Pyro continues to move towards the Kentucky Derby with an impressive win in the Louisiana Derby.

Pyro continues to move towards the Kentucky Derby with an impressive win in the Louisiana Derby.

Associated Press

Pyro Makes Statement in La. Derby Win

Pyro won by three lengths in the March 8 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.

The doubters said that Pyro’s last-to-first victory in the Risen Star (gr. III) was not as good as it looked.

There won’t be much for the skeptics to say after the Pulpitcolt’s latest performance, a commanding three-length score in the $600,000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO) March 8 at Fair Grounds, a victory that cemented the Steve Asmussen trainee as one of the top two 3-year-olds in the country.

Under a confident ride from Shaun Bridgmohan, Pyro saved ground along the rail in the backstretch, shot between horses in upper stretch, and pulled away from longshot My Pal Charlie to win going away. Going off as the 4-5 favorite, he stopped the clock in 1:44.44 in the 1 1/16-mile event on a fast track.

Pyro, now 3-2-1 from six career starts, increased his graded earnings to $1,020,000 with the victory. He is owned and bred by Winchell Thoroughbreds.

My Pal Charlie, who was making his first start in stakes competition, hung on gamely for second after setting the pace throughout. The son of Indian Charlie was a half-length ahead of Yankee Bravo. Blackberry Road was fourth.

Breaking from post two, My Pal Charlie grabbed an early lead, posting an opening quarter in :24.10 under Julien Leparoux. Asmussen’s other entry, J Be K, was right there with the leader through a :48.07 half-mile, while Blackberry Road was in third. Pyro settled into fourth along the inside during the backstretch.

As they made their way into the turn, both Blackberry Road and Majestic Warrior advanced into contention from the outside. But as they came out of the turn, My Pal Charlie and J Be K were still the ones to beat. Six furlongs was run in 1:13.86.

It was still anyone's race as they straightened away, until Pyro, showing the powerful finishing kick that he did in the Feb. 9 Risen Star, split the leaders in the upper stretch, caught My Pal Charlie before the sixteenth-pole, and drew clear to win going away.

"I knew what I had under me," said Bridgmohan, who seemed to be caught in traffic around the final turn and had to wait for room. "I wasn't panicking at all. I wanted to keep him closer to see how he would handle that scenario. We saw what an explosive kick he had coming from far back last time."

Pyro, who banked $360,000 for the win, paid $3.60, $2.80, and $2.20. The exacta (3-2) with 60-1 My Pal Charlie returned $81.20, while the trifecta (3-2-8) netted $556.

Nick Zito trainee Stevil was a length behind Blackberry Road in fifth, followed by Tale of Ekati, Majestic Warrior, J Be K and Unbridled Vicar.

Bred in Kentucky, Pyro is out of the Wild Again mare Wild Vision. He is expected to make his final Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) prep April 12 in the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.

"I'm very pleased, especially with the fact that he put himself in the race," Asmussen told Daily Racing Form. "To get done what we're hoping to get done, which is win the Kentucky Derby, he's going to have to be a horse who can make more than one move."

(Chart, Equibase)