Louisiana Derby Hopeful Machen Punches Out Second Win in Sunday Feature

Courtlandt Farm’s promising sophomore colt Machen, away from the gate sluggishly and forced to check going into the first turn, recovered by splitting the field in upper stretch, angled out when clear but then drew off with authority for a five-length score under a patient ride by jockey Jamie Theriot Sunday in Fair Grounds’ $49,000 allowance optional claiming feature.

One of a handful of promising 3-year-olds trained by Neil Howard, Machen remains a colt with Louisiana Derby potential but one who also showed the inexperience to be expected from a young horse making only the second start in his undefeated two-race career.

“It was only his second start and, it’s funny, he’s got a great demeanor, but these 3-year-olds, they’re still kind of young and they’re looking around,” Howard said. “They’re not completely smooth yet. I think all of that will subside away.”

Machen was blocked behind horses approaching the quarter-pole, giving his connections a few anxious moments before Theriot found running room.

“Jamie looked like he was sitting on horse,” Howard said. “He was just kind of sitting there, perched up. It looked like he had plenty of horse under him and then when that hole opened up he accelerated beautifully. You couldn’t not be happy with what you saw there.”

The son of Distorted Humor out of the multiple graded stakes-winning More Than Ready mare Ready’s Gal – easily the public’s choice – paid $2.10, $2.10 and $2.10 while increasing his career earnings to $51,600 and touring the mile and 70-yard distance in 1:40.63.

Pin Oak Stud’s Don Dulce, unhurried early, rallied to be clearly second best, finishing a length and a half to the good of Ace Thoroughbreds’ Lusterdust. Don Dulce returned $2.40 and $2.10 and Lusterdust paid $2.80.

M&H Stables’ Tapilu and Lothenbach Stables’ Crown of Aragorn alternated for the early lead with splits of 25.58 and 50.68 before tiring.

Howard indicated that the Feb. 19 Grade II Risen Star Stakes is a possibility for Machen’s next start, but the trainer has two other New Orleans-based 3-year-old stakes prospects to consider in Prime Cut (also owned by the Courtlandt Farm stable of Texas banker Don Adam) and Grade III Lecomte Stakes winner Wilkinson.

Racing resumes Monday at Fair Grounds with a nine-race program beginning at 12:40 p.m.