The top three finishers in the Louisiana Derby will be running in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
Commanding Curve on Sunday claimed the 20th and, for now, final spot in Saturday’s Triple Crown race at Churchill Downs when Ring Weekend dropped out after developing a fever before shipping out from Fair Hill, Md. That moved Commanding Curve up a notch from 21st in the qualifying standings.
Commanding Curve — whose owners, West Point Thoroughbreds, also own Ring Weekend — was third in the Louisiana Derby behind Vicar’s in Trouble and Intense Holiday. But with only 20 qualifying points, the horse needed others to withdraw to move into the Kentucky Derby field.
“I feel bad because of our connections with West Point,” said Dallas Stewart, trainer of Commanding Curve. “But we’re obviously happy to be in the race and really like the way our horse has been training.”
Stewart had a similar qualifying scenario last year when Golden Soul moved up from 24th after other horses dropped out. Golden Soul, a 34-1 long shot, finished second to Orb.
Robby Albarado rode Golden Soul for Stewart and had Commanding Curve in the Louisiana Derby, but Shaun Bridgmohan will take the mount Saturday. Albarado earlier had committed to Medal Count.
“I felt that it was a little premature, but we talked about it like men and shook hands,” Stewart said. “Shaun rode Commanding Curve to his only win (in a maiden race at Churchill Downs in November), and it was on this same track, so we’ll be fine.”
While Albarado opted for Medal Count in the Derby, he still will ride Unbridled Forever for Stewart in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks.
There’s another Louisiana trainer-jockey connection in the Derby: Three-time Derby champion Calvin Borel is taking the mount for Billy Gowan’s Ride On Curlin.
Ride On Curlin’s two victories came with Borel aboard, but he was not the rider in the Arkansas Derby, where Ride On Curlin’s second-place finish earned him enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.
It’s the first Kentucky Derby entry for Gowan, a Winnsboro native who has been a trainer for 20 years.
“Everyone’s goal is to get to the Kentucky Derby,” he said. “This means a lot.”
Another Louisiana jockey was confirmed for his first Derby mount Sunday: Lafayette native Corey Lanerie will ride Harry’s Holiday for Mike Maker.
Lanerie won both the spring and fall riding titles at Churchill in 2013 but called this opportunity “a dream come true.”
“It’s what everybody wants to do,” he said. “Never thought I’d even ride at Churchill Downs, and winning the Derby would be like I’m getting to the top of the mountain.”
The Kentucky Derby draw is Wednesday.