09/06/2012 2:57PM

Louisiana Downs: Blueskiesnrainbows stands out in diverse Super Derby field

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Benoit & Associates
Blueskiesnrainbows (right) won the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park in his last start, earning a 103 Beyer Speed Figure.

BOSSIER CITY, La. – Blueskiesnrainbows will be a short-priced favorite in the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Saturday because of both his connections and credentials. He is a Bob Baffert-trained 3-year-old coming off a Grade 2 win in Southern California, and he is to be ridden by Joe Talamo, the Louisiana native who went on a stakes tear at Del Mar.

But there are more layers to the 1 1/8-mile race. Blueskiesnrainbows is an up-and-coming horse who still has things to prove. He is looking for his first win outside of California, and he will likely have to deal with more pace pressure than he is used to.

Blueskiesnrainbows also faces a diverse nine-horse field that includes battle-tested runners like Rousing Sermon, who ran in this year’s Kentucky Derby, and Hero of Order, winner of the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. There also are some wild cards, like Bourbon Courage, the runner-up in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby, and Fly Lexis Fly, a Group 1 winner in Peru making his second start for trainer Neil Drysdale.

The Super Derby is one of six stakes on a 13-race card worth more than $1 million. There is a $100,000-guaranteed all-stakes pick four on races 8-11, with the Super Derby part of the sequence as the 10th race with a post of 5:10 p.m. Central. Another high point on the day is an appearance by Smile Sprint winner Gantry in the $50,000 Temperence Hill, which will serve as his final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Blueskiesnrainbows ran the race of his career in the Swaps in his last start July 4, when he controlled the pace and then fought late for a three-quarter-length win in the 1 1/8-mile stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park. He earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 103 and has since been training sharply at Del Mar in preparation for the Super Derby. He arrived here Wednesday.

“It was a good spot to go to,” said Jimmy Barnes, assistant to Baffert, whose father, Bill Baffert, died Monday. “It set up good. He hadn’t run in a while, and we had to get a race, either there or the Pennsylvania Derby, and we chose to come to Louisiana.”

Baffert won the Super Derby a year ago with Prayer for Relief, who cruised wire to wire. And while there is a chance Blueskiesnrainbows could steal away Saturday, he also might face an early challenge from Hero of Order, the front-running winner of the Louisiana Derby who breaks to his immediate outside in post 4, and Master Rick and Tensas Cold Front, who dueled in the $100,000 Prelude last month at Louisiana Downs. There’s also a chance Rousing Sermon, who has done his best work from off the pace, could apply added pressure as he is stretching back out to two turns off a seven-furlong stakes start at Del Mar.

Despite the potential pace scenario, Blueskiesnrainbows, who races for Bad Boy Racing and Whizway Farms, remains the one to beat. He showed he could rate in the Swaps. And in the Santa Anita Derby in April, he set a quick pace and held well when third to eventual Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another. Blueskiesandrainbows also is a fresh horse who holds a minimum of a 10-point last-race Beyer advantage on each of his rivals in the Super Derby.

Rousing Sermon was fourth in the Swaps and has raced once since, finishing second by three-quarters of a length in the $200,000 Real Good Deal for California-breds at Del Mar on Aug. 3. He has since prepped well for the Super Derby, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said.

“He’s been training really forwardly, and the horse looks good, his coat looks real good,” he said. “He’s doing really well. He’s been training down at Del Mar, and that gets horses very fit. So, we have some positive things going for us.”

Mike Smith has the mount on Rousing Sermon, who this spring ran third in the Louisiana Derby and eighth in the Kentucky Derby.

Bourbon Courage invades from Kentucky. He made a splash this winter at Fair Grounds, when he won the first two starts of his career with triple-digit Beyers. He made the move to two turns last month and finished second by a half-length in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby. Bourbon Courage had to bid from the rail because he ended up being pinned along the inside, according to trainer Kellyn Gorder.

“Watching the races all day that day, everything was winning from the four to five path,” he said. “It wasn’t an ideal spot the way the races played out.”

Bourbon Courage, who also lost a front shoe, will break from post 9 under Leandro Goncalves.

Fly Lexis Fly is back racing with 3-year-olds after finishing fifth against older horses in the Grade 3 Cougar II at Del Mar. Martin Garcia has the mount from post 5.

Key Donation won the Prelude at Louisiana Downs and with it a fees-paid berth into the Super Derby.