A field of eight was entered Friday for Sunday's Louisiana Derby, with Risen Star winner Repent heading one of the race's strongest and deepest fields in years. The 1 1/16-mile event also attracted some of the nation's top riders, including Jerry Bailey, Pat Day, Jorge Chavez, and Russell Baze.
The main question is, can anyone beat Repent, who took all the worst of it in the Risen Star, going extremely wide, and still defeated many of the horses entered in the Louisiana Derby? To those hoping to knock off the favorite, they might be reassured knowing that only one horse in the past eight years has won both the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby.
Repent, who will break from post 4 with new rider Jerry Bailey aboard, returned to Florida following the Risen Star, then shipped back to Fair Grounds on Thursday following several impressive works at Gulfstream.
Several of those in the Risen Star have license to improve off that race, such as Easyfromthegitgo, French Assault, and It'sallinthechase. Bob's Image, second in the Risen Star after battling on the lead most of the way, could very well have a much easier time of it on the front end this time, as Gulfstream shipper Charioteer is expected to try to rate in his first start around two turns. The only other horse with speed is Payson Park shipper White Flame, coming off two front-running allowance victories. To this point, the son of Langfuhr hasn't shown he has the pure speed to run with Bob's Image, but he does have the services of Chavez, who rode him to victory last time out..
Charioteer, breaking from post 3, is expected to have excellent gound-saving position going into the first turn, while White Flame and Bob's Image break from the 6-hole and 7-hole respectively. Bob's Image will have the services of Pat Day, who replaces Lonnie Meche, so expect the son of Halo's Image to try to rate more kindly if indeed he does get a clear lead.
The unknown factor in the race is Publication, who has not run since his disappointing fifth in the Hollywood Futurity back in December. Prior to that, however, the son of Petionville finished a fast-closing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, right behind Repent and Siphonic, and captured the Arlington-Washington Futurity in the role of stalker in only his second career start. Leading Northern California rider Russell Baze comes in for the ride. So, we really don't know what this colt's style is just yet. But we expect him to run a very big race, despite the layoff and the poor effort at Hollywood.
Of the other Risen Star starters, French Assault gets Robby Albarado, and is certain to take back this time and try to make one run. Last time out, with E.J. Perrodin, he was closer to the pace than normal and lacked the punch he showed in previous races. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we may see Lecomte winner Easyfromthegitgo closer up this time after he failed to match strides late with Repent in the Risen Star. It would come as no surprise if the son of Dehere showed big improvement on Sunday.
If Repent is going to get beat somewhere on the road to Churchill, this would be the likely spot, having run a huge race last time out coming off a layoff. Horses who run that big coming off a layoff have a tendency to take a step backward. If Repent does indeed take a step backward, it would hardly be the end of the world. But trainer Kenny McPeek feels he is a very special horse who can keep on winning.
One horse who bears watching is the Todd-Pletcher trained Charioteer. If the son of Silver Deputy relishes the two turns, he could be a factor, with his natural speed.