June 23, 2024

Track Phantom heads dozen in Louisiana Derby; Tarifa, Intricate rematch on in Fair Grounds Oaks

Track Phantom wins the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds
Track Phantom wins the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds (Photo by Hodges Photography)

A half-length loss to ship-in and current Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite Sierra Leone in last month’s Risen Star (G2) didn’t alter Track Phantom‘s status as the leading Fair Grounds-based three-year-old, a position he retains heading into Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2).

The 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby is the fourth and final local prep for the Kentucky Derby. Track Phantom captured the first two, the Gun Runner S. and Lecomte (G3), with plenty to spare. He was caught late in the Risen Star by Sierra Leone, but was still 1 1/4 lengths clear of returning rival Catching Freedom.

As was the case in the Risen Star, the front-running Track Phantom has drawn wide for the Louisiana Derby. However, the possibility of one or more scratches means he could move in from post 12. Even if not the case, the long run into the first turn should ensure Track Phantom favorable early position with a clean break.

Also returning from the Risen Star is fellow Steve Asmussen trainee Hall of Fame, who was well-backed following a 10 1/4-length maiden win but who wound up seventh after a bad trip. Honor Marie, the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) winner, rallied for fifth in a race he likely needed, while Real Men Violin, the Kentucky Jockey Club runner-up, was a non-factor finishing eighth. Awesome Ruta, who far exceeded expectations when sixth at 223-1, will be fortunate to improve on that effort.

Common Defense, a strong second to Timberlake in the Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park last out, figures to be among the leading candidates in the betting for Kenny McPeek. Trainer Chad Brown has Sierra Leone pointing for the Blue Grass (G1) but has romping Gulfstream maiden winner Tuscan Gold as a substitute. Tuscan Gold finished fourth to Sierra Leone in their mutual debut at Aqueduct last November, with Tuscan Gold breaking his maiden second out by more than six lengths.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has had a record five wins in the Louisiana Derby, including last year’s renewal with Kingsbarns. He has entered three, though Triple Espresso and Agate Road have also been cross-entered in Saturday’s Jeff Ruby (G3) over Turfway Park’s synthetic track, a surface the two grass performers might prefer. Antiquarian thus would become Pletcher’s primary Louisiana Derby contender, following a Risen Star Day maiden win over next-out winner Cornishman.

The Louisiana Derby will offer Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 100-50-25-15-10 to the respective top five finishers. The only two horses to pull off the Louisiana/Kentucky Derby double were Black Gold 100 years ago and Grindstone in 1996.

The Fair Ground Oaks

An intriguing appetizer to the Louisiana Derby will be the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), which serves as a rematch between Rachel Alexandra (G2) one-two Tarifa and Intricate. Either might assume the position as favorite for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) with an impressive enough win.

Tarifa improved her record to 3-for-4 with a 2 3/4-length tally in the Rachel Alexandra, which was run over a sloppy track. Intricate, the 7-10 favorite that day, might come on from that run as it was her first outing since her devastating 5 1/2-length romp in the Golden Rod (G2) in late November.

Our Pretty Woman makes her stakes debut in the 1 1/16-mile Fair Grounds after two facile wins earlier in the Fair Grounds meet against maiden and allowance foes. Grade 3 winner V V’s Dream was beaten wide margins in her last two over off tracks and might fare better in dry conditions.

The Fair Grounds Oaks offers Kentucky Oaks qualifying points of 100-50-25-15-10 to the respective top five finishers.