely look elsewhere.
Bravazo, Gary Stevens, D. Wayne Lukas, 7/2: I'll admit bias towards this horse from the outset, with two legends at the helm. Their combined Preakness win with Oxbow in 2013 was great, and I am fully aware that any opportunity could be the last for either of them, so I am pulling for them. I like the horse, too. He came out on top of the Risen Star, the last major local prep for this race, last time out. And he faces the two horses he beat again here. He's a son of Awesome Again, so distance shouldn't be a factor. He has a bad habit of just barely winning races, though. I'd like to see him uncork a big effort, and you can be sure I'll have a few bucks on him. If I were to bet on one horse this would be it, but in a field this deep and muddy he's far from a stone-cold lock of a pick.
Noble Indy, John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 7/2: This is the horse that finished third behind Bravazo in the Risen Star, and that was his first career loss in three starts. His debut in September was particularly impressive as he crushed a maiden field by nearly nine lengths. Last time out was just his stakes debut, so you can't worry too much about coming up short. The connections are strong - Pletcher has won the race three times - and the breeding is reasonably solid. A fine horse, but I like others better and don't have faith we'll ever see him replicate that debut effort.
Snapper Sinclair, Jose Ortiz, Steve Asmussen, 9/2: The runner-up to Bravazo last time out, the horse looks to turn the tables. I don't like his chances. His breeding isn't my favorite. And while I can't question his heart at all - he was fighting right to the end in the narrow loss - I am not convinced he's ultimately of the caliber to be a real Derby contender. I like the move back to Ortiz, who hasn't been aboard since the horse debuted last summer. The colt ran in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last year, though. And while it was a total disaster, I think the grass could be where he ultimately belongs. Easy pass for me - which, given how this year has gone for me so far, means he likely wins running away.
Hyndford, Joe Bravo, Todd Pletcher, 8/1: The 'other Pletcher' horse is always an angle to keep an eye on, and this is an interesting one. Last month at Tampa Bay Downs this horse ran second behind stablemate Magnum Moon, who came back to impressively win the Rebel last weekend. I don't ever love betting on Joe Bravo, but this is a well-bred horse who seems to be growing into himself, and Pletcher excels at getting horses ready at this time of year. If his price stays close to this then he'll be a big part of my exotics.
Raphael Esparza jumps back on the saddle for another big weekend in horse racing and this Saturday and Sunday he will have 'Road to the Kentucky Derby' prep races. Last Saturday at Oaklawn Park and Turfway Park Esparza had another winning day in the ponies cashing and this Saturday and Sunday he looks for more horse racing winners. Last year Esparza had a monster horse racing season cashing for over $2,800 and had winning days in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. Esparza is already up over $700 the past month and he looks for more horse winners this weekend. Esparza $35 Saturday Horse Racing Picks will feature the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds Park and Sunday the Sunland Derby at Sunland Park. Throw in that Esparza has had over 20 years of horse racing betting experience and the next four months he will put extra money in your wallets.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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