Stakes Advance: Intense Holiday Heads $1 Million Louisiana Derby

Starlight Racing and Jack Wolf’s Intense Holiday, winner of the Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Louisiana Derby Preview Day Feb. 22, has been installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite for Saturday’s 101st running of the Grade II $1 million Louisiana Derby, centerpiece raceof the historic New Orleans oval’s 84-day meeting.

The nine-furlong Grade II Louisiana Derby – as always a significant gauge for Triple Crown candidates –  will be Race  11 of 13 – seven of which are stakes – slated for the penultimate day of the New Orleans oval’s 2013-2014 thoroughbred racing season.  First post time is 12:30 p.m. and the Derby will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network as part of a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” broadcast.

Post time for the Louisiana Derby is approximately 6:10 p.m. CDT.

The Louisiana Derby is worth 170 points -100 for first, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth – in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series that determines qualifying for the world’s most famous horse race, held five weeks after the Louisiana Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Intense Holiday, a sophomore son of Harlan’s Holiday conditioned by Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, launched a bold late bid to capture the Risen Star by a nose in the last stride and has been training forwardly at South Florida’s Palm Meadows training center since returning to his home base.  Prior to his Risen Star score, the Kentucky-bred colt finished a fast-closing third in Gulfstream’s Grade II Holy Bull Stakes Jan. 25 in his first start of the year.  He will leave from the rail (#1) post with Hall of Fame Jockey Mike Smith up.

While gradually maturing as a 2-year-old, last fall, Intense Holiday ran fifth in Belmont’s Grade I Champagne in October and then posted back-to-back fourth-place runs in Aqueduct’s Grade II Nashua and Remsen stakes. 

Capable of providing strong competition for Intense Holiday is Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Vicar’s in Trouble, third in the Risen Star when handicapped by an outside post but the 6 ½-length winner of the Lecomte before that.  He is returning for the Louisiana Derby with Fair Grounds’ three-time defending jockey champion Rosie Napravnik in the saddle once again and benefits from the #6 post this time.  Trained by Mike Maker, he is the 4-1 co-second choice in the morning line for the Louisiana Derby.

Also at 4-1 is Team D’s In Trouble, a Tony Dutrow trainee who won Belmont’s Grade II Futurity last September and has made one start as a sophomore, finishing third in Aqueduct’s Grade III Gotham Stakes March 1 when only beaten a half-length for the win.  In Trouble will be ridden by Joe Rocco and drew post #9.  

Not to be discounted in the Louisiana Derby is Brereton Jones’s Albano, who led in all but the last step of the Risen Star and previously posted a runner-up run here in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes on Road to the Derby Jan. 18.  In the last start of his juvenile campaign, the Larry Jones trainee captured Fair Grounds’ Sugar Bowl Stakes Dec. 21.  Regular rider Kerwin Clark will return in the irons aboard the half-brother to Jones’s Mark Valeski, who finished second in both the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby two years agobefore winning Belmont’s Grade II Peter Pan later that spring.  Albano drew the outside #10 post and is 9-2 in the early line.

Paul and Andrena Van Doren’s Rise Up, hero of the Grade III Delta Jackpot, will leave from post #8.   Trained by Tom Amoss, Rise Up missed the break to finish seventh in the Risen Star but deserves some consideration from previous impressive scores in the $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile and the $200,000 Jean Lafitte. Gerard Melancon will be in the irons.  Rise Up is 10-1 in the early line.

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Gold Hawk, third in the Lecomte and fifth in the Risen Star, is a regally-bred son of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker out of 2000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies champion and deserves some consideration at 12-1 from post #5.   The Steve Asmussen trainee is still in the learning stages of his career but has shown flashes of talent and has the riding services of Shaun Bridgmohan.

WinStar Farm’s King Cyrus, a second Todd Pletcher trainee in the Louisiana Derby, is a 15-1 shot in the morning line who will leave from post #2 under jockey James Graham.  The son of Bellamy Road was the runner-up in Calder’s $75,000 Smooth Air Stakes March 2 in his only start as s 3-year-old.

Wesley Melcher’s Louies Flower, a son of 2005 Travers winner Flower Alley, is  trained by Bret Calhoun and flashed promise when winning Remington’s $250,000 Springboard Mile but disappointed in Oaklawn Park’s Grade III Southwest.  Miguel Mena is the jockey aboard the 20-1 shot who leaves from post #3.

West Point Thoroughbreds’ Commanding Curve, trained by Dallas Stewart, broke his maiden impressively last fall but was trapped inside early and raced wide late in the Risen Star in his only race as a sophomore.  Seven-time Fair Grounds jockey champion Robby Albarado gets the mount aboard the son of Master Command who drew post #7 and is also 20-1 in the early line.

Don’t Tell My Wife Stables’ Flat Gone, trained by Keith Desormeaux and to be ridden by his brother – Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux – is the longest shot in the Louisiana Derby early line at 50-1 after finishing eighth in the Risen Star and will leave from post #4.