The first of the final Derby preps begins Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans with the Grade 2 $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby. Headlining the field of twelve is Mucho Macho Man, who won the Risen Star stakes last month on this course. He will again be ridden by Rajiv Maragh and appears to be the one to beat. Mucho Macho Man will again face Machen and Pants on Fire, who finished behind him in the Risen Star in fourth and fifth places, respectively. Pants on Fire looks better than he did going into the Risen Star, but shouldn't be any trouble to Mucho Macho Man unless he gets loose on the lead. Machen, who went off as the favorite in the Risen Star, appears to be on his game with a bullet work two weeks ago. He also switches to Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado.
Elite Alex opted out of last week's Rebel Stakes for the Louisiana Derby and finished third in the Southwest Stakes behind winner Archarcharch, who barely missed grabbing the place money in the Rebel. I expect Elite Alex will improve off of that race in which he went six wide into the turn.
Lecomte Stakes winner Wilkinson will face a much stronger field and has a lot to prove in this race. He hasn't raced since that performance in January, but has had some strong works. An interesting newcomer making his stakes debut is Left. He's undefeated in two career starts and has turned in some sharp workouts. He may not be quick enough or experienced enough to hang with the likes of Mucho Macho Man, but he could show enough to make it into the superfecta.
Completing the field are Nacho Business, Nehro, Mavericking, Liondrive, Majestic Harbor, Le Mans, and Populist Politics. The race is the 10th on the Fair Grounds card and is scheduled to run at 6:03 PM Saturday. It can be seen on HRTV and TVG.
Other Derby preps on Saturday include the Sunland Derby at Sunland Park and the Vinery Spiral Stakes at Turfway. It's also Dubai World Cup day (which is like the Breeders' Cup, but in Dubai and with bigger purses). A win in the $2,000,000 UAE Derby could be enough to launch a relatively unknown into the Derby lineup.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby