Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges, Jr.

Machen, Wilkinson Prepare for La. Derby

Machen worked four furlongs in :48 under jockey Edgar Prado March 21.

Jockey Edgar Prado flew up from South Florida to New Orleans the evening of March 20 to work Courtland Farm’s Machen for trainer Neil Howard the morning of March 21 in advance of the March 26 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds.

“He’s a very nice horse,” said Prado in a release. The jockey was aboard the son of Distorted Humor for the first time in the March 21 half-mile move that was clocked in :48. “He’s a very athletic horse and he galloped out real nice for me (five furlongs in 1:02 1/5). It’s always good to get on a horse before you ride him in a race to learn any little thing you can about  the horse, like if he tries to duck in or get out on you, but I had no problems with this horse.”

The Peruvian-born Prado will be returning to Fair Grounds March 26 to ride Machen in the Louisiana Derby, the centerpiece race of the local season and an event which will become the richest race ever run in New Orleans with the March 26 renewal. Machen is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line for the $1 million race.

“It’s always nice to come to New Orleans to ride in the Louisiana Derby because it’s the biggest race there is down here,” Prado said. “It’s been especially nice for me, because I was lucky to win it with (Edmund Gann’s) Peace Rules in 2003. I’d love to win it again for Neil and Mr. (Courtlandt owner Donald) Adam. I rode (Courtlandt’s) Adriano for Mr. Adam and won the Lane’s End (gr. II) at Turfway with that horse.”

Trainer Neil Howard also breezed Gaillardia Racing’s Wilkinson a half mile March 21 shortly after the track opened for training in advance of the Louisiana Derby.

Wilkinson, who won the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds Jan. 22 as the first leg of Fair Grounds’ three-race series for sophomores, breezed the four furlongs in :48 1/5 and galloped out five in 1:01 1/5 with exercise rider Dane Noel aboard while working in company with Dogwood Stable’s Mine Train.

A son of Lemon Drop Kid , Wilkinson broke his maiden at Fair Grounds Dec. 10 in his last start as a 2-year-old and is the 8-1 fourth choice on the morning line for the Louisiana Derby.

“I’m pleased with both of them and the way they are coming up to the (Louisiana Derby),” said Howard in a statement. He spoke after Wilkinson and Machen also worked following the track’s mid-morning renovation. “They both went nice and both worked about the same. We didn’t want to ship them anywhere. It’s nice to be able to stay in your own backyard and when they made this race a mile and an eighth last year they did me a big favor.

“Machen is a nice, laid back kind of horse and nothing seems to bother him,” said Howard, “but Wilkinson – I think he likes to lay awake at night thinking, ‘What can I do tomorrow to mess things up for myself?’ 

“You have to train these horses physically hard, but you also have to train them mentally to be prepared to get knocked around in a race, so I’m glad Edgar Prado was able to be here to help us with Machen this morning. Believe me when I say these horses know when they have a jock on their back. Edgar seemed to be pleased, and I think Machen got a lot out of his last race (a fourth-place finish in the Risen Star Stakes, gr. II, at Fair Grounds Feb. 19). He hadn’t really been battle-tested until that race, so I think he got the benefit of two or three races worth of experience all wrapped up into one.”

Other Louisiana Derby candidates going a half mile on the work tab the morning of March 21 at Fair Grounds included Gallant Stable’s Majestic Harbor  (:50 4/5), Team Block’s Mavericking (:48 3/5), and Thomas Amenta and Tom Amenta II’s Liondrive (:48 4/5).

Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Populist Politics, entered in the Louisiana Derby as well as Friday’s $75,000 Crescent City Derby, went five furlongs in 1:00 1/5.