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2012 Louisiana Derby: Preview And Analysis

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On Sunday afternoon at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, a second horse will punch his ticket to the 2012 Kentucky Derby following the conclusion of the $1 million Grade 2 Louisiana Derby (post time: 4:55pm Central; TV: HRTV) Mark Valeski, a nose behind El Padrino in the G2-Risen Star last month, leads the field as the 2/1 morning line favorite. He is coupled with stablemate Mr. Bowling.

Below are the entries, post positions and morning line odds for Sunday's G2-Louisiana Derby, followed by my analysis of the field.

# PP Horse Jockey Trainer ML
1 7 Mr. Bowling R. Albarado J. Jones 2/1
1a 8 Mark Valeski R. Napravnik J. Jones 2/1
2 1 Fire Alarm M. Mena W. Calhoun 20/1
3 2 Windsurfer J. Velazquez T. Pletcher 12/1
4 3 Finnegans Wake C. Lanerie D. Romans 15/1
5 4 Flashy Sunrise R. Maragh D. Stewart 30/1
6 5 Cigar Street S. Bridgmohan S. Margolis 7/2
7 6 Shared Property L. Goncalves T. Amoss 10/1
8 9 Arm Force J. Leparoux E. Harty 20/1
9 10 Comisky's Humor R. Eramia R. Faucheux 20/1
10 11 Z Dager S. Sellers S. Asmussen 8/1
11 12 Rousing Sermon M. Smith J. Hollendorfer 8/1
12 13 Hero of Order E. Martin, Jr. G. Dorochenko 20/1
13 14 Afford J. Graham G. Geier 15/1

My analysis of this year's Louisiana Derby is going to be pretty straight forward, and it's based entirely upon what I've watched take place in both the Lecomte and the Risen Star over the last couple of months. The Lecomte, won by Mr. Bowling ahead of Z Dager and Shared Property, came up with a weak speed figure on the Beyer scale (82). Adding insult to injury, none of the horses in that race came back to do much of anything in their next start. Consider the following:

1st: Mr. Bowling - 11th in the Risen Star
2nd: Z Dager - 3rd in the Risen Star
3rd: Shared Property - 5th in the Risen Star
4th: Dan and Sheila - 11th in the Gotham
5th: Hero of Order - 3rd in OC 50k/N1X (ouch)
6th: Hammers Terror - 3rd in the Black Gold (ungraded; turf)
7th: Capetown Devil - 7th in the Black Gold
8th: Alexander Thegreat - 4th in OC 50k/N1X
9th: Ted's Folly - 8th in the Risen Star
10th: Adena's Chance - 2nd in OC50k/N1X; 10th in Risen Star; 10th in Black Gold
11th: Exfactor - 7th in the Gazebo (ungraded; dirt sprint)
12th: Seven Lively Sins - Has not raced
13th: Chalybeate Springs - 7th in the Southwest

Well, that's just a whole lot of awful. Other than Z Dager, not one of the horses in the Lecomte has come back to run in the top three of a graded stakes race, and none have won a race against ANY level of competition. Regardless of the importance that you place on a key race (or lack thereof), the Lecomte has come back as weak as you'll see a graded event.

So the Lecomte pretty much stunk as a producer of quality performances in the future. What about the Risen Star? We saw a big performance from a new shooter, El Padrino, as he gutted out a victory over Mark Valeski. Those two were over five lengths clear of the Lecomte come-backers. What should we make of Mark Valeski's chances in this race based on what he accomplished in the Risen Star? Well, if we try to assess the strength of the Risen Star based on it's winner, El Padrino, we get no closer to a definitive answer after El Padrino ran a fairly lackluster 4th in today's Florida Derby.

What's this all mean? Primarily, I began my final handicapping of the Louisiana Derby with big questions concerning Mark Valeski, and I'm looking for a possible new shooter that can show up and take the top prize.

2-Fire Alarm (20/1): Recent winner against OC50k/N1X company, which makes him at least as good (if not better) than the Lecomte returnees.

3-Windsurfer (12/1): Recent maiden winner at Gulfstream; runner-up came back to win against MdSpWts in his next start.

4-Finnegans Wake (15/1): Finished 3rd in the Gotham but was well back of Hansen and My Adonis.

5-Flashy Surprise (30/1): Maiden; 0-for-8 lifetime and lost by 13 ¾ lengths in his last start against MdSpWts. Ugh.

6-Cigar Street (7/2): Impressive winner by 13 ¾ lengths against MdSpWts at the Fair Grounds back on March 10th. Huge improvement in his form after adding ground and receiving a much kinder trip. Looks better than most in this race.

8-Arm Force (20/1): Recent winner against MdSpWts at Gulfstream while going seven furlongs. First try at two-turns for the son of Tiznow.

9-Comisky's Humor (20/1): Owns a couple of nice wins in his last two starts; unfortunately, he's faced $10k Maiden Claimer and a Starter Allowance open to any horse that broke their maiden for a claiming price. Serious "Ugh!".

Those are the new shooters for the Louisiana Derby and, with the exception of one horse, I wouldn't take any of them to beat Mark Valeski in this spot. Cigar Street, however, is clearly the biggest threat and a deserving second choice on the morning line. Additionally, I like the chances of longshot Arm Force on the stretch-out to nine furlongs. With Leparoux in the saddle and plenty of gate speed under the hood, he could be a great value play.

Keeping this as simple as possible, I like Cigar Street for the win and an exacta with him and Arm Force.

UPDATE: And, of course, Arm Force scratches. Man, I hate scratches. Might go with Rousing Sermon in an exacta with Cigar Street.