Home of the Louisiana Derby

Barn Notes: Wednesday, January 1

IN TODAY'S NOTES: 75 Sophomores Make Up Early LA. Derby Noms; Jockey Anna Roberts Hangs Up Her Tack

Seventy-five sophomores have been made Early Bird Nominations to the upcoming 101st running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby to be contested at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on March 29.

Early bird nominations, which closed Dec. 16, include the nomination fees for the 70th anniversary edition of the Grade III Lecomte Stakes at a mile and 70 yards on Jan. 18 (Road to the Derby Kickoff Day) and the 40th renewal of the Grade II Risen Star Stakes at 1 1/16-miles on Feb. 22 (Louisiana Derby Preview Day) as well as the Louisiana Derby as the centerpiece race of the New Orleans thoroughbred season.

However, what makes this year’s renewal of the nine-furlong Grade II Louisiana Derby especially appealing is the fact that a healthy number of its early bird nominees are on the grounds at the Crescent City oval and have already displayed their ability in front of Fair Grounds fans.

Alphabetically, those would begin with Brereton Jones’s Albano, trained byLarry Jones. That son of Istan who is a half-brother to Jones’s 2012 Louisiana Derby and Risen Star runner-up Mark Valeski broke his maiden at Fair Grounds Nov. 24 and went on to capture the $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes Dec. 21. 

The Jones owner-trainer tandem also has Divine View as an early bird nomination.  That son of Divine Park broke his maiden at Churchill Downs Nov. 16, disappointed when sixth in Remington’s $250,000 Springboard Mile but bounced back to breeze a bullet half-mile in 47.20 at Fair Grounds on New Year’s Eve.

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Gold Hawk, a son of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker trained by defending trainer champion Steve Asmussen, broke his maiden at Churchill Nov. 30 and introduced himself locally with an impressive 3 ½-length tally last Friday.

On Dec. 19 at Fair Grounds, JMJ Racing Stables’ Unknown Road, a son of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini who is conditioned by three-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Al Stall Jr., broke his maiden with an 11 3/4-length score.

Ron Winchell’s Tapiture, a son of Tapit also trained by Asmussen who captured Churchill’s Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes Nov. 30, has worked twice in New Orleans since then, most recently last Sunday when he breezed a half-mile over sloppy going in 51.20. 

Ubiquitous conditioner Todd Pletcher, who won the Louisiana Derby last year with WinStar Farms’ Revolutionary, in 2010 with Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Mission Impazible and in 2007 with Michael and Doreen Tabor’s Circular Quay, leads all trainers this year with nine early bird Louisiana Derby nominations.

Asmussen, a 13-time Fair Grounds trainer champion who won the Louisiana Derby with Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Pyro in 2008 and James Cassels and Bob Zollars’ Fifty Stars in 2001 has made eight early bird nominations this year.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who won the Louisiana Derby and later the Kentucky Derby with Overbrook Farm’s Grindstone in 1996, also won the local Derby with R. H. Spreen’s Balboa Native in 1983.  Lukas has made seven early bird nominations to the 2014 Louisiana Derby.

Defending Fair Grounds trainer champion Tom Amoss, who has 10 local titles to his credit, has early bird- nominated Paul and Andrena Van Doren’s Grade III Delta Jackpot hero Rise Up.  Rise Up, currently on a brief vacation in Ocala, breezed a bullet five furlongs in a minute flat at Fair Grounds prior to his successful Delta Downs invasion.  Jerry Namy’s Kendall’s Boy, also trained by Amoss, is another early bird nominee.

FAIR GROUNDS JOCKEY ANNA ROBERTS HANGS UP HER TACK —Jockey Anna Roberts, who rode at Fair Grounds sparingly over the last several years after graduating from Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron’s North American Racing Academy, will no longer pursue a career in the saddle.

“I’m doing some ‘eventing’ (show jumping) now with a horse named Benny and the Jets, who I rode once at Ellis Park during the summer of 2011 when he raced under his thoroughbred name of (Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable’s) Benziger for trainer Ronny Werner,” Roberts said while visiting her mother (Fair Grounds track photographer Lynn Roberts)in her office last week.

“I won the last race I rode on a horse named (Brad Raney’s) Randy Paul for Karl Broberg.  “I broke his maiden on Sept. 21 at Louisiana Downs,” Roberts said. “Now, I’m going back to nursing school at Bossier Parish Community College to become an R.N.”

Roberts retires with 69 wins from 731 mounts, with 82 seconds, 79 thirds and purse earnings of $516,864.