But it will be Fat Saturday in the Bayou when El Padrino meets 10 other Derby hopefuls in the Risen Star Stakes--and that’s not even the fat part. Instead, it's the fat undercard being offered in New Orleans, a.k.a. “Louisiana Derby Preview Day,” when Derby fortunes can really change.
In addition to the Grade 2 Risen Star, Fair Grounds will host the G3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes for sophomore fillies eyeing the Fair Grounds Oaks, the Grade 3 Mineshaft, for handicappers on the road to the New Orleans Handicap, and the G3 Fair Grounds Handicap, the local prep for the Mervin Muniz Memorial.
All but the Fair Grounds Oaks will be run on Louisiana Derby Day, April 1. The Oaks goes on Friday, one day earlier.
The simulcast spotlight is odds-on to land on NOLA and Gulfstream Park Saturday. In addition to the four stakes named, Fair Grounds will offer two others, both on turf; the 5-1/2 furlong Colonel Power for older sprinters and the Gentilly for Louisiana-bred 3-year-olds going one mile.
Gulfstream, meanwhile, features three graded events, headlined by the return of 3-year-old filly champion Royal Delta in the G3 Sabin Stakes, her lone and last appearance in South Florida this winter before taking on the world's best males in the $10 million Dubai World Cup against the world's best males, including Kentucky Derby winning Animal Kingdom.
As one might surmise, the Colonel Power and Gentilly will offer good wagering opportunities as 12 sprinters and 11 routers, respectively, have been entered well in advance of race day. We'll be taking a closer look at Gulfstream's Grade 3 The Very One, the G3 Sabin and G2 Davona Dale.
Fair Grounds--or any bettor-friendly tracks, such as the two in Florida, that decide to draw their featured programs well in advance--deserves the support of fans for providing bettors with more preparation time.
Good job by the Fair Grounds this week. The hope is that more tracks will support the idea of providing customers, i.e. bettors, with an important and thoughtful service. (With so many post times in conflict, handicappers cannot make appropriate last-minute adjustments unless they know a particular event thoroughly).
El Padrino, despite two impressive wins coming over wet surfaces, will be a very tough out. His Equiform figure of 76¼ represents a huge forward move and makes him susceptible to a regression.
Among his rivals, the second highest figure of any two-turn performer was the 71¾ earned by Jockey Club Stakes fourth finisher Optimizer last fall at Churchill Downs.
Admittedly, this is comparing a February 3-year-old with a November juvenile, but the difference between the two is significant: A little more than 8 lengths, in fact.
On the Equiform scale, 1 point at a mile and a sixteenth is approximately 2¼ lengths, making the difference between the highest and second-highest routes figures in the race is 10+ lengths.
Less a maturity factor of approximately 1 point per month--as 2-year-olds mature into 3-year-olds--is a difference of about 8 lengths and a head. Understand that’s raw data excluding traditional handicapping tenets.
Although we are loathsome of the “he could bounce and win dictum,” the “fastest” router would need to regress about four lengths while the “second fastest” horse progresses four lengths and the result would be a photo that goes to El Padrino.
(Hope all this figuring doesn’t make Javier overconfident…and overcautious).
On the distaff side, with the declaration of early line Rachel Alexandra favorite Applauding, Believe You Can will be elevated to public’s choice status, especially considering the connections of trainer Larry Jones and Fair Grounds leading rider “Rosie” Napravnik.
“We were talking about this the other day,” Jones said during Tuesday’s NTRA nationwide teleconference, “we [Jones and Napravnik] only lost two races when we got together.
“We’ve done some business over the years, 2008 and 2009 in Maryland. I rode Rosie in a stakes race and she won by seven.”
On the use of Napravnik and others, Jones explained “Gabe Saez does a lot of riding for me but he moved his tack to Oaklawn so we had to look for several riders. [We took Rosie] because she rides with a lot of confidence.”
This combination will be very hard to beat in the Rachel Alexandra. With Applauding out, Believe We Can and Summer Applause, the latter for the team of Bret Calhoun and seven-time Fair Grounds riding champion Robby Albarado, become the two choices.
Triple Crown fans will remember Tres Borrachos from the chase of 2008. Since finishing third in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, he’s subsequently placed in both the G3 Native Diver and the G2 San Pasqual back home out west.
Saturday’s Grade 3 Mineshaft and 1-1/16 miles seems ideal. This is clearly the gelded 7-year-old’s best distance and Edgar Prado likes him well enough to ship in from Gulfstream Park even if the 121-pound highweight lacks experience over the sometimes quirky surface.
No such issue at Gulfstream, where conditions are expected to be fast and firm. Weather handicappers say there's a 20% chance of isolated showers. Horseplayers aren't the only handicappers who know how to hedge their bets.