By Mike Farrell
Greatest Honour and Life Is Good are the current point leaders with 60. The Louisiana Derby winner will immediately vault to the top of the leaderboard.
The race office serves up an eight-horse field for the meet’s feature attraction w
ith Mandaloun, Proxy, Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon at the top of the menu.
Mandaloun will likely be favored based on his victory here in the Risen Star (G2) last month. A key member of the Brad Cox squad, Mandaloun owns a snappy 3-0-1 ledger from only four starts.
His Beyer Speed Figures have improved in every start and you won’t go too far wrong slotting him into the top spot on your tickets.
From this corner, the most intriguing horse is Proxy who should benefit from the stretch-out to 1 3/16 miles. The stalker trained by Michael Stidham was gaining ground in the lane during his second-place finishes to Midnight Bourbon in the Lecomte (G3) and in the Risen Star.
The added distance should work in his favor, as will the addition of blinkers.
Hot Rod Charlie is well spotted for trainer Doug O’Neill, who is currently serving a suspension. Leondro Mora is the listed trainer for the colt who ships in from Santa Anita to avoid the Bob Baffert Derby-bound buzzsaws.
Hot Rod Charlie is only 1-for-6 but has been keeping fast company. He stepped up from a maiden win in early October to run second at 94-1 to Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
The lone start this year was a disaster in the Bob Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita. He was much the best after a stumble at the start and traffic trouble in the lane. Despite all that, Hot Rod Charlie missed by only a neck.
“I love the long stretch at the Fair Grounds,” O’Neill said. “And the million-dollar purse doesn’t hurt either. A lot of it is timing, too: we have a little bit of flexibility with six weeks to the Derby.”
This could be the final call on the Triple Crown trail for Midnight Bourbon, who failed to build on his Lecomte victory by finishing third in the Risen Star. This is a good test to see if he is suited to the classic distances down the road.
Starininmydreams, Rightandjust, Run Classic and O Besos complete the field.
They will start serving up the tasty 14-race card at 12:20 p.m. (ET).
Bob Baffert now has the two fastest 3-year-olds on the Derby trail following the tour de force victory by Concert Tour on Saturday in the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park.
Combine that with Life Is Good’s dazzling display in the San Felipe (G2), and the silver-haired trainer has two comets streaking through the division.
Concert Tour improved to 3-for-3 by racing Caddo River, the 6-5 favorite trained by Cox, off his feet before pulling clear to a 4 ¼-length victory.
“This is a really top horse,” Baffert said. “I was going to be disappointed if he didn’t do what he did today.”
It was Baffert’s eighth Rebel win. Talk about dominance: those eight wins have all come since 2010. The victory was sweetened by having Hozier finish second, giving the Hall of Fame conditioner a 1-2 finish.
In addition to the $600,000 purse, Concert Tour also banked 50 Derby qualifying points, more than enough to secure a spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May where, if all goes well, he will find Life Is Good also saddled, and ready to go.
Mike Farrell has worked in thoroughbred and harness racing for much of his career in journalism. Mike is a turf writer, harness writer, and handicapper, covering and analyzing races at dozens of racetracks around the country. Based on the East Coast, Mike has covered the Triple Crown races and the Breeders’ Cup for a number of publications, including Daily Racing Form, as well as The Associated Press. He spends time at Gulfstream Park taking in the races, and also hits the harness racing circuit in the Northeast region. He’s been a fixture at The Hambletonian and the Haskell Invitational for longer than he’d like to remember.