NEW ORLEANS — Keith Desormeaux and James Graham have pulled off a stunning upset once this year at the Fair Grounds. Could they do it again?
The trainer-jockey combo drove Ive Struck a Nerve, a 135-1 longshot, to a thrilling victory in the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes Feb. 23, thereby virtually ensuring the mount a spot in the Kentucky Derby May 4.
But when Nerve suffered a season-ending broken ankle soon after, Desormeaux and Graham lost out on that chance to Run for the Roses. However, neither has given up the Churchill Downs dream — Desormeaux, for one, hopes he can convince Graham to team up again for the $1 million Louisiana Derby March 30, this time with a new horse, Whiskey Bravo.
Desormeaux said he’ll work out Whiskey Bravo today, and if all goes well, the new horse will take part in the LA Derby, which, along with a huge purse, carries a guaranteed slot in the Kentucky Derby for the victor.
“As long as he runs OK (today), we’re going to go for it,” he said. “He’s going to be a longshot, and there are certainly other spots we could run him, but he’s developing quickly, and he ran nice his last time out. We’re going to give it a shot at $1 million in our own backyard.”
In addition to the Risen Star, Desormeaux and Graham have paired up for numerous victories, including one Wednesday.
However, despite Desormeaux’s optimism about joining up with Graham again on Whiskey Bravo, the jockey said Friday that he hadn’t yet made a firm decision about which mount he’ll assume in the LA Derby.
“Nothing’s set in stone yet,” Graham said just after winning the final race of Friday’s Fair Grounds card. “I have to talk to my agent tonight and see what my options are.”
Foaled in 2010 by Fusaichi Pegasus and Lovely Dream by breeders France and Irwin Weiner, the Florida-based Whiskey Bravo is owned by Erich Brehm and Gene Voss. He has started four times in his career, winning once, in a maiden claiming at the Fair Grounds in January.
He most recently competed in the Texas Heritage Stakes March 2 at Sam Houston Race Park, where he finished fourth. In his career, Bravo has earned $18,600. If he can post a win in the Louisiana Derby, that total will skyrocket — the winner picks up $600,000 — and he’ll get a chance to run in the Kentucky Derby.
Whether that will come to pass depends on whether Desormeaux and Graham would be able to recapture the mojo they conjured with Ive Struck a Nerve. That’s why the trainer wants Graham to pilot Whiskey Bravo in a week, especially after the jockey recently tested the colt out successfully.
“James has worked this horse a couple times,” Desormeaux said. “I’d definitely like to continue this string of luck we’ve been riding. We’ve won a few at this meet.
“I hope James chooses to stay (with me),” the trainer added.
But even if Graham decides not to go with Whiskey Bravo, he’s intent on taking part in the March 30 festivities.
“Hopefully I’ll be on something,” he said with a laugh.