A Wild Longshot Play in the Louisiana Derby

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

If you ask me, Saturday's $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds is ripe for an upset—perhaps an upset of monumental proportions.

Seemingly all the requirements are in place to trigger an unexpected outcome. The race has drawn a full field of unpredictable 3-year-olds, with only two of them being established graded stakes winners. Its distance has been lengthened to 1 3/16 miles, placing us in uncharted territory. And there are 170 Road to the Kentucky Derby qualification points on the line, so the stakes are high and everyone will be gunning to earn a spot in the Derby starting gate.

Also, in terms of Beyer and Brisnet speed figures, none of the Louisiana Derby entrants have run particularly fast, so it shouldn't take much improvement for a longshot to step up and vie for victory.

The 7-2 morning line favorite is #10 Enforceable, and granted, he's the most logical winner of this super-competitive race. A full brother to graded stakes winners Mohayman and Kingly, Enforceable showed promise as a juvenile, but he's really thrived racing at Fair Grounds this winter. The son of Tapit unleashed an explosive rally to win the Lecomte Stakes (G3) by 1 1/2 lengths over Silver State and Mr. Monomoy, and while a slow pace compromised his chances in the first division of the Risen Star Stakes (G2), he nevertheless rallied tenaciously down the homestretch to finish second behind the pacesetting Mr. Monomoy.

But in this huge field, I'm not really keen on playing a one-run deep closer like Enforceable. He'll doubtlessly be charging hard at the finish line, but working out a clean trip from the back of the pack will be a challenge. Unless he's able to thread his way through the field, he'll likely be forced to rally very wide around the far turn.

#14 Modernist is the other graded stakes winner in the Louisiana Derby field, having employed pace-pressing tactics to score a gritty victory over #1 Major Fed in the second division of the Risen Star. A son of Uncle Mo out of a Bernardini mare, Modernist is 2-for-2 since stretching out around two turns and possesses a grinding style that could be well-suited to racing 1 3/16 miles.

The biggest concern is Modernist's post draw. In the Risen Star he benefited from drawing the rail, which allowed him to save ground throughout while pushing a modest pace. Things will be different in the Louisiana Derby since Modernist is marooned in post 14, which may force him to sprint hard early to clear his rivals and avoid getting hung hopelessly wide around the far turn.

If you want to oppose Enforceable and Modernist, you'll have no shortage of options. #13 Silver State hit the board in the Lecomte and the first division of the Risen Star. #11 Ny Traffic will add blinkers after finishing a close third in the second division of the Risen Star. The stretch-running Withers Stakes (G3) third-place finisher #9 Portos ships in from New York for trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the Louisiana Derby four times since 2007. #3 Wells Bayou finished a strong second in the Southwest Stakes (G3) after setting the pace, and #8 Royal Act could be a threat from California after battling to a runner-up effort in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3).

But in a field this competitive, why settle for a logical contender when there's a strong chance something truly strange will happen? Call me crazy, but I'm going to go way outside the box with #12 Lynn's Map, a 30-1 shot on the morning line.

As a juvenile, Lynn's Map compiled a solid 2-for-3 record while facing good company. After finishing third in his debut sprinting 7 furlongs, Lynn's Map stretched out to a mile at Churchill Downs and dueled his way to victory over next-out winner Shared Sense. Lynn's Map ran even better when stretching out around two turns in a 1-mile and 70-yard allowance race at Fair Grounds, tracking the pace over a sloppy track before rallying to win by a head. The runner-up was future Risen Star division one winner Mr. Monomoy, while the third horse across the finish line was recent Rebel Stakes (G2) runner-up Excession.

Lynn's Map has had a tougher time in 2020. He didn't fire over a speed-favoring muddy track in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn, weakening to finish fifth, and at first glance his sixth-place effort in the second division of the Risen Star seems unremarkable.

But check out the Risen Star replay, and I think you'll be impressed by Lynn's Map's performance. The son of Liam's Map hesitated at the start and was quickly swallowed up by the pack; as a result, Lynn's Map wound up racing dead last through the first six furlongs.

But despite trailing a slow pace by a dozen lengths around the far turn, Lynn's Map never gave up, weaving his way through traffic down the homestretch to finish sixth, beaten just four lengths. Lynn's Map was the only runner to gain significant ground in the homestretch, and with another sixteenth of a mile to work with, he would have finished even closer.

I don't necessarily expect Lynn's Map to return to the pressing/tracking tactics he employed in his previous three runs, but with a sharper break in the Louisiana Derby, he shouldn't wind up as far behind as he was in the Risen Star. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who was aboard for Lynn's Map's maiden triumph, will regain the mount for trainer Mark Casse, who also conditions Enforceable.

Assuming Lynn's Map's morning line odds hold up (and they certainly should), a win bet will be in order. But I also suggest keying him in a trifecta with Enforceable—if they both finish in the money, we'll have a chance to cash a huge payoff:

$0.50 trifecta: 10,12 with 10,12 with ALL ($12)
$0.50 trifecta: 10,12 with ALL with 10,12 ($12)
$0.50 trifecta: ALL with 10,12 with 10,12 ($12)

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Louisiana Derby?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.

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