How to Bet the Louisiana Derby

March 19th, 2019

I don’t think anyone will deny that #6 War of Will is going to be tough to beat in the March 23 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds.

The 1 1/8-mile races kicks off the final round of Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races offering 100 qualification points to the winner. War of Will hardly needs them; after all, he’s already earned 60 points by virtue of victories in the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) and Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds over the last two months. In both races, War of Will tracked the pace before seizing command and winning decisively with solid (if not overly remarkable) Beyer and BRIS speed figures.

Who can beat him? Well, you can argue that #8 Country House might have a chance, considering that he blew the start in the Risen Star and raced greenly down the homestretch while finishing just 2 ¼ lengths behind War of Will. With a clean run, he might have won, but he also benefited from chasing a solid early pace that mostly fell apart in the homestretch. He’s also made a habit of breaking slowly, so there’s no guarantee that he’ll get off to a more alert start in the Louisiana Derby.

A more intriguing upset candidate is #10 Spinoff, an 8-1 shot on the morning line. Trained by Todd Pletcher, who has won this race four times since 2007, this graded stakes-placed colt recently returned from an injury-induced layoff to dominate a one-mile and 40-yard allowance optional claiming race at Tampa Bay Downs by nearly a dozen lengths. He was a little green when turning for home, but once he straightened out and got going, he pulled away with ease.

From a pedigree perspective, Spinoff is beautifully-bred son of Hard Spun out of the Grade 1 winner Zaftig. His excellent tactical speed should help him secure a forwardly-placed position in the Louisiana Derby, which should be to his advantage since this race isn’t exactly loaded with front-runners.

Actually, the only clear front-running type in the field is #2 Lemniscate, an intriguing longshot from the barn of Kenny McPeek. The son of Exchange Rate showed potential in his first two starts sprinting on dirt (including a runner-up effort behind recent Oaklawn allowance winner Last Judgment), then switched to turf for a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Gulfstream Park and won in gate-to-wire fashion. Lemniscate is returning to dirt today and should secure the lead while breaking from post two; if the early pace is modest, he could take this field a long way on the front end.

My strategy? It’s a bit convoluted. I’ll strongly emphasize War of Will in the top two slots of the trifecta while relying heavily on Spinoff and/or Country House to hit the board. But I’ll also admit that the Derby prep races at Fair Grounds have a tendency to be unpredictable, so I’ll also play some tickets using “all” underneath in hopes of catching a big longshot for second or third:

$1.00 trifecta: 6 with 8,10 with 8,10 ($2) $0.50 trifecta: 8,10 with 6 with 8,10 ($1) $0.50 trifecta: 6 with 8,10 with ALL ($9) $0.50 trifecta: 6 with ALL with 8,10 ($9) $0.50 trifecta: 8,10 with 6 with ALL ($9)

Good luck!