03/26/2013 3:38PM

Fair Grounds: Louisiana Derby looking like full field of 14

Barbara D. Livingston
Palace Malice was a $200,000 purchase last April at the Keeneland 2-year-olds in training sale.

Cot Campbell gave a number of reasons why he picked out the Louisiana Derby for Palace Malice, the colt who will represent Dogwood Stable on Saturday in the Fair Grounds showcase.

[LOUISIANA DERBY: Get Fair Grounds PPs, watch video previews]

Speaking on a Tuesday teleconference sponsored by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Campbell referred to trainer Todd Pletcher seeking to keep his top 3-year-olds separated as best he can along the Kentucky Derby trail.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Campbell, who pioneered ownership syndicates in the early 1970s under the Dogwood banner, also mistakenly mentioned that Palace Malice would keep the dominant Fair Grounds jockey, Rosie Napravnik, aboard for the race. Minutes later, he was given a gentle reminder by the call moderator, Eric Wing, that Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado will ride Palace Malice while Napravnik goes to ride Shanghai Bobby for Pletcher in the Florida Derby.

[FLORIDA DERBY: Get PPs, watch Saturday's full card live]

Nonetheless, the major reason for shipping Palace Malice in from Florida for the Louisiana Derby, Campbell jokingly said, is “I’m a New Orleans boy,” a reference to his birth there in 1927. “That’s a big enough reason, isn’t it? We’re going to Commanders Palace Saturday night.”

Kidding aside, Palace Malice is one of the top prospects in a bulky field expected for the 100th running of the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby. The 1 1/8-mile race is worth 100 points to the winner toward eligibility into the 139th Kentucky Derby on May 4 at Churchill Down.

Sired by two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, Palace Malice was a $200,000 purchase last April at the Keeneland 2-year-olds in training sale. The colt has not run a bad race in four tries, winning once and most recently finishing a close third amid a tightly-bunched group in the Feb. 23 Risen Star Stakes. His Beyer Speed Figures have ranged from 83 to 93.

In the Risen Star, his first try around two turns, Palace Malice “got a little short, which I think indicated he may have needed a race,” said Campbell, “I always thought the horse wanted to go a route. I do think he wants a mile and an eighth.”

Palace Malice is one of two Pletcher trainees, along with Revolutionary, shipping in from south Florida for the Louisiana Derby. A full gate of 14 3-year-olds was expected when entries for all Saturday races were drawn Wednesday.

The Louisiana Derby will be part of a one-hour broadcast Saturday on the NBC Sports Network, along with the Florida Derby. The show runs from 6-7 p.m. Eastern.

Rich undercard

A terrific Saturday undercard will include three other Grade 2 stakes, with the richest of those being the $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks, a key prep for the May 3 Kentucky Oaks. The undefeated Unlimited Budget, also shipping in for Pletcher, looms a solid favorite for the race, with anywhere from five to seven fillies to oppose her.

For the $400,000 Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap, Optimizer, Doubles Partner, and Willcox Inn are the top prospects in a field of about nine older turf runners.

And in a sensational renewal of the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap, Mark Valeski will face $2.5 million-earner Flat Out and the one-two finishers from the Donn Handicap, Graydar and Bourbon Courage.

◗ Besides the four graded stakes Saturday, there also will be three stakes for Louisiana-breds: the $75,000 Crescent City Derby, the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks, and the $60,000 Costa Rising Stakes.

◗ For the first time ever for a racing event at Fair Grounds, the infield will be open to the general public during what the track is billing as the “Infield Festival” featuring live music and other attractions. Tickets are $25. Upgrades are available after a $10 admission fee for the grandstand and $15 for the clubhouse.

◗ The four-month Fair Grounds meet ends on a far quieter note Sunday with the $60,000 Bayou St. John’s Stakes for older Louisiana-bred turf sprinters.

◗ With all the big races upcoming, it’s little wonder the Thursday card at Fair Grounds offers little more than a first-level, $47,000 allowance as a nominal feature. Seven filly-mare turf sprinters are entered, with Zipping Away and Maggie Simon likely to vie for favoritism. First post is 1 p.m. Central.