$1 Million Louisiana Derby Attracts a Full Field
By GREG MELIKOV
There are several talented 3-year-olds going in the 98th Louisiana Derby that must prove themselves worthy of continuing on the Road to the Roses.
The uncoupled trainees of Neil Howard figure to give morning line 9-5 favorite Much Macho Man the most trouble.
Wilkinson has been freshened since his head victory over Pants on Fire in the Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 22. Garret Gomez retains the mount on the son of Lemon Drop Kid, 8-1, who drew post 10 in the 13-horse field.
Howard also sends out Machen, fourth to Mucho Macho Man in the Risen Star on Feb. 19 after winning his first two starts. The son of Distorted Humor rallied powerfully on the far turn of 1 1/16-mile contest, but failed to sustain his drive in the stretch.
Machen, the early 7-2 second choice, picks up the services of Edgar Prado and will break from post 7.
“Machen is a nice, laid back kind of horse and nothing seems to bother him, but Wilkinson — I think he likes to lay awake at night thinking, ‘What can I do tomorrow to mess things up for myself?’ ” Howard said.
There is no one in the $1 million stakes race with more than two victories.
The Oaklawn Park-based Elite Alex, the 6-1 morning line third choice was a late addition to the Louisiana Derby field after being scratched from the Rebel because he drew post 10. Unfortunately, the Tim Ritchey charge winds up in post 12 at Fair Grounds, with a long run to the first turn of the 1 1/8-mile contest.
Rajiv Maragh, who gained the mount on Mucho Macho Man after Eibar Coa was seriously injured in a spill at Gulfstream Park, will be back in the saddle when the colt breaks from post 5.
He made his sophomore debut in the Holy Bull States on Jan. 30 at his Gulfstream Park base, where he was cutting back a one-turn mile.
After being bumped hard in the opening strides, Mucho Macho Man moved up to contest the quick pace and tired late to finish fourth behind Dialed In.
The Kathy Ritvo trainee bounced back to capture the Risen Star by 1 ½ lengths with the blinkers taken off to help him relax early.
Neither third-place finisher Rogue Romance, off the Kentucky Derby Trail with an injury, or runner-up Santiva, awaiting the April 16 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland will be in the 13-horse field on Saturday.
It’s worth noting that Louisiana tracks have not played a significant role in the past 15 Kentucky Derby winners. Several high-profile horses have triumphed recently in the Louisiana Derby and then faltered in the Derby: High Limit, Circular Quay, Pyro, Friesan Fire and Mission Impazible.
In addition, Risen Star winners Dollar Bill (2001) and Lawyer Ron (’06) were also well-backed in the Derby but ran poorly.
As for the Louisiana Derby, only two winners scored in Louisville. Grindstone did it in ’96 while the filly Black Gold was victorious in ’24.