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Hot Jock Napravnik Wins Louisiana Derby Aboard Pants On Fire

Jockey Rosie Napravnik, riding in her first season at Fair Grounds, has increased her lead in the local jockey standings throughout the second half of the meeting, but she put the most appetizing garnish on her Crescent City debut with a neck victory in the richest Thoroughbred race ever run in New Orleans on George and Lori Hall’s Pants On Fire in Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby.

“He (Pants On Fire) had a lot of heart,” said Napravnik after riding her third of five winners on the card. “They said he was best on the lead. And when the 5-horse (pacesetter Liondrive) went out in front of us, I said if he’s stuck outside, hopefully he’s still well off. But he ran with as much heart as a horse can run with down the lane. Mucho Macho Man came up next to us and he just dug in and he really finished with all heart.”

Pants On Fire, trained by Kelly Breen, prompted the pace throughout, responded gamely to the challenge of Zayat Stables’ Nehro and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team One Racing’s favored Mucho Macho Man throughout the final furlong and prevailed in a hard-fought drive.

“I said it all week, this horse is really blossoming,” said Breen. “You know, sometimes you see it and sometimes you don’t…..but we saw it. This horse, he was a little sick, got over it, shipped back and forth three times here. He’s got frequent flyer miles, you know.”

Longshot Nehro, trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Michael Baze, bested Mucho Macho Man, trained by Kathy Ritvo and ridden by Rajiv Maragh, by a half-length.

Asmussen, who will join Hall of Fame member Jack Van Berg as a 10-time Fair Grounds trainer champion at the close of this season tomorrow, was very pleased with Nehro’s effort. “You have to think about the Arkansas Derby but I’ll have to talk to the boss about that one,” he said.

Mucho Macho Man’s trainer Kathy Ritvo noted that Pants On Fire ran a “great race” but that the favorite had lost a shoe out of the gate and ran the whole race without it. “I don’t know which one,” she said. “I’m going back to the barn right now and I’ll find out. One of the gate guys came over and handed it to me. Apparently he stepped on it right out of the gate and ran the whole race without that shoe.”

Pants On Fire earned $600,000 for his Louisiana Derby win, increasing his career earnings to $678,100 with what was only his second win in eight career starts. He had finished second beaten a head in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes here Jan. 22 but was then sixth in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes Feb. 19. The son of Jump Start returned mutuels of $14.60, $7.80 and $4.80 and accomplished the nine-furlong distance in 1:49.92.

Nehro, overlooked in the wagering, paid $31.60 and $11.40, while Mucho Macho Man returned $2.80 to show. 

Elite Alex closed from last to finish fourth and the order of finish was completed by Machen, Wilkinson, Left, the winner’s entrymate Nacho Business, Majestic Harbor, Le Mans, Mavericking and Liondrive, who made the pace with early splits of 23.43 and 47.53 before tiring.