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    The Road to the Kentucky Derby makes three stops this weekend, first at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, UAE for the UAE Derby (G2), next in New Orleans, La. for the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course, and finally at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. for the Florida Derby (G1). Each race will award the winner 100 points in the Churchill Downs’ Road to the Kentucky Derby point system* to earn a spot in the May 2nd Kentucky Derby (G1). We’ll focus on the races on this continent.

    Louisiana Derby

    Mike Maker’s International Star heads a field of nine in Fair Grounds Race Course’s $750,000 Louisiana Derby (G2) going 1 and 1/8th miles over the main track.

    Installed as the 3-1 favorite, the Risen Star (G2) and LeComte Stakes (G3) winner is likely to give owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey another crack at the roses. Currently sitting second on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leader board with 71 points, International Star doesn’t have to win the Louisiana Derby to secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, but he needs to show as strong a performance as he has in the past. The son of Kentucky Derby winner Fusiachi Pegasus (2000), International Star will likely sit comfortably under rider Miguel Mena, biding his time mid-pack before making a late run for the finish. He’s two-for-two this year and has been dominant in the past over rivals he’ll face Saturday, but don’t expect it to be an easy race for the Mike Maker runner. Jockey Miguel Mena will be in the irons when the pair breaks from post nine.

    Tom Amoss’s War Story turned heads when he followed up a 2 ¾ length maiden win at Churchill Downs with another 2 ¾ allowance win at Gulfstream Park. He finished 2 ½ lengths behind International Star in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) and a length behind him in the Risen Star (G2). Both of those races were at a distance under the 1 and 1/8th mile of the Louisiana Derby. The late-running War Story may prefer the added distance and is keyed to get his first stakes win on Saturday. He’ll break from post 6 under rider Joe Talamo.

    Hall of fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will saddle Mr. Z for the 11th time in the Malibu Moon colt’s short life. Nowadays, that’s a lot of experience for a 3-year-old. Unfortunately, all Mr. Z has to show for it is a $44,000 maiden win. He’s hit the board in seven stakes races, but he’ll need to do more than that if he hopes to be a true contender in the Kentucky Derby. Hopefully, new rider and three-time Kentucky Derby winner Kent Desormeaux can put him on the right track.

    The field for the Louisiana Derby from the rail out is: Stanford, Mr. Z, Defondo, Fusiachi Flame, A Day in Paradise, War Story, Keen Ice, St. Joe Bay, and International Star. 

    Florida Derby

    Rick Violette’s Upstart will look for redemption in Saturday’s Florida Derby (G1). The son of Street Boss was disqualified and placed second after crossing the wire first in the hotly-contested Fountain of Youth (G2) in his last start. Fellow Florida Derby rival Itsaknockout benefited from that disqualification and will be looking for his own redemption on Saturday.

    Upstart, a son of Flatter, has three official wins in six starts and has faced stakes company since breaking his maiden at first asking. Comfortable just behind the leaders, he has the speed to move on his rivals when jockey Jose Ortiz pushes the button. Since the Feb. 21st defeat in the Fountain of Youth, Upstart has lodged impressive works. His last took him a quick five furlongs in :59 and change. The pair will break from the far outside post nine.

    Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out a competitive newcomer in Materiality. This colt by Afleet Alex broke his maiden at first asking after the first of the year and returned to a 5 ¾ length romp in the Islamorada Handicap at Gulfstream Park Mar. 6th. Although he’s lightly-raced and relatively unknown, his Brisnet speed ratings of 96 and 100 (respectively, for his only starts), make him an interesting contender in this grade one Kentucky Derby prep. Although he’ll likely go for the lead, there’s no telling what this inexperienced colt can do under the guidance of seasoned rider John Velazquez. The pair will break from post seven.

    Todd Pletcher’s stakes-tested Itsaknockout who, as previously mentioned, took a graded stakes victory from Upstart in the Fountain of Youth, will try to earn his first stakes win without controversy. Luis Saez will pilot the son of Lemon Drop Kid from post four.

    The field for the Florida Derby from the rail out is: Ami’s Flatter, Jack Tripp, Indianaughty, Itsaknockout, Quimet, My Point Exactly, Materiality, Dekabrist, and Upstart.

    NBC Sports Network will host featured coverage of the Louisiana Derby and Florida Derby from 5-7 p.m. Eastern Time. Fox Sports One will host the Dubai World Cup and highlights from the world’s richest day of racing, including the UAE Derby, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time. For free PPs courtesy of Brisnet, choose Louisiana Derby, Florida Derby or UAE Derby.

    *The Kentucky Derby points system replaced the graded stakes earnings system as the determiner of Kentucky Derby entrants. In the first phase, the Kentucky Derby Prep Season that concludes February 16th, the top four finishers in the pre-determined races are awarded points of 10-4-2-1. In the first leg of phase two, the Championship Series, the top four finishers in 8 pre-determined races are awarded points of 50-20-10-5. In the second leg of the Championship Series, the top four finishers in the 7 pre-determined races receive points of 100-40-20-10. The April 11th Lexington Stakes at Keeneland is a wildcard race and offers points of 10-4-2-1.

    Photo courtesy of Gulfstream Park. 

    Jessie Oswald's picture

    About Jessie Oswald

    I'm a lifetime Louisville resident with a passion for horse racing. When I'm not working as a paralegal or taking care of my family, I follow Thoroughbred racing and love to share the excitement and beauty of the sport with anyone willing to learn!

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