It’s a huge weekend for racing, no matter where you are in the world. And if I had the choice to be at any one of these events this weekend, one would assume it would be a difficult decision. But in all honesty, the only pause in my thought process would come as a result of collecting my thoughts in the attempt to keep from sounding like a crazy person on why I’d rather be in Louisiana than at the Dubai World Cup. The Dubai Carnival is hosting the world’s richest race, after all, and the undercard is filled with enough clashing Titans to rival the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. There’s also the Grade III Sunland Derby in sunny New Mexico, which is coming together with a decent field and a juicy purse of $800,000. But Saturday marks the 98th running of the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, the biggest day of racing in the Big Easy. Drawing from my experience last year, I have this piece of advice for anyone within driving distance of Louisiana: you should do everything within your power to go, just drop everything and go.
Unfortunately, I will be watching all of the festivities from the icebox that is Illinois this year. But I can remember the southern sunshine, the sizzling Cajun food, the live jazz band, the party atmosphere, the brightly-colored hats and palm trees that make up the spectacle surrounding Louisiana Derby day like it was yesterday. No, it doesn’t come close to the madness and mayhem that is the Kentucky Derby, where the world descends upon one track on one special day in May, but it’s no secret that New Orleans knows how to have a celebration, especially surrounding one of their most time-honored traditions.
It has been a long, long time since the winner of the Louisiana Derby went on to win the Kentucky Derby, but droughts and “never befores” are broken each year on the road to the roses, and there’s every chance it could happen again this year. The favorite for the $1 million Louisiana Derby is Mucho Macho Man, the winner of the Grade II Risen Star Stakes at this track. The Macho Man chose to use the Risen Star as his coming out party after running in the shadow of To Honor and Serve as a 2-year-old, and finishing 4th in his 3-year-old debut in the Holy Bull to Dialed In. A big, imposing colt with an extremely late birthday, Mucho Macho Man may be peaking at just the right time to make a splash in the Triple Crown scene.
A bevy of 3-year-olds will throw it down on the line for one last shot for immortality when they try to earn their way into the winner’s circle at old Fair Grounds this Saturday. Elite Alex, the third place finisher of the Grade III Southwest Stakes, has shipped in from Oaklawn to try to bounce back and earn his first stakes victory. Machen, the fourth place finisher in the Grade II Risen Star, will try to regain his winning form and earn his first stakes victory, as well. The winner of the Grade III Lecomte Stakes, Wilkinson, has been refreshed and will try to win from off the bench. Nacho Business and Pants on Fire will be a coupled entry for trainer Kelly Breen; Pants On Fire ran second in the Lecomte, and was sixth in the Risen Star, but will have the guidance of hot jock Rosie Napravnik this time around. Left, a son of Arch and trained by Al Stall, will try his luck at stakes competition for the first time after winning twice in as many starts at Fair Grounds; his last start was 1 mile 70 yards on the dirt. A total field of 13 will contest the Louisiana Derby over 1 1/8-miles.
The undercard on Louisiana Derby Day also features the Fair Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, and the New Orleans and Mervin J. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap for older horses. The stakes action begins with the Bayou Handicap at 1:13pm local time, and will be covered on both HRTV and TVG. The Louisiana Derby will post at approximately 5:03pm ET.
The Dubai Carnival begins early in the morning with the Al Quoz Sprint at 9:15am ET, with the Godolphin Mile, UAE Derby, Dubai Golden Shaheen, Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Sheeman Classic, and the Dubai World Cup following suit. Gio Ponti headlines the richest race in the world, which will go off at Meydan Racecourse at approximately 1:35pm ET and be covered by both HRTV and TVG.
The Sunland Derby will run this Sunday from Sunland Park. Post time is approximately 5:45pm ET, and will be aired live by HRTV and TVG.