Edmund Gann's Peace Rules, a late entrant to Sunday's $750,000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds, spoiled the supposed showdown between Kafwain and Badge of Silver with a convincing victory in his first stakes race on dirt.
In the process, the Florida-bred son of Jules gave trainer Bobby Frankel a clear contender in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Frankel, who has never won a Triple Crown race, also has Florida Derby (gr. I) hopeful Empire Maker, regarded as Frankel's leading candidate. But Peace Rules defeated Bob Baffert's well regarded Kafwain by 2 1/4 lengths in a stakes record-tying time of 1:42 3/5 for the 1 1/16 mile, so that could change.
"I really didn't think I'd win the race, to be honest with you, but I just wanted to see," said Frankel, who has won the last three Eclipse Awards as champion trainer. "We found out he could handle the dirt. He's trained so beautifully on the dirt and that's why we brought him over here."
Peace Rules was scheduled to run in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) yesterday, but in mid-week, Frankel, citing the $750,000 purse and the development of his colt, changed direction and entered in Louisiana instead. He had plenty going against him and some wondered if Frankel had aimed a little high. The chestnut colt hadn't raced since Dec. 28, was going the distance for the first time and was returning to the dirt after winning three of four on turf, including the one-mile Generous (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park on Nov. 30.
But jockey Edgar Prado got Peace Rules into a good stalking position in second, a couple of lengths behind Funny Cide down the backstretch through fractions of :23 2/5, :46 3/5 and 1:10 3/5. Badge of Silver, the undefeated 6-5 favorite who had to overcome the outside starting post in the 10-horse field, made a three-wide move on the final turn to take the lead into mid-stretch, but he could not hold off Peace Rules and faded to sixth.
Kafwain, 7-5 in the betting and coming off a resounding win in the San Vicente (gr. II) at Santa Anita Feb. 1, was in mid-pack early, made a move on the turn and continued to make progress through the stretch but could not threaten the winner, who kicked away from Kafwain in deep stretch.
"My horse showed a lot of courage," Prado said of his first Louisiana Derby mount. "I really did like the way he galloped out. He wasn't blowing really hard and that's a good indication he could go further. When Badge of Silver came to me on the turn, he really dug in and got after it. I am very happy with his performance."
"I wanted him to be a lot closer because speed was playing well today," said Kafwain trainer Bob Baffert. "It is good to have such a consistent colt like this one. I thought he fell a little far behind. I would have loved to see him closer early on. He ran second on heart and guts."
Robby Albarado, aboard Badge of Silver, said everything seemed in order.
"I really thought I put that horse (Peace Rules) away when we came up on the outside," said Robby Albarado. "I wouldn't give up on this horse yet. We just have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what happened, but I am still very high on this horse."
Funny Cide, after setting a solid pace, was another length behind Kafwain, holding off Lone Star Sky for third.
Frankel said he would consider taking Peace Rules to Lexington for the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) on April 12.
"The horse has been training fantastic," Frankel said. "He's a courageous horse."
Peace Rules has won four of his past five races, his only loss by a head to man Among Men in the Pinjara on the Santa Anita grass on Oct. 24. Overall, he's 4-1-1 in seven career starts. He picked up a winner's share of $450,000, bringing his career earnings to $659,990. Newchance Farm bred Peace Rules, who started his career in New York last summer for trainer Gary Contessa.
Sent off at 9-1, Peace Rules paid $20.80, $6.20 and $4.60. Kafwain returned $3.20 and $2.60. Funny Cide's show price was $4.
A total of $2.36 million was wagered on the Louisiana Derby, the second-highest single wagering race in Fair Grounds history. The 2000 Derby had $2.47 million in wagers.
On the Derby undercard, Itsmybag captured the Battler Star Handicap for 3-year-old Louisiana-bred fillies. Itsmybag, ridden by Frank Lovato Jr. and trained by Keith Desormeaux, paid $29.40 and ran the six furlongs in 1:11.80.