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More of the Same in the Louisiana Derby

Horse Racing Radar
Rich Bieglmeier
Saturday, March 20, 2021

The Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds is the first of eight Kentucky Derby points races that offers the winner 100 points, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth. Win and it's you can make plans to run at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May.

For entrants that have already earned a few points, like PROXY (PP: 4 ML 7/2), HOT ROD CHARLIE (PP: 5 ML 3-1) and MIDNIGHT BOURBON (PP: 7 ML 5-1), collecting place and show points and dough could be enough to wiggle into Churchill too. MANDALOUN (PP: 6 ML 6/5) probably has enough points to make the trip to Louisville, Kentucky, but adding more to his total would serve as insurance.

For all the others, win and you are in would be the best outcome, finishing second might do, but anything else means they'll need to run in another stop on the Road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby to get enough points to finish in the top 20.

Six of the eight in the Louisiana Derby faced off a little more than a month ago in the Risen Star Stakes with MANDALOUN hitting the wire first, ahead of PROXY and MIDNOUGHT BOURBON. It was the second consecutive race the trio met and finished 1-2-3. Except, when they competed for the Lecomte title in mid-January, MIDNIGHT BOURNON and MANDALOUN switched places with PROXY separating them once again.

Only RUN CLASSIC (PP: 3 ML 12-1) and HOT ROD CHARLIE (PP: 5 ML 3-1) are unfamiliar foes for this group. Since we have a sense of how the other six stack up, horse players have to figure out where RUN CLASSIC and HOT ROD CHARLIE fit in. Does the Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner up, HOT ROD CHARLIE move to the front of the line and can RUN CLASSIC go from his maiden win to the Kentucky Derby in back-to-back races?

Let's start with HOT ROD CHARLIE, love the name and the Breeders' Cup performance but there really isn't much more than that on his resume. His four races before the BC Juvenile were pedestrian at best and he finished third in his only race since, the Robert B Lewis Stakes. To be fair, he stumbled and was bumped before crossing the tape behind MEDINA SPIRIT and ROMAN CENTURIAN and ahead of SPIELBERG.

In their next race, MEDINA SPIRIT and ROMAN CENTURIAN were obliterated by LIFE IS GOOD in the San Felipe Stakes. Meanwhile, SPIELBERG finished a well beaten second to ESSENTIAL QUALITY in the Southwest Stakes. All appear to be good horses, better than most, but not legitimate Kentucky Derby contenders in their most recent form. Then again, the winner of the Louisiana Derby hasn't been a Kentucky Derby contender too often with just two winners in its long history, going all the way back to 1894.

HOT ROD CHARLIE hasn't raced since the Robert B. and his works have been blah since. He'll probably take in money and likely be one of if not the post time favorite, but we'd like to see him win a race against quality opponents before putting HOT ROD CHARLIE at the top of the ticket.

There isn't much meat on RUN CLASSIC's experience bones. He raced twice, debuting second after exchanging some heavy bumps with the eventual winner and then came back to win round two in his first route. If you dig into his performances, there are some hints that RUN CLASSIC could be a contender.

After being "jostled" in his debut, he backed up and lost ground before fighting back for place money. Again, there is more to the story than you see in RUN CLASSIC's past performance line for his last outing. He had to go three wide in the first turn and then four wide in the second turn. That's usually a losing strategy. However, he battled and won running away with a 1 1/16 time that matches MIDNIGHT BOURBON's winning Lecomte time. If he didn't race three to four wide through the turns, you have to imagine that his winning fraction would have been faster. A clean trip combined with the late pace number he put up in his last effort would make RUN CLASSIC a contender. And you know, he's going to fight all the way to the finish line if his first two are any indication.

HOT ROD CHARLIE will have to run back to his Breeders' Cup form to collect the 100 Derby points. The California invader might get some tail end points if the horse from his other five races shows up.

We don't know RUN CLASSIC's ceiling. We know based on his winning maiden time that he can compete with MIDNIGHT BOURNON, MANDALOUN and PROXY. If RUN CLASSIC improves in his third career start, as we expect, his 12-1 morning line is generous.

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