Though virtually assured of a starting slot in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), trainer Keith Desormeaux says he plans to run Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) winner Ive Struck a Nerve in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II).
"We'd be crazy not to run in the Louisiana Derby," said Desormeaux Feb. 24, still in the afterglow of the biggest stakes score of his career. "Plus, we have to represent the home team."
The upcoming $1 million Louisiana Derby will celebrate its 100th anniversary edition March 30.
Desormeaux can't help but dream of the Kentucky Derby after Big Chief Racing's Ive Struck a Nerve's 135-1 shocker in the Risen Star a day earlier. Despite his underdog status, the son of Yankee Gentleman earned 50 points on the new system for determining the entrants for the May 4 Derby, and he tops the standings nationally.
A native of Lafayette, La., Desormeaux has been a Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots-based conditioner for well over a decade. He's been underrated for his own abilities as a horseman while relegated to the shadow of his younger brother, Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux.
"I suppose, like a lot of modern horsemen, I could buy into the theory that fresh is better, and try to train my horse up to the Kentucky Derby off of his race yesterday, but that's not my style," said Desormeaux. "My horse is fit, and it's a lot easier to train an athlete that is fit.
"Fit horses don't get hurt so easily," Desormeaux said. "My horse came back from his race just fine and ate up everything last night and this morning. He keeps good weight on him, and he's heavy-boned.
Ive Struck a Nerve, last in the field of 12 early, closed strongly to overtake the leaders close to home, edging Code West by a nose for a $272.40 win payoff.
"We're having fun with this horse," Desormeaux added, speaking of his relationship with Ive Struck a Nerve's owner, Matt Bryan. "We went out to dinner last night, talked about the future, and had a lot of laughs."
Ive Struck a Nerve has won two of nine starts, for earnings of $305,790.