Analyzing the Wild Finish of the Louisiana Derby

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

March 26th, 2018

Thus far on the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby, I don’t think any prep race has produced a wilder finish than the $1 million Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds.

Befitting of the first prep race to offer 100 Derby qualification points to the winner, the Louisiana Derby drew a wide-open field of ten horse and featured more than its fair share of big moves and surprising twists.

While it’s a point that can be debated, in my mind the best horse on the day prevailed, that being Noble Indy. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the son of Take Charge Indy entered the Louisiana Derby off of a third-place finish in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds, in which he received an uncomfortable trip racing behind and inside of horses.

Equipped with blinkers for the Louisiana Derby, Noble Indy showed more speed out of the gate and settled nicely into a tracking position as longshot Marmello set fractions of :22.97 and :46.64, on the quick side for Fair Grounds. Noble Indy then seized command rounding the far turn, opening up a two-length lead through six furlongs in 1:11.47 while appearing to be fully in command of the race.

However, Noble Indy has shown a tendency in the past to lose focus once he strikes the front, and turning for home he suddenly lost momentum and dropped back as the late runners Lone Sailor and My Boy Jack unleashed powerful rallies on the outside. Lone Sailor, getting first run, charged to the front and officially led by a length passing the eighth pole, with My Boy Jack also sticking his head in front of Noble Indy, who slipped to third place. But Noble Indy—accepting the challenge—gamely re-rallied in the final furlong, gaining back the lost ground just in time to cross the wire in front by a neck over Lone Sailor, with My Boy Jack another half-length back in third place and the rest of the field nearly eight lengths behind.

Noble Indy stopped the clock in 1:50.28 for nine furlongs, though he might have gone faster with a more focused run down the homestretch. In any case, he received a solid 100 BRIS speed figure and deserves credit for being the only pace horse in the Louisiana Derby to hang around for a respectable finish; Marmello faded to finish last and Risen Star Stakes winner Bravazo finished eighth after racing third early on.

At the same time, I was impressed by My Boy Jack, who unleashed a simply explosive turn-of-foot around the far turn, sweeping past the majority of the field while coming into the homestretch impossibly wide. Under the circumstances, it wasn’t surprising to see him flatten out late in the race; even still, he earned a 106 BRIS Late Pace rating, and with the right trip I think he could be a player from off the pace in the Kentucky Derby.

Who impressed you the most in the Louisiana Derby?