You would think that $1 million in prize money and 100 Kentucky Derby points would be more than enough to attract top-tier, Kentucky Derby contenders into the Louisiana Derby. Maybe it will be in 2021, but it hasn't worked out that way in the last decade and beyond.
Just two Louisiana Derby winners completed the double and collected the Roses too, BLACK GOLD (1924) and GRINDSTONE (1996). The 1998 champ, RISEN STAR finished third at Churchill but went on to win the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
Of the last 10 to visit the La Derby's winners' circle, only GUN RUNNER and REVOLUTIONARY finished in the Kentucky Derby's first three, both earning show dough. Nonetheless, the Louisiana is the first Derby qualifier to award the winner 100 points. Barring injury or post-race disqualification, Saturday's winner (runner up most likely too) is a lock to make the Kentucky Derby field and vaults his name into contender status, despite the Louisiana Derby's results at Churchill on the first Saturday of May.
Since moving to the points qualifying system in 2013, every Kentucky Derby winner collected at least 100 points on its path to Louisville. As we do for many of the big races, Horse Racing Radar reviewed the last 10 Louisiana Derby champs to build the Profile of a Louisiana Derby Winner.
The number one trend that sticks out is eight of the last 10 to wear the La Derby crown had previous experience at Fair Grounds. Last year's winner WELLS BAYOU and REVOLUTIONARY in 2013 are the exceptions. Other than those two, every other ran at the New Orleans track and seven in the Risen Star Stakes.
For the 2021 field of eight, only HOT ROD CHARLIE (PP: 5) has not raced at Fair Grounds and six of the eight are coming out of the Risen Star, RUN CLASSIC (PP: 3) won a Fair Grounds maiden in his last. MANDALOUN (PP: 6) is the current Risen Star Champ and likely to be the public's choice on Saturday.
Favoritism wins its fair share but aren't chalky. Five of the last 10 winners were the post time choice and went off at average odds of 5/2. That's livable, especially considering 11 is the typical field size, just eight this year. As for the other five favorites, four hit the board and one ran out of the money. It looks like horseplayers will need to have the post time favorite on their exotic tickets.
Early pace is another pattern on our list. Seven of the last 10 to hit the Fair Grounds wire first ran in the front four at the quarter-pole, but only one managing to go wire-to-wire. Co-pilot was the average position for the seven early speed wins.
Looking at the three starts prior to the Louisiana Derby, seven of the last 10 winners ran their top Equibase speed figure in the race prior to the La Derby. Most likely, Saturday's victor will need to top the 100 mark as nine of the last 10 champs exceeded triple digits. Just five managed to hit a reading of 100 or more in the race before the La Derby; however, four of them won. Overall, seven of the last 10 hit or topped triple digits on the speed gun in at least one of the three races prior to the Louisiana Derby. Only HOT ROD CHARLIE has managed to achieve the Equibase milestone; however, it was two races ago in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He posted a 97 in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in his last outing.
Based on the last 10, this is the Profile of a Louisiana Derby Champion.
· Fair Grounds experience; most likely ran in the Risen Star Stakes
· In the first four at the quarter-mile marker
· Has an Equibase, triple digit speed number on his resume; although, the only to hit this mark violates the Fair Grounds' experience rule.
· And is likely to be one of the favorites, possibly the favorite.
While the 2021 Louisiana Champion is likely to share history with past winners, they certainly hope join uncommon history, adding their name to BLACK GOLD's, and GRINDSTONE's as horses to hit the La Derby and Kentucky Derby double.
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