A field of 11, including shippers from Florida and California, was entered for Sunday's $600,000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II), with the William S. Farish entry of Gradepoint and Breakaway heading a strong local contingent.
The 1 1/16-mile race should help separate the men from the boys, as top trainers such as Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher get their first indication whether or not they will be a major force on the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) trail.
Baffert will be represented by the runaway maiden winner Wimbledon, who has been his main Derby hope all year, while Pletcher sends out Shaniko and Pollard's Vision. All three have great potential, but they'll be mixing it up for the first time with stakes-caliber horses, such as locals Gradepoint, Fire Slam, and Shadowland, and the California invader Borrego, among others.
The entry of Gradepoint and Breakaway likely will be the favorite. Gradepoint, a son of A.P. Indy
, is coming off a half-length victory in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. III), while Breakaway romped to a 9 1/2-length allowance score the same day. With Robby Albarado deciding to stick with Gradepoint, Calvin Borel will be aboard Breakaway.
Both colts have almost an identical running style, coming from far back with a strong late run, so they don't compliment each other in any way. But trainer Neil Howard decided to run Breakaway because he may be more suited to the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Louisiana Derby, while Gradepoint likely will get better the farther he goes. He also did not want to ship Breakaway to another track when the colt, like Gradepoint, is unbeaten in his two starts at Fair Grounds, which Howard feels is "safer and kinder" than any of the other tracks. Breakaway will be able to save more ground, breaking from post 2, while Gradepoint comes out of post 9.
The horse they have to beat will be Fire Slam, who won the Lecomte Stakes over Shadowland, despite having a quarter crack that trainer David Carroll said was "as bad as it gets." Mark Dewey, the farrier who worked on the colt's hoof, said he had no doubt the foot was stinging him during the race. But the son of Grand Slam ran through the pain, capturing his third victory in four career starts. Prior to that, he had run second to Mr. Jester in the $1 million Boyd Gaming Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs on Dec. 5. Breaking from post 10 under Shane Sellers, he'll have to show good speed to get position going into the first turn.
Another jockey decision of interest is John Velazquez choosing to ride Pollard's Vision over Shaniko, even though Shaniko looks to be more suited to a mile and a quarter. Pollard's Vision, a 5 3/4-length allowance winner last out going 1 1/16 miles, will break from post 7. Jerry Bailey picks up the mount on Shaniko (post 4), who was no match for Swingforthefences in allowance company last time out.
Breaking from the rail will be Borrego, runner-up to Master David in the nine-furlong Sham Stakes last time out. Trained by Beau Greely, the son of El Prado
is improving with each start and should be tough under Victor Espinoza.
Wimbledon, coming off an eight-length maiden romp, has Baffert excited. He has learned to relax and Baffert feels he's developed into a top-class racehorse and is his his most promising 3-year-old at this point. He'll break from post 3 under Javier Santiago.
One horse who could be overlooked is Shadowland, a solid second in the Lecomte who has been working sharply and gets the services of Pat Day. He will appreciate the added distance and is an intriguing longshot.
Rounding out the field are Nightlifeatbigblue, a game third in the Risen Star; Stolen Time, a former Calder-based horse now trained by Bill Mott, who will be making his first start of the year; and Indian War Dance, a 6 1/2-length allowance winner at Aqueduct on Feb. 5.
Entrants for the grade II Louisiana Derby, $600,000 guaranteed, 3-year-olds, one mile and a sixteenth:
PP, Horse, Trainer, Jockey, Weight
1 -- Borrego, Beau Greely, Victor Espinoza, 122
2 -- Breakaway, Neil Howard, Calvin Borel, 122
3 -- Wimbledon, Bob Baffert, Javier Santiago, 122
4 -- Shaniko, Todd Pletcher, Jerry Bailey, 122
5 -- Stolen Time, Bill Mott, Cornelio Velasquez, 122
6 -- Shadowland, Ralph Nicks, Pat Day, 122
7 -- Pollard's Vision, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 122
8 -- Indian War Dance, Richard Dutrow, Edgar Prado, 122
9 -- Gradepoint, Neil Howard, robby Albarado, 122
10 -- Fire Slam, David Carroll, Shane Sellers, 122
11 -- Nightlifeatbigblue, Bobby Barnett, Eddie Martin Jr. 122