2023 Louisiana Derby & Fair Grounds Oaks Odds and Picks

There are big names everywhere you look at the Fair Grounds on Saturday, with the headline G2 2023 Louisiana Derby featuring the return of Kentucky Derby player Instant Coffee, who takes on his barnmate Jace’s Road, the up-and-coming Kingsbarns, and G2 runner-up Sun Thunder. On the distaff side, the progressive Pretty Mischievous and the redemption-seeking Hoosier Philly meet for a third time in a tight contest for the G2 Fair Grounds Oaks.


Louisiana Derby

G2, $1,000,000, 1m 3/16 dirt, 3yo, 5.42pm CT

Of the four Road to the Kentucky Derby preps over the weekend at home and abroad, the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on Saturday is the most prestigious, has attracted easily the best horses, and with its 100-40-30-20-10 points breakdown is likely to put a major player – or possibly two – in the gate for the Kentucky Derby.

The mile and three-sixteenths makes it the most stamina-intense of all the US-based preps, although this race has a very poor record of producing Derby winners. That emphasis on stamina is expected to enhance the chance of morning-line favourite Instant Coffee (2-1), who has looked – excuse the pun – a real grinder of a horse in his successful career to date.

He needed plenty of time to get up and win a hard-fought G2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November, beating Curly Jack (12-1) by a length and a quarter with Denington (12-1) a half-length further back in fifth, and then turned in a similar performance in the G3 Lecomte here over a mile-sixteenth, eventually driving clear for a comfortable win with Denington fourth, beaten more than ten lengths.

Instant Coffee has had a good break since then, is likely to be suited by stretching out, and should have sufficient pace to run into. He’ll be late on the scene.

His barnmate Jace’s Road (12-1) is of particular interest given his surface preferences. Jace’s Road hates a sloppy track, and has blown out badly on the two occasions he’s had those conditions. On a fast track, he’s a different horse, and went gate-to-wire to win a mile-sixteenth stakes here in December, romping by five and a half lengths from the subsequent G3 Gotham winner. If it’s wet, he can’t win. If it’s dry, you mustn’t ignore him.

The G2 Risen Star here over a mile-eighth is often a good harbinger for this race, and although the winner isn’t here the runner-up Sun Thunder (5-1) is right in the mix. He came from way off the pace to lead and then be headed, eventually beaten a length, and that was a big step forward on previous form.

If he can continue his upward mobility he likely has little to fear from those in behind reopposing today – Tapit’s Conquest (10-1) two and a quarter lengths back in fourth on his stakes debut, longshot Single Ruler (15-1) another two lengths away fifth, and a disappointing Curly Jack back in eighth.

Todd Pletcher has won this a joint-record four times, has the first and second favourites for the Kentucky Derby, and gives Kingsbarns (6-1) a shot to see if he’s that calibre too.

He’s unbeaten in two and makes his stakes debut today, with his hugely impressive victory in a Tampa Bay Downs allowance optional claimer over a mile, when he cleared away to win by seven and three-quarters, beating nothing much but doing it majestically, hinting that he could simply be able to improve past all these established Graded rivals. Stretching out may not be an issue on pedigree.

Steve Asmussen shares that record with Pletcher and puts two stakes debutants in the gate. Disarm (10-1) was beaten four lengths in an AOC over a mile at Oaklawn Park, and Shopper’s Revenge (12-1) was beaten a length and a quarter in an AOC at the same track, this time at a mile-sixteenth. This is a major class hike for both and they may not be ready for such a tough test.

2023 Louisiana Derby Odds & Betting Pick

Kingsbarns is a threat, but this looks the right spot for INSTANT COFFEE, whose proven class and stamina-packed running style will make him very hard to beat.

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
Shopper’s RevengeRicardo Santana, Jr.+1200
Instant CoffeeLuis Saez+200
Curly JackEdgar Morales+1200
Sun ThunderBrian Joseph Hernandez, Jr+500
DisarmJoel Rosario+750
KingsbarnsFlavien Prat+600
CagliostroCristian A. Torres+1200
Single RulerDavid Cohen+1500
Tapit’s ConquestManuel Franco+1000
DeningtonJunior Alvarado+1200
Jace’s RoadFlorent Geroux+1200
Baseline BeaterCorey J. Lanerie+2000

Fair Grounds Oaks

G2, $400,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 3yo fillies, 5.08pm CT

It’s a disappointing turnout numerically for the Fair Grounds Oaks, a major waystation on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, with a points breakdown of 100-40-30-20-10 that ensures every runner will gallop away with something. Quality-wise, though, there’s a lot to like.

The plot essentially revolves around whether last year’s crack juvenile Hoosier Philly (2-1) can recapture that fine form, or whether she will instead become the latest in a very, very long line of three-year-olds who are simply shooting stars that flare up once and quickly disappear.

She looked brilliant when romping in the G2 Golden Rod over a mile-sixteenth at Churchill Downs in November, cantering home by five lengths with Pretty Mischievous (8-5) a one-paced third, beaten an extra neck. Three months later, she looked no better than average when trailing in third in the G2 Rachel Alexandra over course and distance, eight and a half lengths behind the progressive Pretty Mischievous, their careers appearing to be on very different trajectories.

Sure, she probably wasn’t suited by the slow pace, but with only five runners today it could be another tactical affair. There’s no knowing whether that Rachel Alexandra run was a blip or the shape of the future, and bettors need to be wary. Pretty Mischievous is perfect apart from the Golden Rod defeat and is unbeaten in two here. She’s very solid and rightly favourite for the Hoosier Philly rubber match.

There’s a third wheel in play with The Alys Look (2-1), who stalked the pace and was brave in the closing stages when taking down a stakes here over the extended mile in January, getting the job done by a length with the first two a mile clear.

Before that, though, she was very much second-best behind Pretty Mischievous in an identical contest, beaten three and a quarter lengths, and although she has improved since then, so has Pretty Mischievous.

Southlawn (8-1) could be the pace after going gate-to-wire to win an allowance optional claimer over course and distance by eight lengths, a career-best off a fairly low base, while Christian D’Oro (15-1) seemed not to stay a mile at Sunland Park latest and looks outclassed.

Fair Grounds Oaks Odds & Betting Prediction

This can be left to PRETTY MISCHIEVOUS, who has already beaten her two main rivals, is two-for-two here, and has the potential to make further improvement.

HorseJockeyOdds by Jazzsports
SouthlawnReylu Gutierrez+800
Christian d’OroJoel Rosario+1500
Pretty MischievousBrian Joseph Hernandez, Jr+140
The Alys LookLuis Saez+200
Hoosier PhillyEdgar Morales+115

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