Friday, March 25, 2011

Louisiana Derby Racing Roundup

Trainer Kathy Ritvo sends Mucho Macho Man to the starting gate Saturday as the 9-5 morning line favorite of the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) at the Fair Grounds.

Mucho Macho Man’s only bad race was when he made his 3-year-old debut and finished off the board in the one mile Holy Bull Stakes (G3). He came back three weeks later and redeemed that loss with a first-place finish in the 8 ½ - furlong Risen Star Stakes (G2) at the Fair Grounds.

Mucho Macho Man is a seasoned runner - he’s competed at six race tracks - and he comes into the Derby with an impressive 2-3-1 record in seven starts. Jockey Rajiv Maragh returns for the mount and the 9-furlongs should be within his range. I look for Mucho Macho Man to be competitive.

The horse I’m most interesting in watching run, though, is Elite Alex (6-1) who was scratched last week out of the Rebel Stakes (G2) to run in the Louisiana Derby. Hopefully that will pay off as a win would give Elite Alex enough graded stakes earnings to get into the Kentucky Derby (G1) starting gate.

With Afleet Alex has his sire and Unbridled as the damsire, the stretch out to 9-furlongs should be ideal for Elite Alex who came up short going a mile in his last two races.

Elite Alex is a descendant of the Mr. Prospector sire line and since 1990 that line has produced eight Louisiana Derby winners.

A long shot I like is Mavericking (20-1) who, since going to the stable of Neil Pessin, finished in the money in his last four starts.

Pessin has been racing Mavericking at a mile on the turf and he has a 19 percent success rate stretching his horses out from a sprint to a route race – Maverickings last race was the 7 ½ - furlong Grindstone Stakes at the Fair Grounds.

Mavericking’s sire is Empire Maker and his damsire is Lord At War. That’s the same nick Pioneerof The Nile is bred on so Mavericking should be able to handle the surface and distance.

A sharp bullet work out March 6 and Mavericking could be ready to run a good race.

Nacho Business (10-1) is all business on the race track. He won his maiden debut in January going a mile in 1:36.82 and last month he was gaining in the final strides but suffered a narrow loss to Arch Traveler in a 9-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream Park.

Since his debut win in January, Nacho Business he has been working out good. He fired three bullet works leading up to the 9-furlong allowance race and since then his works have been sharp.

Nacho Business is coupled with Pants On Fire so you get two for the price of one. I look for Nacho Business to be competitive.


  1. Calvin Carter

    I like MMM and the two Neil Howard horses in any order. I want Neil to win the Derby, He is a terrific guy, great trainer and has certainly paid his dues. Started out with Lefty Nickerson as was the long time assistant to Mack Miller where I met him.

    I would like to tell a Neil Howard story with your permission.

    In think 77 or 78 I had been off the track for about a year living in NJ selling a few OTT horses to chuck wagon racers in Canada. A Grade ! winning NY grass horse who I knew real well and liked was sold to CA connections and entered in the United Nations, Grade 1 at Atlantic City, Anyway the horse in his last start won the Eddie Read but was vanned off after the race. He had won multiple Grade 1's on both turf and dirt. Nice colt.

    The colt broke down at the end of the backstretch with Pincay up and was again vanned off. I sprinted over to the backside and there was the colt just off the ambulance being held by a bewildered groom. No trainer, no connection, nobody. just the groom. This went on for quite a while and finally I picked up a hose and started to hose down the right front tendon.

    About this time along comes Neil Howard leading the colt who won the race. He asks if I am back at the track and involved with the horse. No. I just came to watch the race and there isn't anybody taking care of this horse so I jumped in. He gives his colt to some of his help and heads over to help me. Neil brings a gell cast and in about 30 or 40 minutes he casts him up, helps me give the colt a bath and do him up. Still no connections. My Giorgio Armani suit and Gucci loafers are trashed but the horse is in his stall munching hay.

    I an flying out of Newark to Montreal real soon but I am worried about the horse. Neil tells me to take off and he looks after the horse with missing connections.

    I didn't see or speak to Neil Howard for 6 or 7 years until we had a chance meeting at O'Hare airport. He was heading to Arlington Park and I was going to London.

    The horse was retired and I visited him a couple of times in Kentucky. He wasn't much as a sire but a bad ass race horse for sure.

    I think about that day often and it is time for Neil to win the Derby. I still see his colts connections celebrating at the barn while Neil Howard is taking care of some other horse.

    Bob Bright

  2. Bob Bright,

    That's some story. And what a lucky horse to have you and Neil Howard attend to his needs.

    Mr. Bright, thanks again for the commentary. It's always appreciated.