Among Kentucky Derby prep races, the 2019 Louisiana Derby is stacking up to be one of the most crucial ones around. As a matter of fact, one of the top horses on the Derby trail, War Of Will, has taken the route through Louisiana in an attempt to become a Triple Crown contender. Because of that, all eyes in the horse racing world will be on Fair Grounds Race Course on Saturday afternoon to see who emerges victorious.
It seems like the state of Louisiana is becoming more and more of a proving ground for contenders for American horse racing’s biggest prize, the Kentucky Derby. In particular, the Louisiana Derby, which comes up on Saturday afternoon at Fair Grounds, is a huge event. Only horses that amass enough preliminary points are able to compete in the Derby, and the Louisiana Derby is a big provider of those points for those horses who perform well.
But this year more than ever seems like a year when the Louisiana Derby is going to take on more importance. The track problems at Santa Anita have eliminated one of the prime locations for Derby preps. And, as a result, you’ll see more attention paid to the outcome of the Louisiana Derby.
On top of that, the lackluster effort by Game Winner in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park last weekend has thrown the chase for the Kentucky Derby and beyond wide open. After all, Game Winner had been anointed by many as the horse to beat for the Derby and, potentially, another Triple Crown possibility for trainer Bob Baffert.
Right now, that idea of a Derby favorite is up for grabs. And War Of Will, who comes into the Louisiana Derby on a torrid streak, could be just the horse to grab that mantle. A convincing winning performance would certainly help him in that quest.
In the following article, we will provide you with an in-depth preview of the 2019 Louisiana Derby. We will take you through all eleven horses in the field, analyzing their past performances and looking forward to how they might end up performing on Saturday. Finally, we’ll give you our pick of who we think will come out on top in this crucial race.
2019 Louisiana Derby Details
- When: Saturday, March 23, 2019
- Where: Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, Louisiana
- Eligible Horses: 3-year-olds
- Distance: 1 1/8 Miles
- Surface: Dirt
- Purse: $1,000,000 for a Grade 2 Event
- The Field (Jockey and Trainer in Parentheses)
- #1-Roiland (James Graham, Thomas Amoss)
- Morning Line Odds: 12-1
It’s been five months since Roiland scored a victory. You have to go back to when he was a 2-year-old in October of 2018, when he won an optional claimer at Churchill Downs. Since then, he has come up empty in three tries.
If there is a horse that needs pace the most in this race, it is Roliand. When you look at his recent lines, you will see that he consistently gets away last or close to last, only to uncork as the field turns for home. That late move was enough to get him to third behind War Of Will in his last race in the Risen Star, which was encouraging considering he was saddled with 69 to 1 odds from the betting public.
This will be his longest race yet, which also should suit his ability to come on late. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of leavers in the field, meaning that the pace might not be sufficiently quick enough to produce a closing winner. As a result, it seems like perhaps the best that he can do in this one is a minor award.
#2-Lemniscate (Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenneth McPeek)
Morning Line Odds: 15-1
Lemniscate presents an interesting handicapping problem for the 2019 Louisiana Derby. His maiden win came in his last start at Gulfstream Park, but it was on the turf. That puts his qualifications on the dirt, where he came up short in a pair of maiden races, into question.
Still, there are some things to like about this horse. First of all, the turf race was his first time around two turns, so it could be an indication that it was the distance, and not the surface that mattered. In addition, this horse was a $145,000 purchase as a yearling, making him more expensive than everybody else in the field beside, you guessed it, War Of Will.
All that makes Lemniscate an interesting potential long shot play. He could be one of the few running out for an early lead, which means that Hernandez could possibly get away with a soft pace. If you don’t feel crazy about taking the chalk, this is one direction that you could go in this race.
#3-Limonite (Jose Ortiz, Steven Asmussen)
Morning Line Odds: 20-1
Limonite comes into the mile lightly raced on the year for Asmussen, who knows his way around winning in Louisiana horse racing. His only start in 2019 came back in February in the Risen Star, when he finished fifth in the race won by War of Will. It was a decent effort, one which was probably needed for this horse to make a bounce up into an even tougher field.
Limonite has yet to win around two turns. He also is another horse who likes to come from well off the pace. There seems to be an overabundance of those in this field, and they all can’t be a factor unless the pace is completely out of control, which doesn’t seem to be in the cards here.
The other concern here is that Limonite was outfinished by Roliand in the battle of the closers in the Risen Star. That makes even a place or a show seem like too long a shot to consider. As a result, Limonite is probably one you can throw out here.
#4-Sueno (Corey Lanerie, Keith Desormeaux)
Morning Line Odds: 8-1
This Desormeaux trainee won twice as a two-year-old on the West Coast, which is where is based. His first trip out of Cali came last month when he headed to Arkansas for the Southwest Stakes. The result was a solid second-place effort, less than a length away from the winner at the end of the race.
Sueno’s racing style might work for him in this race. He tends to be somewhere between leaver and closer, making his biggest progress mid-race in an effort to win a stretch duel. Sometimes in a race, the horse with a unique style can overcome lack of talent and benefit from the trip.
In addition, that near-miss in Arkansas represented the best speed figures for Sueno, at least in the ballpark of War Of Will. It should be interesting to watch how this one responds to his biggest stage after just missing in a paid of Grade3’s. Certainly, he doesn’t have far to improve to me in the mix as a Derby possibility.
#5-By My Standards (Gabriel Saez, Bret Calhoun)
Morning Line Odds: 12-1
He was purchased as a two-year-old for a hefty $150,000 sum, so he has cash capital working in his favor. It hadn’t translated into much in the way of results until finally breaking his maiden at Fair Grounds last month. That finally came in his fourth career race.
That means that this is a huge jump up in class. It also means that only a win could possibly put By My Standards into the Derby mix in terms of qualifying points. You’re asking a lot from a horse who will be facing winners for the first time on Saturday.
The good news is that he picked up that maiden win in gutty fashion, overcoming some bumping and a wide journey around the turn. Sometimes it takes a horse getting a taste for winning before it can reach its true potential. Considering that all of these horses are at tender stages in their careers, such a large jump in performance is certainly not out of the question.
#6-War Of Will (Tyler Gaffalione, Mark Casse)
Morning Line Odds: 6-5
Morning line oddsmakers rarely put horses at odds of even-money or lower for big races like this, fearing that they will scare away bettors. But it seems safe to say that War Of Will is heading for just that kind of backing. After all, he was at even-money in the Risen Star at race time, and that was with 14 horses in the race, compared to only 11 in this one.
This would make for an odd story for a potential Triple Crown winner. As a 2-year-old, they wanted him to be a turf horse, but he came up empty in four races (albeit in graded stakes competition in three of them). They put him on the dirt this year, and he has swept through three races, including back-to-back graded stakes wins on the Fair Grounds dirt.
What you like about War Of Will is that, even through he prefers to be on the front end, he carries the speed very well. That’s why it doesn’t seem like too much of a worry for him to stretch it out to 1 1/8 miles. We saw last weekend that prohibitive favorites can be defeated in this sport at any time, but War Of Will seems pretty close to a sure thing in here.
#7-Mr. Money (Adam Beschizza, Bret Calhoun)
Morning Line Odds: 20-1
The second of two Bret Calhoun long shots in the race, Mr. Money hasn’t yet been able to live up to his name with consistency. His biggest recommending factor was a solid fourth-place finish in last year’s Breeder’s Cup Juvenile. That came after a rough start, so there was hope that, could he iron out the kinks, that there were better things in store.
Calhoun laid him off after that race, however, and Mr. Money didn’t seem to be anywhere near the “A” game he showed last November when he came back. Maybe it was a case of needing a race under his belt. But the bottom line is that he was tiring as the mile ended, as War Of Will dusted him and others in this field zipped right on past him.
Still, there is that excellent effort in November against the best of the best that is lingering. Many horses struggle in their first start off a layoff, only to come back to form the next time out. If that is the case, Mr. Money could indeed cash in, especially at such juicy morning line odds.
#8-Country House (Luis Saez, William Mott)
Morning Line Odds: 9-2
He’ll get his chance at revenge on War Of Will after finishing a well-beaten second behind him in the Risen Star. In that race, made up seven lengths on War of Will from the half to the top of the stretch. But that was as close as he would come, as he was unable to make up ground on him for there and had to settle for best of the rest.
Yet again we have a horse here who doesn’t start like a house on fire. And that means the little bit of extra distance in this race could conceivably work in his favor. But as we stated earlier, he was not advancing on Country House at the end last month.
The speed figures for Country House have been steadily improving, so there is hope for even better. But if War Of Will is getting better also, it will be tough for him to make up that margin. You’re probably looking at another also-ran performance at best here.
#9-Bank It (Irad Ortiz, Jr., Steven Asmussen)
Morning Line Odds: 20-1
Bankit did not seem to take to the Oaklawn dirt, finishing out of the money up the track in his last two races. As the distances have ben getting longer in his races, this colt has been getting off to slower and slower starts. Perhaps a change in tactics back to his sprinting days might be in order here.
There are a few positives here. He has eight races under his belt, making him the most experienced in this field, which can sometimes help when things get dicey. In addition, he has been working out very well at Fair Grounds in preparation for this race, meaning that he could be ready to shake off whatever was bothering him in his efforts in Arkansas.
But Bank It doesn’t seem to have advanced very far from when his impressive maiden win at Saratoga last August put him on the map. Since then, he hasn’t shown the kind of spark that would make you think that he is a legitimate Triple Crown contender. And it also means that he probably can’t be expected to do much here.
#10-Spinoff (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher)
Morning Line Odds: 8-1
Right off the bat, you’ll notice the impressive connections, which gives this horse some handicapping points right off the bat. His trajectory to this point has been interesting to say the least. The homebred raced twice as a Freshman, winning his debut at Gulfstream and then finishing third in a graded race at Saratoga.
He then sat out until an optional claimer in February at Gulfstream, which is obviously well below graded-stakes level competition. Spinoff was bumped at the start of the race, which just seemed to make him mad. After grabbing the lead, he smoked the field to the tune of an 11-length victory, with impressive speed figures to boot.
You’re talking about a horse who could conceivably improve off that, considering that this is his second start off a significant layoff. But you’ve also got a horse who is facing much tougher competition this time around. As a result, Spinoff is the X factor in this race, the one horse who can maybe hang with War Of Will or a horse who will be up the track.
#11-Hog Creek Hustle (Miguel Mena, Vicki Foley)
Morning Line Odds: 12-1
The connections might as well-known as some of the others in this field, but that doesn’t mean that their horse should be overlooked. Hog Creek Hustle has been respectable in two starts against War of Will, finishing second in fourth in those two graded stakes won by the favorite. But being respectable and actually challenging him are two different things.
Hog Creek Hustle, like so many others in this race, needs to either get off to a better start to give himself more of a chance. Barring that, he needs to be the beneficiary of a Spinoff-War Of Will speed duel that gets out of control. Trip-dependent horses are OK as exotic plays, but that’s asking a lot for a win bet on him.
Hog Creek Hustle hasn’t won outside of Kentucky, where he scored two victories a year ago. If he wants to get back there for the Derby, he’ll need to outfinish his expectations in this one. With the tough post added on to all the other things working against him, it doesn’t seem too likely.
Right now it seems like Spinoff is the only horse with a ceiling high enough to challenge War of Will is he’s on his game. The problem with picking him is that he might be an all or nothing type in this race. If he doesn’t get past War Of Will, he could fade with the effort.
As for the deep closers, they might get just enough pace to make to the board, but probably not enough to win. That means Roiland for a third-place finish.
As for the place, I like Mr. Money, especially at such long odds. The second time off the layoff will make a difference, and you’ll see him stalk the pace and then get by Spinoff. That would be a nice springboard for Mr. Money going forward.
Alas, if you’re looking for value for the win, this race will disappoint you. War Of Will is on a mission to be stamped the Kentucky Derby favorite. And a dominating performance in the Louisiana Derby, which seems like a foregone conclusion, seems like it will help him achieve the goal on Saturday.