09/09/2012 12:20PM

Louisiana Downs: Bourbon Courage eyes Breeders’ Cup after Super Derby victory

Hodges Photography / Lynn Roberts
Bourbon Courage wins the Grade 2 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs by five lengths on Saturday.

BOSSIER CITY, La. – Bourbon Courage was back in Kentucky early Sunday morning, a day after winning the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby, and all race options are on the table for his fall campaign, including a possible start in either the Breeders’ Cup Classic or Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, trainer Kellyn Gorder said. For the immediate future, however, his connections are debating a start in the Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby or the $400,000 Oklahoma Derby.

Bourbon Courage won the Super Derby by five lengths and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 94. He raced well off the pace set by the dueling Blueskiesnrainbows and Hero of Order, put in a sustained run four wide around the final turn, and pulled clear in the 1 1/8-mile race. Sunday, he flew back home to Kentucky and touched down at 9 a.m. Eastern. 

“They had an early start,” Gorder said. “I’ve sent him back over to WinStar [Farm]. He’ll go there for about a week, then come back to at Churchill. It’s just something we’ve done for the last three races, and it looks like it’s working, so we’re not going to change anything. We’ll let him get his head down, eat some grass, be a horse for a week, and make sure everything is okay and bring him back to Churchill.”

The Oklahoma Derby is Sept. 30, which might be too quick back for Bourbon Courage,  Gorder said. The Indiana Derby, meanwhile, is Oct. 6 at Hoosier Park. Decisions on the horse’s path the remainder of the year will be made after he returns to Churchill.

“The horse will have to tell us,” Gorder said. “We’ll see how he is in a week, where his energy level is. I’m not even certain it will be one of those spots. We’ll just kind of look and see what’s out there.

“We always have the Breeders’ Cup in the back of our minds. That would be a possibility. I need to race him before that. I think I’d need a race before that. We’re just [throwing] some different ideas around, watching what the other horses in the division are doing. The 3-year-old division is just decimated with injuries and illness. We’ve got to pick our spot.”

The Indiana Derby ranks high on the options list because of the ties jockey Leandro Goncalves, who rode Bourbon Courage for the first time in the Super Derby, has to Hoosier Park.

“That’s Leandro’s stomping grounds,” Gorder said. “He’s a leading rider there. That probably had something to do with putting him on for the Super Derby.”

Bourbon Courage is now 3 for 3 in Louisiana, after winning the first two starts of his career in the state this past winter at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Both races were sprints, and in both he put up double-digit Beyer Speed Figures. He moved to two turns for the first time for last month’s Grade 2 West Virginia Derby and finished second by a half-length before conquering the trip in the Super Derby and pushing his career earnings to $520,345.

The win was the biggest career victory for Gorder, a 45-year-old horseman who opened a public racing stable five years ago after working as a farm trainer at WinStar. It also ranked No. 1 for the Bourbon Lane Stable that is managed by Jamie Hill and Mike McMahon. The horse also is co-owned by Wayne Lynn. Bourbon Courage, a son of Lion Heart and the Carson City mare Shine Forth, was a $15,000 yearling purchase at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky in July 2010.

“We liked everything about him physically,” said McMahon, who also owns a bloodstock agency with Hill. “He was one of our favorite-type horses physically. He was in the price range, in fact he was way below it, so we felt very lucky. We were absolutely thrilled, and not a bit worried about the price. We just thought it was a slam dunk.”

McMahon said Bourbon Lane has had horses racing for about three years.

“He’s our best horse so far,” he said of Bourbon Courage. “We only have six 3-year-olds.”

The others include the Grade 2-placed Bourbonstreetgirl and the stakes-placed Johannesbourbon.

The Super Derby was the richest race of the meet at Louisiana Downs, and it was supported by five undercard stakes. Together the races were worth $1 million and they helped Louisiana Downs achieve its highest Super Derby Day handle since 2008. A total of $5,311,900 was bet on the track’s 13-race card from all sources, up 17 percent from last year, said Trent McIntosh, director of operations for Louisiana Downs.