The featured Thoroughbred race this weekend on The Road to the Kentucky Derby is the Grade 2 $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby at The Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Saturday. It awards points on a 100-40-20-10 scale and will most likely send multiple entries into the Triple Crown's first race on May 1.
The Fair Grounds is the second oldest track in the United States, with racing dating back as far as 1838. However, the track's own website notes that it has been in operation since 1872, making it the third oldest. In either case, The Fair Grounds has been around a long time.
It holds one meet a year, running from Thanksgiving to the last weekend in March. The current meet will conclude on Sunday, March 28. The Fair Grounds hosts three Kentucky Derby qualifying races: the 10-4-2-1 Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes, the 50-20-10-5 Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes, and the Louisiana Derby.
The top two trainers at The Fair Grounds are familiar names, especially during the current Road to the Kentucky Derby races.
Hall of Famer Steven Asmussen leads in earnings for the meet with $1,560,150, just ahead of Brad Cox, whose horses have amassed $1,520,890. Cox has the highest winning percentage, along with Thomas Amoss at 26%. The trainer with the most victories since November 26 is Ron Faucheux with 35. He also leads in top-three finishes with 86.
Brad Cox is the trainer for Mandaloun, who battled Asmussen's Midnight Bourbon in the Lecomte and the Risen Star. Both horses won one of the races, but Mandaloun, by virtue of the higher point awards in the Risen Star, is already headed to the Kentucky Derby. Asmussen's entry in the Louisiana Derby still has work to do to qualify.
The most efficient jockey at The Fair Grounds is Florent Geroux, who splits time between multiple tracks, primarily for Brad Cox-trained horses. He has won 27% of his races in New Orleans and gets his mounts into the top three an impressive 65% of the time. Geroux is the jockey for Mandaloun and will be looking to add to his $1,885,224 in purse winnings in just 140 starts at the track.
Adam Beschizza is the leading jockey in purse winnings with $2,676,924. He also has a stellar top three record, getting his horses into the betting money in 51% of his races, second behind Geroux. The leader in wins at The Fair Grounds for the current meet is James Graham, with 81 wins in 422 races, giving him a 19% win rate.
Midnight Bourbon is ridden by Joseph Talamo, whose home track is Oaklawn Park. He has just 21 races under his belt at The Fair Grounds with just one other win besides Midnight Bourbon's victory in the Lecomte Stakes.
The other two favorites in the Kentucky Derby, Hot Rod Charlie and Proxy will have Joel Rosario and John Velazquez onboard, respectively. Neither jockey has much experience at the track, giving Geroux and Mandaloun a distinct advantage on Saturday.