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Pletcher Takes Aim at Louisiana Derby With Three Colts

In a two-week span almost a year ago, trainer Todd Pletcher won three $1 million races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby—capturing the Louisiana Derby (G2) with Kingsbarns , the Florida Derby (G1) with Forte  , and the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) with Tapit Trice .

Now, after some early disappointments this year with some of his top 3-year-olds—Fierceness  was upset when third in the Feb. 3 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) and grade 1 winner Locked  went to the sidelines due to injury—the Hall of Famer trainer will look to replicate the good fortune from early last spring. Before Fierceness swings back into scheduled action in the March 30 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, Pletcher runs the trio of Antiquarian , Agate Road , and Triple Espresso  in the March 23 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

They are not as accomplished on dirt as the Louisiana Derby rivals and 2024 stakes winners Track Phantom  and Catching Freedom , the respective 3-1 and 4-1 choices on the morning line. Pletcher’s trio range in price from 8-1 on Agate Road to 12-1 on Antiquarian and 20-1 on Triple Espresso.

Centennial Farms’ Antiquarian, a lightly raced son of Preservationist  , won a maiden race at Fair Grounds on Risen Star Day, Feb. 17, grinding out a one-length victory in just his second career start. That race followed a debut at Gulfstream in which he was second, beaten a half-length by Conquest Warrior , who overcame a slow start and traffic on the turn to prevail.

Agate Road, by Quality Road  , is more seasoned, having compiled 2-3-0 record in six starts. Raced primarily on turf last year, owing to his connections feeling he was best suited to distance racing and sticking with turf due to his success on the grass, he won the Pilgrim Stakes (G2T) at Aqueduct Racetrack Oct. 4.

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After a fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T) Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park in his final start of 2023, he has responded with a pair of seconds as a 3-year-old in the Dania Beach Stakes on turf at Gulfstream Jan. 6 and on dirt behind No More Time  in the Feb. 10 Sam. F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.

Repole Stable and St. Elias Stables own Agate Road, as they do quick-returning Triple Espresso, a son of Omaha Beach   who moves from turf to dirt after a fourth-place finish in the Colonel Liam Stakes at Gulfstream March 2.

Other Entrants

Pletcher, a five-time Louisiana Derby winner and two-time Kentucky Derby (G1) winner, is one of three trainers running multiple horses in the Fair Grounds’ richest race, along with Steve Asmussen, and Kenny McPeek.

Four-time Louisiana Derby winner Asmussen runs favored Gun Runner Stakes and Lecomte Stakes (G3) winner Track Phantom, the runner-up in the Risen Star Stakes (G2), and Risen Star seventh-place finisher Hall of Fame . McPeek starts the combination of Common Defense , second in the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park, and Real Men Violin , eighth over a sloppy track in the Risen Star.

McPeek won the 2002 Louisiana Derby with Repent.

Numerous entrants in the 12-horse Louisiana Derby last raced in the Risen Star, including Catching Freedom (third for trainer Brad Cox), Honor Marie  (fifth for trainer Whit Beckman), and Awesome Ruta  (sixth for trainer Joey Foster).

The Chad Brown-trained Tuscan Gold  is an interesting new shooter. In his second and most recent start, he scored a clear maiden victory at Gulfstream. Brown is awaiting the April 6 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland with his top 3-year-old, Risen Star winner Sierra Leone .

Derby Implications

The Louisiana Derby, at the Preakness Stakes (G1) distance of 1 3/16 miles, is the first top-tier qualifying points race for the May 4 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. It offers points on a 100-50-25-15-10 basis to its top five finishers.

With 55 qualifying points toward the Derby, Track Phantom is already well-positioned to gain entry into the field.

Five participants from the Louisiana Derby have gone on to win the first leg of the Triple Crown, most recently Mandaloun   in 2021 and Country House   in 2019, both winners via disqualification.

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