When the entries were made Saturday for the Louisiana Derby, New Orleans-based trainer Al Stall just shrugged at the 10-1 odds of winning given to his horse, Forevamo.
Forevamo had finished second in the Fair Grounds’ last big race, the Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 20.
“We were bigger odds in that one (12-1),” Stall said, “and we almost upset the apple cart. We lost by a half length, but we feel he’s still improving and we can make up that distance the next time — in the Louisiana Derby.”
Eleven horses are entered in Saturday’s Grade II, $1 million Louisiana Derby, which will have many of the top 3-year-olds who are vying for spots in the Kentucky Derby on May 7. On the last day of the Fair Grounds’ racing meet, the Risen Star tops a list of four big races that include the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap for 4-year-olds-and-up and the Mervin Muniz Handicap for 4-year-olds-and-up on turf.
The Louisiana Derby has the first four finishers from the Risen Star — Gun Runner, Forevamo, Tom’s Ready and Candy My Boy — plus Florida invaders Greenpointcrusader and Battery, trained by Todd Pletcher, whose horses have won the Louisiana Derby three times.
“You’ve got an up-and-coming Todd Pletcher-trained horse in Battery, and you have a horse (Greenpointcrusader) who won a Grade I race as a 2-year-old at Belmont Park,” Stall said. “Those Florida invaders right there make it a whole different race.”
Mo Tom, owned by the Saints’ Tom Benson and wife Gayle and who has had an impressive racing season with two wins and three thirds in five races, is the 5-2 favorite. Gun Runner is next at 3-1, with Greenpointcrusader at 7-2, followed by Forevamo.
Mo Tom finished third in the Risen Start after a collision with Bistraya knocked him off stride at the 3 /16ths pole. Mo Tom had the second position in that race. For the Louisiana Derby, he has the No. 6 post position, with another Benson owned horse, Tom’s Ready (15-1) at No. 7. Forevamo, who was at No. 5 for the Risen Star, is at No. 11 for the Louisiana Derby.
“If I had the opportunity to pick one, I’d pick 6 or 7,” Stall said. “There’s no excuses from there. But you can get in trouble from the No. 1 or No. 2 hole on down. It all depends on the way the race shapes up.”
A maximum field of 14 perhaps was hoped for after Saturday’s Sunland Derby in New Mexico was canceled due to an equine virus. However, there are as many as five big races with purses in the $1 million range being run in a three week span. That includes the $900,000 Rebel Stakes run Saturday at Hot Springs, Ark., the $1 million Florida Derby on April 2 and the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes on April 9.
The Fair Grounds Oaks also has an impressive field, led by the likely favorite, Land Over Sea, who was shipped in from California. The field also includes Venus Valentine, the stunning winner of the Rachel Alexandra on Feb. 20 at the Fair Grounds, and Stageplay, who likely will be the third favorite. Dream Dance, Street Fancy and Midnight On Oconee, who was second in the Rachel Alexandra, also are entered.
The New Orleans Handicap is headlined by Mineshaft winner Majestic Harbor, second-place Eagle and third-place International Star, while Chocolate Ride and String King are expected to battle in the Muniz.