Fair Grounds releases final nominees for La. Derby

Advocate photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- Jockey Kerwin Clark rides Easy Jazz finishing first in the 4th race at the begining of the Thoroughbred Racing Season at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 22. Photo shot on Thursday November 22, 2012, in Baton Rouge, La.. MAGS OUT / INTERNET OUT/ONLINE OUT/NO SALES/TV OUT/FOREIGN OUT/ LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC./GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS REPORT/225/10/12/IN REGISTER/LBI CUSTOM PUBLICATIONS/  Full contract in place
Advocate photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- Jockey Kerwin Clark rides Easy Jazz finishing first in the 4th race at the begining of the Thoroughbred Racing Season at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 22. Photo shot on Thursday November 22, 2012, in Baton Rouge, La.. MAGS OUT / INTERNET OUT/ONLINE OUT/NO SALES/TV OUT/FOREIGN OUT/ LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC./GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS REPORT/225/10/12/IN REGISTER/LBI CUSTOM PUBLICATIONS/ Full contract in place

NEW ORLEANS — The Fair Grounds released its final list of nominated horses Monday for the 100th running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby, a roster that, pending late mail, includes 88 possible entrants into one of the nation’s biggest races.

The nomination period for the derby, which is slated for March 30, ended Saturday, and as of Monday afternoon, the field for the contest had 13 probables, including several that will be piloted by high-profile jockeys who’ll be imported from elsewhere.

The Fair Grounds is limiting the derby field to 14 starters competing for a piece of the $1 million pot — including $600,000 to the winner — and a bunch of the 170 total points in the new Road to the Kentucky Derby series that are up for grabs March 30.

Entries and post positions will be drawn during a ceremony Wednesday morning at the Fair Grounds.

The field of probable starters for the Louisiana Derby hasn’t changed since last week, with a baker’s dozen of horses penciled in to fill the starting gates. Early favorites include Revolutionary and Palace Malice, both sporting 10 points in the Kentucky Derby standings and both conditioned by trainer Todd Pletcher, who won four consecutive Eclipse Awards for outstanding trainer of the year and has had a total of 24 entrants in the Kentucky Derby, led by 2010 Run for the Roses victor Super Saver.

Pletcher is pulling out all the stops with Palace Malice, too — he’s bringing in racing hall of famer Edgar Prado, who has three Triple Crown race wins under his belt, to pilot Malice.

In addition, at least three other jockeys with Triple Crown wins on their resum├ęs — Javier Castellano, Calvin Borel and Martin Garcia — are slated to take the saddle in this year’s race.

In all, as usual, the March 30 event promises to be a star-studded affair.

“It’ll have a lot of good horses, a good group for the Kentucky Derby,” said trainer Dallas Stewart, who is shipping in Borel to ride his entry, Golden Soul. “It’s $1 million, a big purse. That’s what everyone’s shooting for.”

Well, that and the 100 Road to the Kentucky Derby series points that’ll be allotted to the winner of the Louisiana event. With those 100 points in hand, the winner on March 30 will virtually be guaranteed a slot in the gates May 4 at Churchill Downs.

Golden Soul currently has four series points. But trainer Bobby Barnett’s horse, Hip Four Sixtynine, hasn’t yet been nominated for the Triple Crown series, meaning Hip Four will come into the Louisiana Derby with no series points and a distinct underdog tag.

Barnett won’t be alone, naturally — there will be a handful of other huge underdogs in two Saturdays — and he, like every other conditioner who will probably have a horse in contest, gives Hip Four a chance at pulling out the upset victory. Despite the horse’s inexperience with two-curve races, Barnett is optimistic because Hip Four has performed well recently.

“We know he’s entering the derby as a long shot, but we know our colt has talent,” Barnett said. “He came out of his last race really well, and he’s looking pretty good right now. I think he’s a good horse.”