Vicar's in Trouble cruised to victory in the Louisiana Derby.

Vicar's in Trouble cruised to victory in the Louisiana Derby.

Hodges Photography/Alexander Barkoff

Vicar's in Trouble Dictates Louisiana Derby

Little Louisiana-bred colt goes gate-to-wire for Rosie Napravnik at Fair Grounds.

Vicar's in Trouble led every step of the way, turning back the challenge of favored Intense Holiday to post a comfortable win in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (gr. II), the centerpiece of the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots meet March 29 (VIDEO).

The little Louisiana-bred Into Mischief  colt earned his way into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) with the victory. He rebounded from a troubled trip in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) last time out while turning the tables on Intense Holiday, the 9-5 choice in the Louisiana Derby's field of 10.

Rosie Napravnik took advantage of the pace scenario to guide 3-1 shot Vicar's in Trouble to a 3 1/2-length victory in a time of 1:50.77 for 1 1/8 miles on a track rated fast. It was a big day for the nation's leading female rider, who earlier on the card won the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) with heavily favored Untapable. She is likely on the favorite for this year's Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. II) May 2, a day before she is to ride 3-year-old Vicar's in Trouble in the Derby at Churchill Downs.

"You know, he is a tiny horse but he's got a great big heart," Napravnik said of Vicar's in Trouble.

Mike Maker trains Vicar's In Trouble for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who had already locked up one berth in the Kentucky Derby when We Miss Artie  captured the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) March 22 at Turfway Park. The Ramseys are to also start Bobby's Kitten  in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) April 12 at Keeneland.

Bred by Spendthrift Farm, Vicar's In Trouble is the first stakes winner out of the winning Vicar mare Vibrant, who has produced three winners from four starters. He was an $8,000 purchase at the Equine Sales of Louisiana 2012 yearling sale by Clyde Taylor, then sold to the Ramseys for $80,000 when consigned by Pike Racing at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale last May.

Vicar's in Trouble posted his third win of the Fair Grounds meet. He ttook the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 18 after breaking his maiden against state-breds by 13 lengths a month earlier. Sent off as the favorite in the Risen Star Feb. 22 while breaking from post 13, Vicar's in Trouble got caught four wide on both turns after a slow start and then weakened to finish third. He was 5 1/2 lengths behind Intense Holiday that day.

"Last time we drew a terrible post and had a terrible trip, but that's now a distant memory," Maker said. "When the speed didn't go, Rosie could dictate (the pace) and she did a fabulous job. His tactical speed makes him interesting in the Derby."

Vicar's in Trouble pinged out of the gate quickly to lead 45-1 Louies Flower when the expected speed to his outsideRise Up, In Trouble, and Albanofailed to materialize. Vicar's in Trouble stepped the opening half mile in quarter mile splits of :23.56 and :47.86 before Rise Up pushed his way up to challenge on the outside. Vicar's in Trouble was unhurried, reaching the three-eighths pole in 1:12.14 still firmly in command. Meanwhile, the stalking Intense Holiday was experiencing traffic issues down on the inside with Mike Smith and even appeared to brush the rail at one point.

"The inside horse (Louies Flower) jumped out, right on me," Smith said. "But the race was over at that point."

Vicar's in Trouble and Intense Holiday, who was able to angle off the inside rounding the far bend, pulled away from the remainder of the field coming into the stretch. Intense Holiday gave chase under left-handed urging but was unable to make an impact on the leader. Vicar's in Trouble bounded clear mid-stretch and held sway under consistent urging as Napravnik took a quick look for any challengers.

"She (Napravnik) rode a great race. A brilliant race actually," Smith said. "It turned it into a two-furlong sprint, not a three-eighths type race where we can run out."

Commanding Curve, recovering after being pinched back to last at the start, finished with interest for third with Robbie Albarado aboard, 1 1/2 lengths behind Intense Holiday.

"He's progressing every time," Albarado said of Commanding Curve, who improved off a sixth in the Risen Star for West Point Thoroughbreds and trainer Dallas Stewart. "I got eliminated at the start, but he ran on so easily. There's more there."

In Trouble, the original fourth-place finisher, was disqualified for interference on the backstretch and placed fifth, elevating Albano to the fourth spot.

"In Trouble wheeled out and he hit my horse so hard, it knocked the air out of him. He just couldn't recover from that," jockey Kerwin Clark said of Albano.

Flat Gone, King Cyrus, Gold Hawk, Louies Flower, and Rise Up completed the order.

Vicar's in Trouble boosted his earnings to $788,900 with the winner's share of $600,000, posting his third win in five lifetime starts. Napravnik has ridden the dark bay/brown colt in each of his races.

Under equal weights of 122 pounds, he paid $8.60, $4.40, and $3 as the third choice. Intense Holiday returned $3.20 and $2.60, completing a $26.60 exacta. Commanding Curve paid $5.20.