There are four weeks of races left on The Road to the Kentucky Derby and the stakes jump to a new level, beginning with Saturday's $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby. The Grade 2 stakes race at The Fair Grounds in New Orleans awards qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 scale, the first of the season at that level and also the first at a mile and 3/16 distance.
The Louisiana Derby field features six horses that ran in the Risen Star Stakes at The Fair Grounds on February 13, including the top four finishers. The top three in the Risen Star were the same trio that finished at the top of the field in the Lecomte Stakes, which was run at the same track on January 16.
An eight-horse field will compete in the Louisiana Derby, with the possibility of as many as four of the entrants earning invitations to the Kentucky Derby, depending on the order of finish. With the early odds established, it's time to run down the horses that will be competing for a chance to run for the roses on May 1 at Churchill Downs.
Louisiana field and odds
Mandaloun (8/5) - The winner of the Risen Star Stakes is already headed to the Kentucky Derby by virtue of his 52 qualifying points. Trained by Brad Cox, he also finished third in the Lecomte Stakes and is ridden by Florent Geroux, who splits time between three southern tracks.
Hot Rod Charlie (3/1) - The early odds are a little surprising for a horse without a stakes victory. The Leandro Mora trained colt is crashing The Fair Grounds party, being one of two horses in the race that wasn't in the Risen Star Stakes. He's coming off a disappointing third-place finish in the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita. With only 10 qualifying points, it will take at least a second-place run to get to the Kentucky Derby.
Proxy (7/2) - The runner-up in both the Lecomte and Risen Star Stakes is close to a Kentucky Derby invitation with 24 points and probably needs to finish third or better to secure a spot. The Michael Stidham trained colt has beaten both Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon, so he should be in the mix this week.
Midnight Bourbon (5/1) - After winning the Lecomte Stakes, it looked like trainer Steven Asmussen's best chance at the Kentucky Derby would be a virtual lock. However, the third-place Risen Star Stakes finish left him with work to do. His 26 points leave him in need of a strong finish to get the Hall of Fame trainer an entry at Churchill Downs.
Run Classic (12/1) - This is the stakes race debut for a horse that didn't break his maiden until February 13 at The Fair Grounds. It was at a mile and 1/16, so there is optimism for a good performance here. With a limited body of work, Run Classic could complicate matters for some entries that need top finishes.
O Besos (15/1) - He earned a fourth-place finish in the Risen Star Stakes, but was never really in contention, eventually crossing the finish line almost six lengths behind Midnight Bourbon. With Hot Rod Charlie in the field, it will take a much better effort to change the outcome from his previous race.
Rightandjust, Starinmydreams (both 20/1) - These entries finished sixth and ninth respectively in the Risen Star Stakes, and there is nothing to indicate, especially with the stronger field, that much will change in the Louisiana Derby.