09/08/2011 3:39PM

Louisiana Downs: Super Derby comes up pretty deep

Tom Keyser
Prayer for Relief, shown working out at Saratoga, is undefeated in three starts as a 3-year-old.

BOSSIER CITY, La.– Prayer for Relief is undefeated at 3, unbeaten on dirt, and will be seeking his fourth consecutive win Saturday when he invades from Southern California for the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs.

By all accounts, he is the one to beat.

But dig a little deeper, and the race is not that clear-cut.

Alternation is a potent stretch threat if he runs back to his dramatic win in the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont Park. Malibu Glow just squared off with some of the division’s chief players in the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga.

Awesome Bet is in from Kentucky for Steve Asmussen, the leading trainer in wins in North America, while Meistersinger is an improving sort with more natural speed than most of his rivals. And then there is Trubs, the hometown horse who is seeking to give his trainer, Al Stall Jr., a third Super Derby win behind My Pal Charlie in 2008 and Apart in 2010.

In all, a field of nine will go in the Super Derby, The 1 1/8-mile race is the richest of the meet, and anchors a program of six stakes worth $1 million. It is also the third leg of a $100,000 guaranteed pick four that runs from races 9-12. The bet has a fifty-cent minimum and it will comprise all stakes, with the lead-off leg the $100,000 Unbridled that drew the Bill Mott-trained Mystic.

Prayer for Relief has stepped up his game dramatically since last year, when he won his maiden in a $50,000 claiming race at the Oak Tree meet at Hollywood Park. He has since become a multiple graded stakes winner, taking the Grade 3 Iowa Derby in his dirt debut June 25, and the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby at 1 1/8 miles in his most recent start Aug. 6.

“He’s really come around,” said Bob Baffert, who trains Prayer for Relief for Zayat Stables. “He’s changed so much from what he was as a 2-year-old.

“He worked really well the other day, so I thought, ‘You know what, I better take a shot here.’ ”

Prayer for Relief, who drilled a half-mile in 47.20 seconds at Del Mar on Sept. 4, was to arrive at Louisiana Downs late Thursday. The horse, who began his 3-year-old season in May with a first-level allowance route win Hollywood Park, will break from post 5.

Rafael Bejarano has the mount, and Prayer for Relief’s tactical speed might enable the rider to fashion an ideal tracking trip behind the rail-drawn Meistersinger and Trubs. It doesn’t hurt matters that Prayer for Relief’s dam, Sparklin Lil, was a stakes winner at Louisiana Downs.

For those looking for an alternative to the favorite, Alternation might be the best choice. He is proven at both a Grade 2 level and 1 1/8 miles by virtue of his win in the Peter Pan. He also faced one of the division’s leaders last out in Stay Thirsty, finishing fourth to the eventual Travers winner in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on July 30. For the Super Derby, Alternation will break from post 6. Ramon Dominguez will be aboard Alternation, who could be sitting behind a potentially modest pace Saturday.

“I think most of the races he’s won, they’ve had probably just pretty average fractions in them,” said Alternation’s trainer, Donnie Von Hemel. “In the Peter Pan, he wasn’t that far back, either. So hopefully he’ll leave there good enough [for Dominguez] to be able to place him where he needs to be, dependent on pace.”

Malibu Glow was fifth in the Travers, and will be shortening up from 1 1/4 miles. The distance move should suit Malibu Glow, who won a first-level allowance at 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga in July.

“The Travers was a tough enough race, and maybe the mile and a quarter is a tad too far for him,” said George Weaver, who trains Malibu Glow. “I’m still kind of learning about the horse, [but] I’d rather come back at a mile and an eighth than go the mile and a quarter again. He had a good win at a mile and an eighth.”

Meistersinger, who trainer Graham Motion said has improved with distance, and Trubs, who earned a fees-paid berth into the Super Derby for his win in the $100,000 Prelude Stakes, could battle it out for the lead. Trubs has the benefit of running over a track on which he is 2 for 2.

“He’s been here all summer, trained and raced over this track, no shipping, those are the obvious things in his favor,” Stall said. “That, and maybe some natural speed. Looking at the horses in there, he should find himself on the lead, or very close to it.”

First post for the 13-race card is 12:15 p.m. Central.