02/26/2013 4:29PM

Fair Grounds notes: Sunbean aims for Louisiana Derby

Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography
Sunbean might try open company for the first time in the Louisiana Derby.

Al Stall entered two horses in the Risen Star Stakes but ran neither of them after Departing and Sunbean drew the outside posts in a field that originally numbered 15.

Departing remains on track to start Saturday at Sam Houston Race Park in the $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes, but Sunbean could be in line for a Louisiana Derby run after another good-looking two-turn victory on Saturday’s card.

Scratched from the Risen Star, Sunbean raced instead against fellow Louisiana-breds in an off-turf edition of the Gentilly Stakes and won by almost five lengths. His final time of 1:42.76 was the fastest recorded at one mile and 70 yards this season at Fair Grounds, producing a Beyer Speed Figure of 88 that, if anything, felt a little low.

Sunbean lost by a nostril sprinting in his career debut but has since won three races in a row, the last two going two turns.

“He’s a nice horse,” said Stall, who trains Sunbean for owner-breeder Brittlyn Stables. “I don’t know what times mean, but he ran fast and he came out of it good. We’re going to point to the Louisiana Derby unless the same scenario happens as in the Risen Star.”

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

Sunbean got stuck on the Risen Star also-eligible list because his statebred-restricted starts automatically put him at the back of the line, according to qualifying criteria for the race. Since Sunbean still hasn’t run in open company, he would face a similar scenario were the Louisiana Derby to overfill.

Sunbean, by Brahms, is out of a mare named X Strawdnair, who has produced a series of talented performers who have excelled in sprints. Sunbean has speed too – Stall said that in his second start, a fast-paced sprint win, he earned “a great pace fig” – but has settled nicely and finished straight and strong under jockey Colby Hernandez in his pair of route races.

“He turns off so well,” Stall said. “I’m telling Colby every time to take him back there like that. All that’s been by design.”

Departing is one of four horses Stall will send to Houston late Friday for Saturday stakes races. Also scheduled to travel are Distorted Legacy and Unlatched, who will contest turf stakes, and Bind, who returns to stakes competition after winning his first two starts following a long layoff.

Stakes racing also might be in the near-term plans for the 3-year-old filly Tread, who in her second career start won a maiden sprint Saturday by six lengths, earning a 90 Beyer. Tread will make her next start in a first-level allowance race around one turn, with Stall keeping an eye on the Eight Belles Stakes on May 4 at Churchill.

Ground Transport eyes Louisiana Derby

Ground Transport probably earned a spot in the Louisiana Derby with his fast-closing victory in a first-level dirt-route allowance race Saturday, trainer Mike Stidham said.

Ground Transport, a Big Brown colt, finished second to Departing while debuting in a sprint before reeling off back-to-back two-turn victories. He closed into a slow pace under Mark Guidry in Saturday’s fourth race to win by three lengths, earning an 81 Beyer.

Mylute to get another chance

Mylute, who loomed at the top of the stretch but faded to seventh in the Risen Star, also is likely to start in the Louisiana Derby, trainer Tom Amoss said.

Mylute was making his first start since Dec. 26, when he easily won a two-turn first-level Fair Grounds allowance race.

“Mylute came out of the race in very good shape,” Amoss said. “The way he was trained and the amount of time between races had something to do with him faltering at the end, so we’re going to try one more time with him.”