03/16/2011 3:36PM

Louisiana Derby has just five probable starters so far

Barbara D. Livingston
Mucho Macho Man, winner of the Risen Star stakes last time out, is among a small group lined up for the Louisiana Derby.

A couple weeks ago the Fair Grounds racing office was anticipating a large field, maybe 10 or 11 horses, for the $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 26, but recent defections from the race have pushed the projected number of starters down to barely half that number.

As of Wednesday, Fair Grounds was listing just five horses as probable for the Louisiana Derby. They are Mucho Macho Man, winner of the Risen Star Stakes in his most recent start; Wilkinson, winner of the Lecomte Stakes when he last raced; Machen, the fourth-place finisher in the Risen Star; Left, a maiden winner on turf and an allowance winner on dirt during the Fair Grounds meet; and Majestic Harbor, a sharp two-turn maiden winner in his most recent outing.

Oaklawn Park-based trainer Wayne Lukas told Fair Grounds this week that he might send either Duca or Quiet Assault for the Louisiana Derby. Two horses from trainer Kelly Breen, Nacho Saint and Nacho Business, also are considered possible runners.

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Trainer Neil Howard’s pair for the Louisiana Derby, Wilkinson and Machen, both turned in five-furlong workouts this week in New Orleans, Wilkinson in 1:00.60 on Monday, Machen in a bullet 59.60 seconds Tuesday, the fastest of 23 works at the distance. Machen impressively won his first two starts before his fourth-place finish in the Risen Star. Neither the second- nor third-place finishers from that race, Santiva and Rogue Romance, are expected to return for the local derby.

The $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks will be headed by Kathmanblu and Inglorious, who finished one-two in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes. The $400,000 New Orleans Handicap should have the first three finishers from the Mineshaft Handicap, Demarcation, Mission Impazible, and Apart. The $400,000 Mervin Muniz Handicap will be headed by Expansion, Sleepless Knight, and Workin for Hops, the first-, second-, and fourth-place finishers in the Fair Grounds Handicap, with Florida shipper Battle of Hastings also expected to join the fray.