As of March 21, a total of nine probables are expected for the $1 million Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds on April 1.
Godolphin Racing’s Alpha , coming off an impressive win in the Feb. 4 Withers (gr. III) at Aqueduct, heads the list of those leaning toward a run in the Louisiana Derby. The bay son of Bernardini is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, who breezed him five furlongs March 17 at Palm Meadows Training Center in 1:01 flat in his most recent work. Alpha is also under consideration for the Wood Memorial (gr. I).
Brereton Jones’ Mark Valeski , who finished second by a nose in Fair Grounds’ Feb. 25 Risen Star (gr. II), is the top locally-based contender. Trained by Larry Jones, who saddled Friesan Fire to win the 2009 Louisiana Derby as well as that year’s Risen Star and Lecomte (gr. III), Mark Valeski breezed five furlongs in a quick :59 2/5 at Fair Grounds March 20.
The Joneses are also planning on sending Mr. Bowling to the race despite his disappointing effort in the Risen Star. He would be a coupled entry with Mark Valeski.
Zayat Stables’ Z Dager, who finished second in this year’s Lecomte and third in the Risen Star, is also being pointed to the 1 1/8-mile event. Conditioned by Steve Asmussen, Fair Grounds’ 10-time leading trainer, Z Dager breezed six furlongs March 19 at Fair Grounds in 1:13 flat.
Among others likely at this time are Jim Tafel’s Afford, sixth in the Risen Star after a troubled trip; Mike Munna Racing Stable’s Comisky's Humor, a winner of his last two by a combined total of 18 lengths; and E. Paul Robsham Stables’ Discreet Dancer, third behind Union Ragsas the favorite in the Faisg-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 26.