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Need some help getting started? Racing analyst Keeler Johnson is ready to share his plays for the weekend contest action:
Road to the Derby: Louisiana Derby
$1,000 Bonus Cash
To pick the top four finishers in Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds.
#10 Enforceable is a logical favorite off his victory in the Lecomte (G3) and runner-up effort in the first division of the Risen Star (G2), but as a deep closer in a large field, there’s no guarantee he’ll receive the trip he needs to win.
Instead, I’ll try to beat Enforceable with #12 Lynn’s Map, who was compromised by a slow start when coming home sixth in the second division of the Risen Star. As a juvenile, Lynn’s Map showed tactical speed while beating quality rivals, including future Risen Star division one winner Mr. Monomoy and recent Rebel (G2) runner-up Excession. A sharper break on Saturday can put Lynn’s Map in the hunt for victory at a big price.
For third place, I’ll play the speedy #3 Wells Bayou, who battled to a gallant runner-up effort in the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn last month. I’ll round out my play with the stretch-running #9 Portos, who ships in from Florida for four-time Louisiana Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher.
- 1st: Lynn’s Map
- 2nd: Enforceable
- 3rd: Wells Bayou
- 4th: Portos
Road to the Derby $10K
$10,000 Bonus Cash
To pick the winners of five stakes races on Saturday at Fair Grounds.
The first stakes in the contest is the Costa Rising S., a 5 1/2-furlong turf dash for Louisiana-breds. The field is large and evenly-matched, so I’ll take a shot with the mare #3 Fame Feather. She wasn’t disgraced when finishing fifth in this race last year, and her form is arguably better this season. Draw a line through her no-show effort over a yielding course in the Pan Zareta S. last month, and this stretch-running chestnut rates as good a chance as any other.
There’s isn’t much speed on paper in the Tom Benson Memorial S.for fillies and mares running a mile on grass, so I’ll side with #1 Dream Passage, who figures to secure an uncontested lead while breaking from the rail for hot jockey/trainer combo Florent Geroux and Brad Cox.
The field for the 1 1/8-mile New Orleans Classic (G2) looks evenly matched unless you believe #3 Fearless is the real deal. The son of Ghostzapper is 2-for-2 for trainer Todd Pletcher, winning his debut sprinting at Gulfstream in December before stretching out to 1 1/16 miles and crushing an allowance race by 8 1/2 easy lengths. The 107 Brisnet Speed rating he received stands out as the best number in this field.
We’ll round out our plays with late-running Fair Grounds turf course specialist #12 Synchrony in the Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) and four-time stakes winner #6 Finite in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2):
- Costa Rising S: Fame Feather
- Tom Benson Memorial S: Dream Passage
- New Orleans Classic (G2): Fearless
- Muniz Memorial Classic (G2): Synchrony
- Fair Grounds Oaks (G2): Finite