03/21/2010 11:00PM

Discreetly Mine latest Pletcher favorite

Barbara D. Livingston
Risen Star winner Discreetly Mine will break from post 7 in the Louisiana Derby.

Trainer Todd Pletcher's army of 3-year-olds is encamped en masse along the Kentucky Derby trail. Start with pro tem Derby favorite Eskendereya, and then go on to Rule, Super Saver, and Interactif. Two more - morning-line favorite Discreetly Mine and less proven Mission Impazible - were entered Monday in the Grade 2, $750,000 Louisiana Derby, part of a blockbuster Saturday card on closing weekend at Fair Grounds.

But Nick Zito and Bob Baffert, grizzled veterans of Derby wars, have marshaled their 3-year-old forces, too. Zito won the Florida Derby last Saturday with Ice Box, and has entered the promising Fly Down at Fair Grounds. Baffert, whose substantial list of Derby hopefuls is topped by Lookin At Lucky, shipped The Program to Fair Grounds almost two weeks ago for the colt's dirt debut Saturday.

Discreetly Mine, Mission Impazible, Fly Down, and The Program were among 13 horses entered in the Louisiana Derby, lengthened this year from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles. Discreetly Mine, who led all the way winning the Risen Star Stakes under Javier Castellano last month at Fair Grounds, drew post 7 for Saturday's race, and was installed as a tepid 7-2 morning-line favorite.

Mission Impazible, who was fourth to the Baffert-trained Conveyance last out in the Southwest Stakes, drew post 2, and will be ridden for the first time by Rajiv Maragh. Fly Down, a winner of two route races since finishing third in his seven-furlong career debut last October, has post 3, and will be ridden by Jose Lezcano, who rode Ice Box for Zito in the Florida Derby. The Program (Corey Nakatani) drew post 4, while another Florida raider, stretch-out sprinter A Little Warm (David Cohen), has post 5. Lecomte Stakes winner Ron the Greek (James Graham) has post 6, while top local hope Stay Put (Jamie Theriot) drew post 9. Bill Mott-trained Drosselmeyer (Kent Desormeaux), a close fourth as the Risen Star favorite, is stuck outside in post 13. Martin Garcia was named to ride The Program when entries were taken, but Garcia will be unable to travel to New Orleans and was replaced by Nakatani, according to track officials.

The others in the race are Hotep, Island Soul, Wow Wow Wow, Mister Marti Gras, and Backtrack, all longshots.

The Louisiana Derby, race 10 of 12, is one of six Saturday stakes, five for open company, and three of them Grade 2's. The Grade 2, $300,000 New Orleans Handicap, race 8, drew 10 entries Monday. Top contenders include California shipper Awesome Gem, stakes-debuting Battle Plan, General Quarters, and Giant Oak. Also entered were Stonehouse, upset winner of the Mineshaft Handicap last month, and leading Louisiana-bred Star Guitar. Absent from the New Orleans Handicap field is Friesan Fire, who has an abscessed hoof, trainer Steve Asmussen said.

Eleven turf horses were entered in the Grade 2, $300,000 Mervin Muniz, race 9. El Caballo and Blues Street won Fair Grounds's previous older-horse turf-route stakes this meet. Feels All Right and Baletti are capable Florida shippers. Red Alert Day is in from California for trainer Neil Drysdale.

Race 6 on Saturday is the Duncan Kenner, a six-furlong dirt sprint that drew only five entries. The race is a good one, though, with Kensei set to make his 2010 debut against the supremely fast pair of Euroears and Cash Refund.

Friday's multi-stakes program, headlined by the Grade 2, $300,000 Fair Grounds Oaks, was drawn Sunday, with the Oaks attracting 11 entrants. Jody Slew, who won the Tiffany Lass and Silverbulletday Stakes earlier in the meet, is among the entrants, but is uncertain to run after suffering a minor injury in her stall last week.

Pletcher has one of the favorites for the Oaks, as well, in Ailalea, a Grade 3 winner in 2009 who ran poorly her lone start this year. Other notables are Quiet Temper, Seeking the Title, Mambo Fever, Visavis, and Champagne d'Oro.

The local forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms Thursday and Thursday night, with partly cloudy but dry conditions expected Friday, and sunny weather on Saturday.