Pyro got in his final major preparation for the March 8 Louisiana Derby (gr.II) in Monday morning at the New Orleans track.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Pyro got in his final major preparation for the March 8 Louisiana Derby (gr.II) in Monday morning at the New Orleans track.
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Alexander Barkoff

Pyro Early Favorite in Louisiana Derby

The Asmussen-trained Pyro is the 7-5 morning line favorite in the Louisiana Derby.

(Edited news release)

Winchell Thoroughbreds' Pyro, who stamped himself as a leading Triple Crown contender after his win in last month’s Risen Star Stakes (gr. III), is the 7-5 morning-line choice in a field of nine 3-year-olds entered in the March 8 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds.

The 95th running of the Louisiana Derby is the ninth race on a 12-race card March 8 that will be the richest day of racing in Louisiana history, with stakes purses totaling $2.3 million. Post time for the Derby is 6:48 p.m. EST.

Pyro captured the Risen Star with the help of an impressive last-to-first move in the stretch, and regular rider Shaun Bridgmohan will be in the irons aboard the Steve Asmussen trainee for the upcoming Derby.

Since the son of Pulpit finished second in last year's Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) behind eventual Eclipse Award winner War Pass, the two sophomore colts have quickly become two of the leading contenders in the 3-year-old crop so far this year.

A pair of graded stakes winners as 2-year-olds, the Barclay Tagg-trained Tale of Ekati and Bill Mott-conditioned Majestic Warrior, will be making their seasonal debuts in the Louisiana Derby.

Tale of Ekati, by Tale of the Cat , captured the Futurity Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park before finishing fourth in the Juvenile. Majestic Warrior, by A.P. Indy, won the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, but has not started since finishing sixth in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont last October.

Yankee Bravo, an undefeated, but untested West Coast invader trained by Irishman Patrick Gallagher, merits some consideration in the Louisiana Derby. After winning his only two starts as a 2-year-old -- one on grass in England and the other on Santa Anita’s synthetic surface -- the son of Yankee Gentleman  journeyed to Golden Gate Fields to take the Jan. 27 California Derby, but was once again running over a synthetic surface. He will be ridden by regular rider Alex Solis in his first outing over a traditional dirt track at Fair Grounds.

Also capable of providing strong competition is Blackberry Road, clearly second best in the Jan. 12 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at the Fair Grounds, but fifth in the Risen Star. Six-time Fair Grounds leading rider Robby Albarado will be aboard the son of Gone West in the Derby.

Asmussen will also saddle Zayat Stables' unbeaten J Be K, a front-running Silver Deputycolt, who shipped to Fair Grounds from California to win a Feb. 15 first-level allowance race by five lengths after breaking his maiden in track-record time at Saratoga.

Rounding out the Derby field are the Nick Zito-trained Stevil, Risen Star fourth-place finisher Unbridled Vicar, and recent Fair Grounds allowance winner My Pal Charlie.

Three other grade II stakes are on the March 8 card: the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap for older horses, and the $500,000 Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap for older horses on turf.

Louisiana Derby (gr. II), $600,000, March 8, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles, 4:48 p.m. CST
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Stevil, 122, Calvin Borel
2. My Pal Charlie, 122, Julien R. Leparoux
3. Pyro, 122, Shaun Bridgmohan
4. J Be K, 122, Kent Desormeaux
5. Unbridled Vicar, 122, Corey J. Lanerie
6. Tale of Ekati, 122, Edgar S. Prado
7. Blackberry Road, 122, Robby Albarado
8. Yankee Bravo, 122, Alex O. Solis
9. Majestic Warrior, 122, Garrett Gomez