09/04/2012 3:22PM

Louisiana Downs: Super Derby is Bourbon Courage's chance to prove he can win at two turns

Tom Keyser
Bourbon Courage will stretch out to two turns in the Super Derby.

Bourbon Courage proved to be a mighty quick horse in sprints this spring at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, where he won the first two starts of his career with triple-digit Beyer Figures. Saturday, he will be looking to get his first victory at two turns in the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby.

Bourbon Courage is part of an anticipated field of nine to 10 horses for the 1 1/8-mile race, which highlights the meet at Louisiana Downs near Shreveport. Others expected to start include Grade 2 Swaps winner Blueskiesnrainbows, Kentucky Derby alum Rousing Sermon, and Grade 2 Louisiana Derby winner Hero of Order.

Bourbon Courage, who was scheduled to fly in Wednesday from Louisville, Ky., created a good deal of buzz the last time he was in Louisiana. He debuted in a maiden special weight sprint Feb. 3 and zipped six furlongs in 1:09.20 to earn a Beyer of 103. One start later, Bourbon Courage accounted for a first-level allowance with a Beyer of 101.

“There were a lot of highly touted horses in his maiden race,” said Kellyn Gorder, who trains Bourbon Courage for Bourbon Lane Stable and Wayne Lynn. “We had a lot of high hopes for him, and anytime one steps up and runs that kind of number, it’s exciting.”

The Super Derby will be the sixth start for Bourbon Courage, who following Fair Grounds was fourth in the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs and fifth in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens at Belmont. He enters the Super Derby off a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race at Mountaineer Racetrack on Aug. 4.

“We stretched him out to two turns for the first time in the West Virginia Derby and he ran a really respectable race,” said Gorder. “He was second, beaten a half-length.”

And the circumstances were not ideal. Bourbon Courage was stuck along the inside and, unlike in his first few races, found himself more than a dozen lengths off the pace. He closed up the rail, and after the race was found to have lost a front shoe, said Gorder.

“I think that had to affect him a little bit,” Gorder said of the lost shoe. As for the trip, the trainer said the inside part of the track was laboring.

“We knew the rail had been playing pretty dead the whole day,” Gorder said. “We knew it wasn’t the ideal place to be, but he was kind of pinned down on the rail. We were happy with his effort.”

Gorder said the timing of the Super Derby made the race an appealing option for Bourbon Courage. It also gives the horse another chance to prove himself at two turns. From the start, Gorder thought Bourbon Courage would be a horse that would route, citing the horse’s ability to rate.

“He’s a horse that really seems to love to run the turns,” he said. “And one of the things I’ve observed is that sometimes the most impressive part of his breeze is his gallop-out. That’s kind of what’s telling us he’s a two-turn horse even after he won twice sprinting.”

Gorder has the scope to assess young talent. He gave 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer, and 2009 Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed their earliest training lessons as yearlings while working as a farm trainer for WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky.

Gorder, 45, established his own stable five years ago, and is in the midst of his winningest year ever with 55 victories from 195 starters. His stable is based in Kentucky, with more than 50 horses divided among Keeneland, Churchill Downs, and the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington. Gorder, who has an animal science degree from the University of Wisconsin, has also worked for Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg.

Bourbon Courage will be Gorder’s first starter at Louisiana Downs and he said Leandro Goncalves has the mount in the Super Derby. Bourbon Courage was a $15,000 yearling purchase at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky in July 2010 by Mike McMahon and Jamie Hill of the Kentucky-based Bourbon Lane Stable. The horse is by Lion Heart.

“He’s about 16 hands, a very well-balanced horse,” said Gorder. “He’s really level-headed, a nice horse to be around. And the fact that he’s got a lot of talent, when you put those things together that makes for a nice horse.”