Hall of Famers Headline Louisiana Derby Trainers
Four Thoroughbred trainers already ensconced in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at Saratoga, and two others on a path to first-year-of-eligibility induction, will be represented by seven horses – more than half the field – in Saturday’s Grade II Louisiana Derby.
Also, with its new purse of $750,000, the nine-furlong Louisiana Derby will become the richest race ever run at Fair Grounds, which recent research has revealed as the nation’s second oldest Thoroughbred race course.
Bill Mott, who became the youngest person ever inducted into the Hall of Fame when honored in 1998 at the age of 45, is represented by WinStar Farm’s Drosselmeyer Saturday. The son of Distorted Humor finished fourth in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes here Feb. 20. The native of South Dakota won the 1991 Louisiana Derby with Richman, the 1984 edition with Taylor’s Special and won back-to-back Eclipse Awards in 1995 and 1996.
D. Wayne Lukas, inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1998, won the 1996 Louisiana Derby with Grindstone, who went on to become the second horse in history to parlay his local victory to one in the Kentucky Derby. Saturday he'll saddle Wow Wow Wow. Other Lukas victories in the Run for the Roses came in 1988 with Winning Colors, in 1995 with Thunder Gulch and in 1999 with Charismatic. Lukas won Eclipse Awards in 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1994. The Wisconsin native has Marylou Whitney’s Wow Wow Wow in this year’s Louisiana Derby. The son of Broken Vow finished eighth in Aqueduct’s Grade III Gotham March 6. Lukas also won the Louisiana Derby in 1983 with Balboa Native.
Nick Zito was inducted into the Hall in 2005, has never won the Louisiana Derby but saddled Strike the Gold to win the Kentucky Derby in 1991 and returned to that winner’s circle again in 1994 with Go for Gin. The native of New York City is represented by Richard Pell’s Fly Down in Saturday’s Louisiana Derby. That horse won his last start in first level allowance company at Gulfstream on Feb. 21.
Bob Baffert, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame less than a year ago last spring, won the 2004 Louisiana Derby with Wimbledon, won three successive Eclipse Awards in 1997, 1998 and 1999, and will be represented by Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable’s The Program on Saturday. That son of Harlan’s Holiday finished third in Santa Anita’s Grade III Sham Stakes March 6. Baffert, a native of Nogales, Arizona, won the 1997 Kentucky Derby with Silver Charm and came right back to the winner’s circle there with Real Quiet in 1998. A third Kentucky Derby win came in 2002 with War Emblem.
Todd Pletcher, Eclipse Award-winning trainer for four straight years (2004-2007), will become an obvious first round inductee to the Hall of Fame once eligible. Pletcher, who began his career as an assistant to Lukas, won the Louisiana Derby in 2007 with Circular Quay. The Texas native has two horses in Saturday’s Louisiana Derby. E. Paul Robsham Stable’s Discreetly Mine won the Grade III Risen Star Stakes here Feb. 20 and is the morning line favorite to repeat in Saturday’s 97th running, but Pletcher also has Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s Mission Impazible running in the local season’s showcase race. That horse was most recently a troubled-trip fourth in Oaklawn’s Grade III Southwest Stakes Feb. 20.
Steve Asmussen, another Texas native and another sure fire first round Hall of Fame inductee once eligible, is the nation’s defending Eclipse Award-winning trainer and will officially win his ninth Fair Grounds leading trainer title this weekend. Asmussen won the 2008 Louisiana Derby with Pyro after capturing anearlier edition with Fifty Stars in 2001 and has Island Soul this time around.
Nick Zito-Jose Lezcano Trainer-Jockey Tandem Tops 2010 Purse Earnings
Based largely on their win in last weekend’s $750,000 Florida Derby with Ice Box, the trainer-jockey combination of Nick Zito and Jose Lezcano are the nation’s top money earners in their respective categories at the present time.
Zito, 62, a New Yorker, and Lezcano, 24, a Panamanian, team up again with Fly Down this weekend in Fair Grounds $750,000 Louisiana Derby.
Jockey James Graham Closing in on 1,000-Win Milestone
Irish-born jockey James Graham entered Friday’s Fair Grounds racing program eight wins shy of the 1,000-win milestone, with 10 mounts scheduled Friday.