Agate Road the pick to upset in $1 million Louisiana Derby

by | Last updated Mar 24, 2024 | Horse Betting

Honor Marie, Real Men Violin solid longshots in longest Kentucky Derby Prep

Race: Louisiana Derby (G2), Fair Grounds, Race 12, Saturday, March 23
Purse: $1 Million
Distance: 1 3/16-miles
Surface: Dirt

2024 Louisiana Derby Picks

  1. Agate Road
  2. Honor Marie
  3. Track Phantom
  4. Catching Freedom

2024 Louisiana Derby Longshots

Real Men Violin, Tuscan Gold

The longest Kentucky Derby prep of 2024 goes on Saturday and with morning-line favorite Track Phantom breaking from the widest post 12, it seems like a good time to go longshot hunting. With that in mind here’s the horse-by-horse rundown of what looks like a great Derby prep from inside post to out.

1. Triple Espresso (20-1) has been scratched and is expected to run in the Jeff Ruby Stakes at Turfway Park on the same day.
2. Hall of Fame (8-1) looked good breaking his maiden in fast time two starts ago, earning a 94 Beyer Speed Figure but then came back to finish seventh in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) going 1 1/8-miles in the slop at Fair Grounds on February 17. He was making a substantial move up in class for that race and appeared slightly uncomfortable while rating inside behind the early leaders. He did make a decent move three-wide on the final turn to get into contention but flattened out in the drive. He could improve on a fast track and he did have a class/trip/surface excuse in his last, but this race is a sixteenth of a mile further. It’s a guessing game as to whether he’ll improve for this race, but he’s worth using in your exotics at what should be decent odds just in case.
3. Antiquarian (12-1) forced the pace from the outside and held on to break his maiden going 1 1/16-miles in the slop in his second lifetime start at Fair Grounds on the same day as the Risen Star was run, earning an 80 Beyer for his efforts. In his first start he pressed from the outside and dueled a longshot into submission in the drive only to lose to a horse that has since come back to win again. It appears he will have to improve, which is not out of the question, and he does have some speed.
4. Agate Road (8-1) makes his third start off the layoff for trainer Todd Pletcher and gets the services of top jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. After being far back early he made a big move on the turn in the Sam F. Davis (G3) in his last start beaten only 1 ¼-lengths behind a winner who got away from the field in mid stretch, and does have some class to him, but he’s never won on the dirt. He does have some class on the turf however, having won the Pilgrim Stakes (G3) last year and finishing fifth beaten only 2 1/2-lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) last year. He’ll likely be coming from out of the clouds and will be hoping for a hot pace. The added distance of the Louisiana Derby should work to his advantage. Upset possibility.

5. Catching Freedom (4-1) won the $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park two starts ago and moved up in class in the slop at Fair Grounds in the Risen Star Stakes (G2), where he rallied wide to finish third beaten 1 ¾-lengths. That earned him an 84 Beyer Speed Figure and he is a trier based on his previous races. He might not be good enough, but you can likely expect a solid effort from him.
6. Awesome Ruta (30-1) finished sixth beaten 8 ¼- lengths in the Risen Star Stakes in his last start and recorded his best Beyer Speed Figure to date with a 78, but he hasn’t done anything that would justify making his odds lower than 30-1 yet. In his only stakes performance he finished second beaten a neck in the Jeanne Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs as a 2-year-old, but he hasn’t been able to build on that performance, which also came over a sloppy track. He was in contention in early stretch in the Risen Star after a decent trip and the top finishers just ran away from him.
7. Honor Marie (8-1) made his first start off a long layoff in the Risen Star and finished a respectable fifth beaten 6 ¼-lengths. In his previous start he had won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs going 1 1/16-miles, and earned a big 92 Beyer Speed Figure. He showed a quick turn of foot midway through the final turn after trailing to that point, and he came home with a long, determined run. He looked like he was never ready to run the distance of the Risen Star off the layoff, making a mild move and then grinding home steadily while clearly tired. There’s no reason to think he couldn’t improve at a nice price in the Louisiana Derby as he makes his second start off the layoff. If he gets a hot pace, he could very well be in the mix as they turn into the stretch.
8. Next Level (30-1) is an in-and-outer who doesn’t know whether he wants to be on the lead or rallying from off the pace. On top of that he probably doesn’t have the class to match up with this bunch. In his last start he finished eighth beaten 13 lengths in the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park. His claim to fame is finishing third in last year’s Del Mar Futurity (G1) but he hasn’t improved since then and this seems like a tough spot.
9. Real Men Violin (20-1) made his first start off a long layoff in the Risen Star Stakes and finished a tired eighth beaten 12 ¼-lengths after a decent inside trip. He’d finished second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in his previous start and no doubt better results were expected in the Risen Star. In the Kentucky Jockey Club he stalked a duel from the inside, had to wait mildly on the final turn and also had minor traffic trouble turning for home, yet still ran a good race. He looked like he was nowhere near ready for the Risen Star Stakes and he should move forward off that race, but he also faces more distance. Tough to tell which way he’s going to go, but he will likely be just back of the pacesetters and make a move into the stretch. Worth throwing into your superfectas at big odds.
10. Common Defense (6-1) finished second beaten two lengths by proven class runner Timberlake in the Rebel Stakes in his last start and earned a solid 90 Beyer Speed Figure. He had a nice inside trip in that race while Timberlake went wide to win, but he does appear to be gradually improving and he’s another in here that should be just back of the pacesetters. He looked very enthusiastic throughout in the Rebel and was under a good hold until the running started. If he can handle the extra distance of the Louisiana Derby, he’s another that has a shot at being in the superfecta.
11. Tuscan Gold (8-1) has only had two-lifetime starts, but he did look impressive, breaking his maiden in his last start at Gulfstream Park, going 1 1/16 miles for top trainer Chad Brown. A big, gangly, green and still-developing horse, he does appear to have some upside. He earned an 84 Beyer Speed Figure for his 6 ¼-length maiden win, and he does look like he will enjoy the extra distance of the Louisiana Derby. He now gets a class test.
12. Track Phantom (3-1) is the logical favorite for this year’s Louisiana Derby off his solid second-place finish in the Risen Star Stakes, but he faces a few hurdles here in the form of the widest post and other speed that has drawn the inside posts. Already a two-time stakes winner in the Gun Runner and Lecomte Stakes (G3) he was caught late by favorite Sierra Leone after making the lead from Post 11 and opening a clear rated lead. There are a few other speedsters in the Louisiana Derby that can make him work for the lead, which is where he wants to be, and that could be a good reason to bet against him. At least in the win spot. Expect him to press the pace if he doesn’t get the lead, and then test his class outside the other front runners.

The speed in the race looks like Antiquarian, Track Phantom, Hall of Fame, and possibly Next Level, depending on what he decides to do. That sets the race up for a horse from just off the pace. We’re going to take a shot with Agate Road off the big move he made in his last race, although we don’t expect his odds to be anywhere near as high as his morning line of 8-1. Honor Marie will be our second choice with expected improvement. Common Defense and Track Phantom will be our next choices for the superfecta with Real Men Violin our longshot pick.

Go get’em!