By Ryan Martin

  • Desormeaux Continues to Chase His Derby Dreams With Sueno
  • Last Year’s Louisiana Derby Winner Noble Indy Returns to Fair Grounds for Grade II New Orleans ‘Cap
  • Noble Commander To Scratch From New Orleans Handicap
  • Synchrony Aims To Defend Home Turf in Grade II Muniz Memorial
  • Hog Creek Hustle Enters Louisiana Derby in Top Condition



A trainer of Thoroughbreds for three decades, Keith Desormeaux’s outstanding horsemanship has been displayed at a top level recently with his presence at Churchill Downs on the First Saturday in May for the past three years. The native of Lafayette, La. hopes to make this his fourth year in a row of having a Kentucky Derby contender and sends out Sueno for Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ Grade II $1 million Louisiana Derby.

Owned by Silverton Hill, the dark bay son of Atreides enters the final local prep on Churchill Downs’ Road To The Kentucky Derby off of a close second in the Grade III Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park where he finished three-quarters of a length behind Super Steed, which came after another runner-up effort in the Grade III Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. Desormeaux took the exact same route towards last year’s running of the Kentucky Derby with Louisiana Derby third-place finisher My Boy Jack, who won the Southwest Stakes and would go on to finish fifth in the Run for the Roses.

Currently, Sueno sits at No. 28 on the Leaderboard having garnered a total of 8 qualifying points towards the Grade I $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, but at least a fourth-place finish would put him in the Top 20. The Louisiana Derby offers a total of 170 points to the top four finishers (100-40-20-10).

“He exudes class and he gives those typical signs of a horse that’s very confident,” Desormeaux said. “He’s willing to give everything he’s got whether it’s a work or a race. He’s very sound and I like the way his form is improving. It seems that he’s getting better with every race and that is conducent to his body type. He seems to be getting better numbers wise and the way he is built says he should get better with time and that is coming together nicely.”

Sueno broke his maiden at Del Mar over the summer when running for an $80,000 tag against maiden claiming company.

“I was little too aggressive with him,” Desormeaux said. “Being that he was by a not as well-known sire. I thought I could get away with that especially at Del Mar, you’re against some million dollar babies. It’s home to some of the toughest baby racing in the country, We wanted some class relief and it was just all about the position I was in at the time and the fact that he’s by an not as well-known sire, but looking back it was a bit of an aggressive.”

A similar path down a hopeful trip to Louisville on the First Saturday in May is not the only thing that Sueno has in common with My Boy Jack, according to Desormeaux.

“They compare more ways than one,” Desormeaux said “They have the same color and same external features. They’re dark bay, medium sized and they have the same mentality. Good horses exude class. Exaggerator and My Boy Jack were the same way. One thing that’s very different is speed. This horse can lay close without straining so he’s got natural speed. In that respect, it puts him a notch higher than My Boy Jack. When you have that it gets you out of a lot of trouble spots.”

The Louisiana Derby in particular would be a special race for Desormeaux to win because of his upbringing in the Pelican State. While he has yet to win the Louisiana Derby, he scored his first graded stakes victory with Ive Struck A Nerve in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes in 2013, who won at odds of 135-1.

“It’s a special race not only because it’s a Derby prep but because I spent so much time and so many years competing in New Orleans,” Desormeaux said. “I miss that and it’s always fun to come back and see old friends. It’s always a little more special when you can win races at that level in New Orleans. Tom Amoss, Al Stall and (Hall of Fame trainer) Steve Asmussen are good horsemen and I learned a lot from them. It was fun competing against them and I am the horsemen I am today because of guys like them.”

Sueno was purchased by bloodstock agent Bob Feld on behalf of Silverton Hill for $61,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2017, where he was consigned by Dromoland Farm. He was bred in Kentucky by Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings and is out of the two-time stakes winning Quiet American broodmare Class Above.

Desormeaux also sends Speedette for the Grade II $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks Presented by A Calumet Farm homebred, the daughter of Oxbow broke her maiden at fifth asking last time out over the turf at Santa Anita on January 21, which she won in gate-to-wire fashion.

“We’re obviously taking a shot with her but she has good foundation and showed a big race last time out,” Desormeaux said. “If we’re ever going to take a shot, this is the time of year to do it. She always showed class and I know were taking a big step up but this is the time of year. With Serengeti Empress on our outside I don’t know if I want to challenge her for the lead, but I’ll leave it up to (jockey) Corey (Lanerie). He obviously knows Fair Grounds well.”

Desormeaux gave a brief update on My Boy Jack, who has not raced since finishing eighth in the Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational last July.

“He’s doing great,” Desormeaux said. “We took a couple chips out of his ankle in the summer and he got some time off. He had a half-mile work (in :51.00) on Saturday and we’re looking forward to the summer with him. We just started talking about it. There’s a mile allowance race on Derby week (at Churchill Downs) that might be a good spot for him, but we’ll look for something.”



In an attempt to get back to graded stakes winning form, trainer Todd Pletcher has sent last year’s Grade II Louisiana Derby winner Noble Indy back to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap.

Pletcher is the winningest trainer of the mile-and-an-eighth event for older horses over the main track having won it six times, including with Circular Quay (2008) and Mission Impazible (2011), both of which had won the Louisiana Derby the year prior to their New Orleans Handicap triumphs. Like Noble Indy, both horses also entered their respective victories in the New Orleans Handicap having not won since the Louisiana Derby. Pletcher’s other four New Orleans Handicap wins took place with Master Command (2007), Battle Plan (2010), Graydar (2013) and Grade I Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice (2014).

Owned by Mike Repole, the 4-year-old son of Take Charge Indy has been soundly beaten in his last four starts which include the Grade I Kentucky Derby where he was 17th beaten 42¼ legnths and a 10th-place finish Grade I Belmont Stakes, where he was beaten by 54 lengths. He made his 4-year-old debut against allowance company over a sloppy Gulfstream Park main track on February 13, where he was a distant fourth behind four-time graded stakes winner X Y Jet.

“He kind of got cooked by the Kentucky Derby and Belmont,” Pletcher said. “We castrated him and gave him some time off. That last race was too short for him. X Y Jet just ran him off his feet in the slop. We wanted to get him back to a location and surface where he’s had some success. We expect him to step up on Saturday, but it’s up to him to do that.”

The New Orleans Handicap will be a rematch between Noble Indy and Lone Sailor, who finished a neck behind Noble Indy in last year’s Louisiana Derby. Trained by Tom Amoss, the son of Majestic Warrior seeks his first graded stakes win since the Grade III Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park back in September. He made his 4-year-old debut in the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap where he was sixth.

“I think there’s certainly enough pace for Lone Sailor to run his race which was not the case last time,” Amoss said. “With that said it’s in his hands and we’ll see if he’ll show up.”

Noble Indy will be guided by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who piloted the horse to victory in the Louisiana Derby. Velazquez will seek his second New Orleans Handicap triumph and guided Pletcher trainee Master Command to victory in 2007.

Noble Indy is by Take Charge Indy, who was last year’s leading second crop sire in terms of black type stakes wins. He is out of the Pennsylvania-bred Storm Boot broodmare Noble Maz who won state-bred stakes on both dirt and turf.



Trainer Phil D’Amato stated on Wednesday morning that Noble Commander would scratch from the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap and will instead stay at his Southern California base for the Grade I $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap on April 6.

“When we entered him there was some uncertainly of when we would run again in California so we’d figured that it’d be the best spot,” D’Amato said. “But racing is back at Santa Anita so we’ll stick to our guns in our original plan and run him in the Big ‘Cap.”

Owned by Agave Racing Stable, the 4-year-old Florida-bred son of Forestry was formerly trained by Mark Casse and was transferred to D’Amato’s barn after being sold at the Ocala Breeders Sales Company’s Winter Mixed Sale earlier this year, where he was purchased for $135,000 from consigner Moonshadow Farm. He won the Woodchopper Stakes earlier this meet at the end of December while racing for Casse.



It’s no secret that Synchrony has a strong affinity for Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ Stall-Wilson Turf Course having maintained a perfect record in four starts over the surface. But if he wishes to protect his title in Saturday’s Grade II $300,000 Muniz Memorial Handicap, the 6-year-old son of Tapit will face his toughest test yet on his home course.

The Pin Oak Stables homebred has won back-to-back editions of the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap in addition to last year’s Muniz Memorial Handicap and defeated the likes of graded stakes winners Ring Weekend, Arklow and Mr. Misunderstood to name a few. This time around however, he will face one of the best turf horses in North America with Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf winner Bricks and Mortar shipping in for the race.

Nevertheless, trainer Michael Stidham is not fazed.

“We’ll take on whoever runs,” Stidham said. “The horse is really doing well, he had a little break after (third-place effort in the Grade II Seabiscuit Handicap) at Del Mar (on November 24). He

came back and obviously was ready to go right off the shelf. Since then, he’s breezed really well. He’s very healthy and mentally good so we’re ready to go. He couldn’t be coming into the race any better than he already is. Had the one race back, second race off the layoff and I’m happy with where we’re at.”

Since a win in the Fair Grounds Handicap last time out on February 16, Synchrony has recorded a trio of works in preparation for Saturday’s test, the most recent of which was a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.60.

Stidham says that the ultimate goal this year with Synchrony is to win a Grade I race. He has raced twice against such caliber, including a third-place effort in last year’s Grade I Old Forester Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.

“We’re going to try to focus on winning a Grade I with him and those are the spots we’ll be looking the hardest at,” Stidham said. “This is the first step in that direction.”

The Muniz Memorial Handicap awards the winner an automatic entry fees paid berth into both the Grade I $1 million Old Forester Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 4 and the Grade I $1 million Arlington Million at Arlington International Racecourse on August 10.

In addition to his trio of graded stakes triumphs over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, Synchrony has won a pair of Grade III events over the grass at Monmouth Park when taking last year’s Oceanport Stakes (July 29) and Red Bank Stakes (September 1).

Synchrony is out of the Forest Wildcat broodmare Brownie Points who was a multiple stakes winner on dirt and turf. She also produced Chocolate Kisses who is a recent graded stakes winner on dirt.



Something Special Racing’s Hog Creek Hustle has brought his A game in all three of his starts at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots this year, but hasn’t quite found his way to the winner’s circle. Although the Grade II $1 million Louisiana Derby will be no easy task for the son of Overanalyze, trainer Vickie Foley says he’s doing as good as ever.

Never worse than fourth in his three starts during the Fair Grounds meet, Hog Creek Hustle finished third in the Sugar Bowl Stakes on December 22 before a runner-up effort behind War of Will in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes on January 19, where he was beaten by four lengths. He was a troubled fourth beaten six legnths in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford on February 16.

“He’s very honest and we’re looking forward to the race,” Foley said. “He’s coming into this race better than he has any of the other races. I’m looking for a huge performance from him. We had a very wide trip the whole way in the Risen Star. It was just bad luck.

Hog Creek Hustle draws the outside of 11 horses and will be guided by jockey Miguel Mena.

“The outside post is alright, that doesn’t shake me at all,” Foley said. “We have enough run at the turn to get over. We don’t have to be in front but we should at least be more into the race than we were last time.”

Hog Creek Hustle is currently No. 27 on the Leaderboard for the Grade I $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve having acquired 9 points on the Road To The Kentucky Derby. He broke his maiden in his Ellis Park career debut back on August 18 in a race which featured eventual graded stakes placed Moonster. Two starts later he scored over the Churchill Downs main track in a first level allowance race where he defeated eventual stakes winners Classy John, Six Shooter and Nitrous as well as eventual graded stakes placed Dynamic Racer.

Bred in Kentucky by Hargus and Sandra Sexton in partnership with Silver Fern Farm, Hog Creek Hustle was purchased by Stewart Smith for $150,000 from the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2017 where he was consigned by Warrendale Sales. He is the second foal out of the unraced Candy Ride (Arg.) broodmare Candy Fortune who also produced Majestic Dunhill – a stakes winner on dirt and turf.