With the Louisiana Derby and three other big races taking place March 26 at the Fair Grounds, this will be a big week for the racetrack.
Late nominations came in by midnight Sunday for the $1 million Louisiana Derby, the last prep for the Kentucky Derby, as well as the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap and the $300,000 Muniz Memorial Handicap. All are Grade II races.
Entries will be announced Saturday. However, the Fair Grounds will run a list of the late nominations for the race on Monday.
“I think it will be a big field, and it will be a strong field,” said Tom Amoss, who trains Mo Tom, who finished third in the Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 20 at the Fair Grounds. “The top four finishers in the Risen Star will be in the Louisiana Derby, plus some good out-of-town horses.”
Gun Runner, who won the Risen Star, will be in the Louisiana Derby, as well as second-place Forevamo, Mo Tom and Candy My Boy. Tom’s Ready, which like Mo Tom is owned by GMB Racing, will run in the Louisiana Derby, also after finishing seventh in the Risen Star.
There had been speculation that Mo Tom might be placed in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 9 for the Kentucky Derby on May 7.
“There’s never been any consideration of the Woodward Stakes,” said Amoss, who said he was speaking for Mo Tom’s owners, Tom and Gayle Benson. “The only race on our radar is the Louisiana Derby.”
Greenpointcrusader, coming off a second place in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 30, was the only invader viewed as likely to run in the Louisiana Derby. However, Amoss and Fair Grounds assistant race secretary Scott Jones had reason to believe there will be many more.
An equine virus caused the Sunland Stakes in New Mexico to be canceled. It was to run on March 20.
“All those horses that were going to run in that race, (their owners and trainers) are looking for somewhere else to run,” Amoss said. So, I think the Louisiana Derby may pick up some entries from some of those horses.
“And, it’s a million dollars. That tends to pique everybody’s interest.”
The Fair Grounds Oaks will be headed by Venus Valentine, who stunned the field in winning the Rachel Alexandra Stakes as a 70-1 long shot, and second-place finisher Midnight On Oconee. Dream Dance, trained by Neil Howard, and Adore also other locals set. Street Fancy, who won the Grade I, $300,000 Starlet Stakes on Dec. 12 at Los Alamitos, Calif., race track, is expected to arrive from California.