03/22/2011 1:37PM

Louisiana Derby: Breen, Halls still have their share of Kentucky Derby hopefuls

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Barbara D. Livingston
Nacho Business is part of a George and Lori Hall-owned entry with Pants On Fire in Saturday's Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.

Losing a Kentucky Derby hopeful is never easy, although in some cases, it can be reasoned away. George and Lori Hall recently sold Sweet Ducky to foreign interests for “a lot of money,” according to their private trainer, Kelly Breen, in a move primarily intended to maintain a semblance of fiscal feasibility in their multi-million dollar Thoroughbred operation.

“In a way, it’s a shame because we had a horse that could go a distance and was all set to have a big spring,” Breen said. “But when you can turn a profit, you need to turn a profit.”

It also helped that the Halls and Breen had a fairly deep bench. Early this week, Breen was in New Mexico to prepare Nacho Saint and Ruler on Ice for the Sunland Park Derby. That race will be run Sunday, the day after the owner-trainer tandem will be represented in New Orleans with their stable coupling of Nacho Business and Pants On Fire. Those colts will break from the first two post positions as part of a field of 13 3-year-olds in the 98th and richest-ever running of the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.

KENTUCKY DERBY NEWS: Track all the 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail

Sweet Ducky, a two-time minor stakes winner who was a good second in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream in his most recent race, was sold privately to Ramzan Kadyrov, the controversial president of Chechnya. The Pulpit colt already is in Dubai with trainer Herman Brown to prepare for Saturday’s UAE Derby at Meydan.

Meanwhile, the Halls and Breen are intent on making the May 7 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs with what’s left. In the 1 1/8-mile Louisiana Derby, Breen is hoping Pants On Fire, with leading jockey Rosie Napravnik riding, will be on the pace throughout, with Nacho Business ready to pounce.

“That’s the game plan, anyway,” Breen said. “You hope they can complement each other. We’ll be looking to give ’em the ol’ 1-2 punch.”

Both Breen horses had their final pre-race workouts Sunday at Palm Meadows, when breezing half-miles in an identical 48.60 seconds. They were en route by van Tuesday, with arrival in New Orleans scheduled for early afternoon Wednesday, when Breen was scheduled to join them after a flight from New Mexico.

The Halls and Breen have had two starters in the Kentucky Derby, both in 2009, when West Side Bernie ran ninth and Atomic Rain was 16th.

The Breen entry will be listed at 10-1 in the Fair Grounds program, making them a co-fifth choice on that line. Mucho Macho Man, also returning from south Florida after winning the Feb. 19 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, is the 9-5 favorite, followed by Machen (7-2), Elite Alex (6-1), and Wilkinson (8-1). Left also is 10-1 on the program.

All but two of the Louisiana Derby starters had their final pre-race works on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, with the exceptions being the uncoupled Steve Asmussen duo of Nehro and Le Mans, who have been based this winter at Oaklawn and Santa Anita, respectively. Asmussen won the Louisiana Derby in 2001 with Fifty Stars and in 2008 with Pyro.

The Louisiana Derby will go as the 10th of 14 races on a Saturday card that also includes five other stakes. First post is 12:10 p.m. Central, with the Louisiana Derby going at 5:03 and the 14th going at 6:53. HRTV has exclusive television coverage.

The highest purse for the Louisiana Derby had been $750,000, on five occasions, from 2000-03 and in 2010. The $1 million purse not only assures the winner a spot in the Kentucky Derby, but possibly the runner-up too.