Louisiana Derby Draws 113 Early Nominations

The Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner and two other Eclipse Award candidates are among 113 early nominees for the 93rd running of the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) March 12 at Fair Grounds.

Wilko, the upset winner of the Juvenile; Roman Ruler, winner of the Norfolk (gr. II), and the undefeated Declan's Moon, who has two graded stakes wins to his credit, are among 10 graded stakes winners on the nomination list.

"I'm extremely happy with the response," said Fair Grounds racing secretary Ben Huffman. "Nominations are up, and that was unexpected considering that (the 2005) crop of 3-year-olds is the generation that was devastated by the MRLS (Mare Reproduction Loss Syndrome) cases."

The Louisiana Derby remains eight weeks before the Kentucky Derby, but it has been shifted to a Saturday and combined with the Fair Grounds Oaks and New Orleans Handicap, two other grade II races, to form the richest stakes card in Louisiana racing history.

Louisiana Derby Day is the last of four major event days on Fair Grounds' 2004-05 schedule.

The Louisiana Derby will be the first major prep to be run at the newly acquired Churchill Downs Incorporated property, following its acquisition in October.
Wilko, owned by J. Paul Reddam and Susan Roy and trained by Craig Dollase, captured the Juvenile in his first U.S. start. He made his first nine career starts in England.

After a win in his debut, Roman Ruler has made his last four starts in graded company for trainer Bob Baffert, but was fifth as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Besides the Norfolk, the son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusiachi Pegasus also won the grade II Best Pal Stakes. Baffert won the 2004 Louisiana Derby with Wimbledon.

Declan's Moon, trained by Ron Ellis for Jay Em Ess Stable, is perfect in three lifetime starts, including the grade II Del Mar Futurity and the grade III Hollywood Prevue.

Trainer Todd Pletcher again topped the nomination list with 17, including grade I Champagne Stakes winner Proud Accolade.

Other graded stakes winners on the nomination list include the Mark Frostad-trained Dance With Ravens, winner of the Grey Breeders' Cup at Woodbine; Defer, who captured the Laurel Futurity for trainer Shug McGaughey; grade II Kentucky Jockey Club winner and Bob Holthus trainee Greater Good; Belmont Futurity winner Park Avenue Ball, trained by James Ryerson; the Patrick Biancone-trained Sense of Style, winner of the grade I Matron at Belmont and the only filly on the nomination list; and two-time graded winner Rockport Harbor, who is conditioned by John Servis, trainer of 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones.

Early-bird nominees automatically are nominated for the $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes on Dec. 24, the $100,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) as part of "Road to the Derby" Kickoff Day Jan. 15, and the Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) as part of Louisiana Derby Preview Day Feb. 12.