Jamie Newell: Louisiana Derby week photo essay

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TwinSpires Staff

March 19th, 2021

Fair Grounds
Morning works at Fair Grounds Racecourse (Photo by Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)

Spring in New Orleans cannot be rivaled. Off the heels of the city’s biggest party season, the carnival of Mardi Gras and the hangover that is St. Patrick’s Day, comes Louisiana Derby week.

While the atmosphere will certainly be different this year, with the absence of fans due to COVID-19, a stacked card promises plenty of action and intrigue.

Overnight, a storm blew through the Crescent City, shaking the candy-colored neighborhood around the old Fair Grounds with a furious rainstorm. Only a brisk wind reminded us of the foul weather the next morning, and spirits were high, with the biggest Saturday of the meet just two days away.

Proxy on track in preparation for the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds Racecourse (Photo by Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)

The first contender I saw was Proxy, a bay son of Tapit who has never finished worse than second in five starts. In fact, he was second in both prep races for the Louisiana Derby (G2).

Mandaloun on track in preparation for the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds Racecourse (Photo by Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)

While Proxy took a spin around the track in the dark, Mandaloun waited until sunrise. 

What makes this year’s edition such an event is the fact it’s a tie-breaker between the winners of the Lecomte (G3) and the Risen Star (G2). Proxy finished second to Midnight Bourbon in the Lecomte, where Mandaloun finished third; Mandaloun came back to win the Risen Star over Proxy and Midnight Bourbon. For those who like to bet on winners based on morning appearances, I did not see Midnight Bourbon. 

Run Classic
Run Classic on track at Fair Grounds Racecourse (Photo by Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)

Two new shooters who did make their presence known on Thursday morning were Run Classic and Hot Rod Charlie. Run Classic was the earlier of the two to do his morning trackwork. The Bret Calhoun trainee has one win here from two starts, and will be making his first stakes appearance in the Louisiana Derby. By champion and young sire Runhappy, he should only improve with age.

Hot Rod Charlie
Hot Rod Charlie canters in preparation at Fair Grounds Racecourse (Photo by Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)

Doug O’Neill trainee Hot Rod Charlie sneaked in a spin around the oval after the break. By Oxbow, Hot Rod Charlie was most notably second to Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1); he finished third in the Robert B. Lewis S. (G3) in his only start this year.

Travel Column
Travel Column, with Florent Geroux up, wins the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) over Clairiere at Churchill Downs (Photo by Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)

The Louisiana Derby isn’t the only race deciding the best of three races. The fillies have a score to settle in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), as well. Clairiere, a bay filly by Curlin, most recently won the Rachel Alexandra S. (G2) by a neck over Travel Column. This was their second meeting, as Travel Column had previously defeated Clairiere at Churchill Downs in the Golden Rod (G2) last year. Both of those races came at 1 1/16 miles, the same distance as the Fair Grounds Oaks.

Travel Column
Travel Column jogs in preparation for the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) at Fair Grounds Racecourse (Photo by Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)

The daughter of Frosted made an appearance later in the morning on Thursday, and gave me the side-eye as she surveyed the site of her next duel.

Fair Grounds has a history of staging many a great grudge match. In its previous life as Metairie Race Course, which has been paved over and now exists as a road in the adjacent Metairie Cemetery, the great sire Lexington battled Lecomte in a series of heats in 1854 and 1855. It should only be appropriate modern-day scores be settled on racing’s biggest day in New Orleans, a city for revelry and rivalry.  

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Sunrise during morning trackwork at Fair Grounds Racecourse (Photo by Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)