Noble_Indy_3-24-2018-UR

3/24/2018. - Noble Indy with John Velazquez aboard duals it out with Lone Sailor led by James Graham in the 105th running of the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, LA. Hodges Photography / Amanda Hodges Weir

Lone Sailor had a good, if not impressive 3-year-old racing season.

However, something happened along the way that has trainer Tom Amoss very optimistic about the potential for Lone Sailor's 4-year-old campaign. That will begin Saturday in the Mineshaft Handicap, part of Louisiana Derby Preview Day at the Fair Grounds.

“I think it has a lot to do with him growing up mentally, understanding racing and getting competitive,” Amoss said. “I think he was late to the the party getting to understand about competition and wanting to compete. So, I think that's the biggest thing that has changed from the end of his 3-year-old campaign to the beginning.”

Lone Sailor, a Majestic Warrior colt out of Ambitious by Mr. Greeley, is the early 7-2 favorite in the Mineshaft. It is the first of two $150,000 races for 4-year-olds and up and will be contested over a mile and a sixteenth on the dirt track. The other is the Fair Grounds Handicap, which will be run on the turf over a mile and an eighth immediately following the Mineshaft.

The day's biggest races are the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes for top 3-year-old Kentucky Derby hopefuls, and the $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes for top 3-year-old fillies.

Harlan Punch, trained by Brad Cox and with jockey Florent Geroux up, is the 4-1 second favorite in the Mineshaft, with Flameaway, Mark Casse and Tyler Gaffalione, is next at 5-1.

Lone Sailor, owned by Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson, is coming off a sixth-place finish on Nov. 3 in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill, for which Amoss offers no apologies. Lone Sailor has not raced since, resting for his big 4-year-old season.

Before the Breeders' Cup, Lone Sailor won the Oklahoma Derby on Sept. 30, was second in the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 2, was third in the Haskell Stakes at Monmouth on July 29 and second in the Ohio Derby at Thistledown. All that after finishing fifth in the Triple Crown Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

“He ended his 3-year-old year on a high note, winning the Oklahoma Derby and finishing sixth against the greatest horses in the world in the Breeders' Cup Classic,” Amoss said. “This race is his first race since November, so we're just getting started with him.

“But this is a very good field.”

Amoss has his eyes on the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap on March 23 at the Fair Grounds and is looking for a good race to get Lone Sailor there.

In the Fair Grounds Handicap on the turf, defending champion Synchrony, trained by Michael Stidham with Joe Bravo aboard, is the 3-1 favorite, with First Premio second at 4-1 and Great Wide Open third at 9-2.

Since Feb. 17, 2018, Synchrony, a 6-year-old horse, has four wins in his past eight starts – the Fair Grounds Handicap, the Muniz Handicap at the Fair Grounds on March 24, the Oceanport Stakes at Monmouth on July 29 and the Red Bank Stakes at Monmouth on Sept. 1. Synchrony, a Tapit horse out of Brownie Points by Forest Wildcat, is coming off a third place in the Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar on Nov. 24.

First Premio, trained by Mark Casse and with B.J. Hernandez up, was a victor his last time out, taking the Colonel E.R. Bradley Stakes by 3 ½ lengths at the Fair Grounds on Jan. 19 on Road to the Derby Kickoff Day. It was First Premio's first stakes win, and it came after a seven-month layoff after he was ill.

Great Wide Open, trained by Conor Murphy, will have James Graham aboard. Great Wide Open was the 3-5 favorite for the Bradley Stakes when the race went off. However Great Wide Open was third with Sir Dudley Diggs second. Sir Dudley Digges, trained by Maker and with Gaffalione up, is at 10-1.