Home of the Louisiana Derby

Barn Notes: Saturday, February 18


·        Desormeaux Brings Sorry Erik, Seeks Second Risen Star

·        Mo Tom and Rise Up Lead Team Amoss in Mineshaft

·        Barn Favorite Believe in Bertie Steps Up for Cox

·        Cox Stakes Horses Dominate Work Tab



Trainer Keith Desormeaux is coming home to Louisiana for Mardi Gras weekend and not just for the king cakes. The longtime Fair Grounds-based conditioner who now roots his operation in Southern California is shipping in three horses for Louisiana Derby Preview Day, spearheaded by Big Chief Racing’s Sorry Erik, who runs in the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes. In 2013, Desormeaux won the Risen Star with another longshot in Ive Struck a Nerve, so dismissal of the multiple Grade I-winning conditioner may be a fool’s errand.

The Cajun also has graded winner Dalmore for the Grade II $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap and maiden sophomore filly Majestic Quality in the Grade II $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes.

Two starts back, on Jan. 6, Desormeaux claimed Sorry Erik, a son of the Bernardini stallion Wilburn, for a mere $20,000 out of a 1 1/16-miles Santa Anita race. A winner that day by five for previous owner Reddam Racing and trainer Doug O’Neill, he returned four weeks later to more than pay for his price when taking a one-mile first-level allowance event and banking $33,600. Now, with a solid foundation and three victories from eight career starts, Sorry Erik will ship across the country and attempt to take on some of the top sophomores in the country.

Interestingly enough, Sorry Erik will ship in with and take on So Conflated, who races for Reddam and O’Neill.

“It’s hard to explain with him,” Desormeaux said. “We didn’t claim him to do these kinds of things. I had been watching him and knew I liked him physically, but when I got him back to the barn I thought to myself, ‘he is outstanding’.

“I know on numbers we are in a little bit of an uphill battle,” Desormeaux continued. “These 3-year-olds, though, they change quickly and he’s bred to get better. His off-the-pace style should benefit him at the Fair Grounds.”

Desormeaux has had a phenomenal few years since moving his operation to the West Coast. A year and a half after Ive Struck a Nerve gave him his first graded win, he won 2014’s Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with Texas Red – a horse he co-owned – and then the following year won the Grade II Jim Dandy with that same colt. In 2016, he proved that he could develop a serious sophomore when Exaggerator won the Grade I Preakness Stakes, in addition to the Grade I Santa Anita Derby and Grade I Haskell Invitational.

“We’ve been blessed so much and I hope we’re not pushing it,” Desormeaux concluded. “This is only once a year that you have young horses and races like this and we feel the excitement with this horse. We’ll join in and see what we have.”

Sorry Erik was scheduled to work on Saturday morning at Santa Anita, but poor weather forced a delay until Sunday for what will be his final pre-Risen Star drill.



Few horses are loved around New Orleans racing more than Mo Tom, and the darling of the G M B Racing operation and Tom Amoss barn returns for his 4-year-old bow in Saturday’s Grade III $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap. Amoss, an 11-time leading conditioner at the New Orleans oval’s traditional meet warns us to not take his other entrant, Paul Van Doren’s veteran graded stakes winner Rise Up, for granted in the race.

“The Mineshaft is a race that lacks pace and that really helps Rise Up,” he said. “He hasn’t had a break in training or anything and this race fits him. We have tried to enter (in allowances), but those races didn’t go, but he is live in this spot.

“These horses will run independently,” Amoss said. “He’s in there to set the pace as slow as he can and try to win the race and we know he’s a tough horse to run down when he does that.”

Mo Tom, though, is squarely the apple of the trainer’s eye. Long expected to carry the Louisiana state flag for his New Orleans Saints-owning owners, he repeatedly ran into terrible luck throughout his sophomore campaign, but still managed to win the Grade III Lecomte Stakes over this course, as well as the $500,000 Ohio Derby later on in the season. He was given time off after failing to factor in the Grade III Super Derby as the 8-5 favorite in early September.

“This race has been the plan all along,” Amoss said. “He really has put on weight and looks like a phenomenal horse. We’ve said all along that this horse was going to be a better 4-year-old and that’s what he looks like. He’s filled out and his works have been very good.

“With him, the die is cast,” he continued. “He’s a confirmed late closer. Hopefully it sets up for both horses to be able to give their best efforts.”


Talk to leading trainer Brad Cox once about Believe in Bertie and the normally reserved conditioner noticeably brightens up in expression. A filly who has shown intense quality at times in her short career, the Louisiana-bred daughter of Langfuhr has been judiciously handled for owners Richard Klein and Bertram Klein by Cox and such has paid off. In nine starts, the dark bay 4-year-old filly has failed to finish in the top four only once – with seven top-two finishes. Her lone poor effort occurred after a wide trip where she was unable to flash her serious speed. That race, the Grade III Edgewood Stakes, also happened to be won by multiple Grade I winner and Breeders’ Cup champion Catch a Glimpse.

Since then, she has been brought along slowly, dropping into Louisiana-restricted stakes and proving that on Pelican State grass, she is a force. After a minor stakes victory at Evangeline Downs on its turf course in July, she returned to Louisiana three starts later to romp in a confidence-building state-bred allowance race by an in-hand 5¾ lengths.

One race later, she ran 11 fillies off their feet and took down a track record in the process when romping by nearly eight lengths in the $75,000 Pago Hop Stakes against open sophomore fillies on New Year’s Eve. Now, instead of jumping up to graded company again, she will take the more deliberate road and face her elders in local stakes company for the first time in next Saturday’s $75,000 Daisy Devine Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

“She might have more raw talent than any horse I’ve had,” Cox said. “She’s very fast. It’ll be a test taking on these other fillies, but we’ll see what happens. I’m confident and I think she’ll be able to be close to the pace. You can’t take her speed away from her; it’s a great weapon.

“We expect her to run well and give us a big effort,” he continued. “Luckily she hasn’t regressed off her last one and is ready to go.”


Leading trainer Brad Cox had a series of stakes runners working half-miles on Saturday:

Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (1 1/16m, 3yo)

Ø  Arklow                                    4f         49 flat   9/47

Grade III $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap (1 1/8mT, 4+)

Ø  Western Reserve                   4f         49.80   17/47

$75,000 Daisy Devine Stakes (1 1/16mT, 4+f)

Ø  Believe in Bertie                    4f         48.80   7/47

$50,000 Colonel Power Overnight Stakes (5.5fT, 4+)

Ø  Green Mask                           4f         48.40   4/47

Other Stakes Winners of Note

Ø  Cash Control                          4f         49.40   13/47

Ø  Chocolate Ride                      4f         50.20   24/47

Ø  Cowboy Culture                     4f         50.20   24/47