NEW ORLEANS — The 100th running of the Louisiana Derby drew its first full field of 14 in more than 50 years.
And the morning line reflects possibility of a wide-open race Saturday at the Fair Grounds.
Revolutionary, trained by two-time Louisiana Derby winner Todd Pletcher, is a moderate 3-1 early favorite in the $1 million Grade II stakes that is an important stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby.
Code West, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, is the second choice at 9-2. Another Pletcher horse, Palace Malice, is third at 5-1.
The winner of the 11⁄8 mile race gets an automatic berth in the Kentucky Derby, Second place is worth 40 points, third 20 and fourth 10 in the first-year Road to the Derby series.
The Louisiana Derby is the crown jewel of a day of four stakes races, including the $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks, the $400 Mervin Muniz Handicap, and the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap.
Revolutionary is coming of a victory in the Grade III Withers Stakes at Aqueduct in his last start on Feb. 2, in which he overcame severe traffic problems. It was Revolutionary’s second victory in his five career starts.
Javier Castellano, who was aboard Revolutionary for the Withers Stakes, will again be his rider.
While Revolutionary is making his Fair Grounds debut, Code West was imported from California last month for the Grade II Risen Star, where he finished second by a nose to long shot I’ve Struck a Nerve, who suffered a leg injury shortly afterward and is out indefinitely.
West Coast-based jockey Martin Garcia will ride Code West, which has one victory in six starts.
Palace Malice, third by a half-length in the Risen Star, has Edgar Prado up. Prado is replacing Rosie Napravnik, the Fair Grounds’ leading jockey, who will be at Gulfstream Park on Saturday to ride Pletcher’s Shanghai Bobby.
Palace Malice has one victory in four starts.
Previous Fair Grounds experience has not seemed to be a factor in the past decade, with the winners split evenly between imports and horses stabled here.
Hero of Order, last year’s 109-1 long shot winner, had been locally based.
Pletcher is seeking his first Louisiana Derby victory since 2010 with Mission Impazible, who returned the following year to win the New Orleans Handicap.
One of the co-fourth choices has co-owners whose names are more familiar for football than racing. Titletown Nine belongs to a group that includes Pro Football Hall of Famers Paul Horning and Willie Davis along with trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Titletown Nine, ridden by Jon Court, placed in the Gazebo Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 2.
Departing, trained by Adele Dilschneider and ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. is the co-fourth choice at 8-1.
Reflecting the opportunity that owners and trainers see for Saturday, four horses that were previously not nominated for the Kentucky Derby — Departing, Sunbean, Brazilian Court and Hip Four Sixtynine — are in the race.
The Fair Grounds Oaks for fillies has drawn a field of seven, topped by Flashy Gray, a Bill Mott trainee. Flashy Gray recently finished second in the Grade III Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park and has two career victories.
Unlimited Budget, undefeated in three starts, including the Rachel Alexandra Stakes at the Fair Grounds in February, is the second choice at 9-5 with Rachel Alexandra runner-up Promise Me third.
This year’s Louisiana Derby Day will include the track’s first infield festival featuring concerts by Cowboy Mouth and Flow Tribe along with 17 food tucks and pop-up vendors.
The Fair Grounds is selling 5,000 tickets for the infield.
The first post of Saturday’s 13-race card is at 1 p.m. with the Louisiana Derby scheduled to go off at 5:45 p.m. Both the Louisiana Derby and Florida Derby will be televised on the NBC Sports Network as part of its “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series.
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