07/31/2013 1:17PM

Louisiana Downs: Sunbean, Carve meet in Super Derby Prelude on stakes-rich card

Tom Keyser
Carve, who finished third in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in April, might be favored in Saturday's $100,000 Super Derby Prelude.

BOSSIER CITY, La. – The season’s first Super Saturday at Louisiana Downs is set for this weekend, with the $100,000 Super Derby Prelude anchoring a 10-race card.

A mini turf festival of sorts will support the Prelude, as the Barksdale Stakes for 3-year-olds and up, the Sunny’s Halo for 2-year-olds, and the Donnie Wilhite Memorial for 2-year-old fillies are all scheduled for the grass. All three $50,000 supporting stakes should be attractive races to bet on since they will have full fields.

First run in 1982, the Prelude was designed to showcase the best of the local 3-year-olds and provide the winner with a fees-paid berth to the meeting’s signature event, the Grade 2, 500,000 Super Derby. The 34th running of the Super Derby is set for Sept. 7.

The Prelude drew a field of seven, with Carve and Sunbean likely vying for the role of favorite.

Sunbean won the Louisiana Legends Mile in impressive fashion last month at Evangeline Downs while returning to statebred company after off-the-board efforts in the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs and the Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland in the spring. The Ron Faucheux charge put together a three-race winning streak at Fair Grounds over the winter, including the Gentilly Stakes in February. Former Louisiana Downs regular Corey Lanerie will journey in to ride.

Carve enters the Prelude off a troubled third-place finish in the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 7. The First Samurai gelding also went unplaced in the Matt Winn in June after getting a rest following his third-place finish in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in April. Trainer Steve Asmussen has given the call to leading rider Richard Eramia.

The 7 1/2-furlong Sunny’s Halo will mark the much-anticipated return of Da House, who was impressive in winning at first asking here two weeks ago at seven furlongs. Despite stumbling at the start, steadying early when in tight quarters, then dealing with traffic late in the turn, Da House cruised home 7 1/2 lengths the best, with rider Don Simington throttling down the son of Yankee Gentlemen in the late stages. Simington has the return call for trainer Wes Hawley.

Nevada Deputy heads up a well-balanced field in the Donnie Wilhite at 7 1/2 furlongs. Another Asmussen trainee, Nevada Deputy, overcame traffic problems in the late going to win her maiden over the Lone Star Park turf July 6. The daughter of Pollard’s Vision has been training steadily between starts in preparation for her stakes debut. Eramia will ride her.

Shea’s Lil Shug leads the local contingent in the Wilhite off a win at first asking on turf last month. Trainer Alan Klanfer once again will give Kevin Smith a leg up.

The most competitive race of the afternoon could be the Barksdale, in which a dozen runners will go a mile. Pure Tactics could hold a small edge after winning the 7 1/2-furlong prep race four weeks ago in his 2013 debut. The lightly raced 4-year-old by Pure Prize has won half of his eight career starts, all for trainer Morris Nicks and all on grass. Jamie Theriot has the return call.

Defending champ Go Tiger Jack returns in the Barksdale and could be sitting on a big effort following a runner-up finish in the Oak Hall Stakes over the Evangeline main track in his last start. The gelded son of Victory Gallop is trained by Ralph Irwin and will have veteran Mark Guidry aboard.