2019 Louisiana Derby Picks with Odds and Expert Betting Predictions
The Louisiana Derby, taking place Saturday at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, marks an important milestone on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. It is the first of the seven 100-point Kentucky Derby prep races. These are the big ones. It typically takes about 30 points to get in to the Derby starting gate. The winner gets 100 points in this race, and the runner-up gets 40, so at least two horses in this race will wrap up a trip to Louisville. And third place gets 20 points, so a horse that has picked up a few points already will be in good shape now. Once the major prep races start, it means that we are getting close to the main event. And that's a great thing.
While the Louisiana Derby is a major prep race, it has not been a particularly productive one when it comes to turning out Derby winners. A Kentucky Derby winner has not run in this race since Funny Cide wound up second in 2003. And the last winner of this race who also won in Kentucky was Grindstone back in 1996. It hasn't been a complete disaster - Gun Runner, the 2016 winner, did not win a Triple Crown race but went on to win the 2017 Breeders' Cup Classic and was named Horse of the Year that year.
They drew 11 entries this year, and it's a competitive and interesting field. Here is a look at the most interesting entries. (Horse, trainer, jockey, morning line odds)
War of Will, Mark Casse, Tyler Gaffalione, 6/5: The favorite here currently leads the way in Kentucky Derby points with 60, so he has no pressure on that front here. He earned those points by dominating the Lecomte then bouncing back to prove it was no fluke as he won the Risen Star handily. Those races are both at Fair Grounds, so we know he likes the track. There is a real risk that he's just a horse for this course, but we'll worry about that later. The horse sets off the pace, pressing it until making a later move. That will be a little rougher here than it has been with increased quality and distance and because a couple more nice horses will be looking to run the same race. But the horse has done nothing wrong and deserves respect. He's a solid favorite, but not a value pick at the price.
Country House, Bill Mott, Luis Saez, 9/2: This raw-but-talented colt was second behind War of Will in the Risen Star and is back for another try. In that last race he made a huge move from way back - he's a true deep closer - but didn't quite get it done. He made an inexperienced move in the stretch, briefly pausing in his attack, which killed his progress and took time to regroup. He probably wouldn't have caught War of Will anyway, but he needs to run a much more mature race to have his best shot here. The extra distance will help him, and his pedigree impresses. I like him more at this price than I like the favorite at his.
Spinoff, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 8/1: Pletcher seems to train a quarter of the Kentucky Derby field every year, but things have been oddly slow for him this year. This is an interesting colt for a trainer who has won the race four times - twice with Velazquez aboard. This colt had a disastrous outing in the Saratoga Special last summer and was out of action for six months afterwards. Ominous. He returned a month ago in an allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs and won impressively by almost 12 lengths. That was against no one, but it was around two turns, so it showed promise. But until we see him in a bigger field against tougher company like he faces here, we really don't know what he is. He runs much the same shape of race as the favorite, so if he wins he will have proven something. I am skeptical but respect the connections. If the price stays at this level, or even climbs, he'll be a factor in my betting.
Sueno, Keith Desormeaux, Corey Lanerie, 8/1: This is a well-travelled, California-based horse - his last race was in Arkansas. He was second in the Southwest Stakes with a nice effort a month ago. That result got a lot more interesting last weekend when Long Range Toddy, who was third in the Southwest, came back to pull off an impressive upset win in a division of the Rebel. This is another colt who will be looking to run the same race as the favorite, and I don't love his breeding, but he'll be used on the bottom part of exotic bets.
Roiland, Tom Amoss, James Graham, 12/1: This colt was a dismal seventh in the Lecomte and then third in the Risen Star. He's a one-move closer with absolutely no nuance to his game. He'll sit way off the pace before launching his only move late. It's tough to get excited about the style - especially because he's not even the best closer here. But with three quality horses looking to press the pace early, there is a chance that things could get out of control and things could set up well for this colt to sweep in and grab a piece of the action. This is just the kind of colt that isn't nearly good enough but somehow could find the points needed to enter the Derby. I will happily bet against him here, though.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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