09/07/2011 3:24PM

Louisiana Downs: Super Derby's new date works out just fine

Ethel Riser
Prayer for Relief, with Rafael Bejarano riding, wins the West Virginia Derby.

BOSSIER CITY, La. – Louisiana Downs toyed with the date of its marquee race this year by moving the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby up two weeks to Saturday. The gamble has paid off. Entries for 1 1/8-mile race were taken Wednesday, and the track drew one of its largest and most competitive fields in years, with the group of nine including shippers from Illinois, Kentucky, New York, and Southern California.

“I think anybody in the U.S. who runs a Grade 2 for 3-year-olds this time of year would be thrilled with what we put together,” said Trent McIntosh, director of operations for Louisiana Downs.

McIntosh said the strategy with the Super Derby was to place the race more in line schedule-wise with other Grade 2 and Grade 3 races for the division, rather than adhere to the traditional late-September date that was geared toward luring Travers runners and/or horses prepping for the Breeders’ Cup.

“We thought, ‘Let’s try to put our race in a realistic position,’ ” said McIntosh.

But even with the date change, the Super Derby has picked up a Travers starter this year. Malibu Glow, who was fifth in that Grade 1 race run at Saratoga on Aug. 27, arrived Tuesday from New York. He will break from post 3, under Mike Smith. George Weaver trains the horse and said the Super Derby just recently became an option for Malibu Glow.

“He bounced out of the Travers in really good shape, is really doing well, so we started looking at a map of 3-year-old races the remainder of the year that have significant purses and decided to come back and try the Super Derby,” he said. “If we do well in there, he could go on to the Oklahoma Derby.”

Malibu Glow, who one start before the Travers had won a 1 1/8-mile allowance at Saratoga, will be Weaver’s first starter at Louisiana Downs. But it won’t be the trainer’s first Super Derby. Weaver was in town for the race in 1996, working as an assistant to D. Wayne Lukas, who won the Super Derby that year with Editor’s Note. Weaver, who also served as an assistant to Todd Pletcher, went out on his own in 2002, and primarily races in New York and Florida.

Prayer for Relief will represent the Southern California-based trainer Bob Baffert in the Super Derby. The horse was installed the 9-5 morning-line favorite for this year’s race off the strength of his wins in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby and Grade 3 Iowa Derby. Rafael Bejarano has the mount from post 5.

Alternation is the second choice on the morning line at 3-1. The winner of the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont Park in May, he has invaded from Chicago for trainer Donnie Von Hemel. Alternation drew post 6, and is to be ridden by Ramon Dominguez. Meistersinger, who is in from New York, drew the rail for Saturday, while Kentucky shippers Populist Politics and Awesome Bet will break from respective posts 4 and 9.

The complete field from the rail with riders is Meistersinger, Jose Lezcano; G.W.’s d’Oro, Kerwin Clark; Malibu Glow, Smith; Populist Politics, Gerard Melancon; Prayer for Relief, Bejarano; Alternation, Dominguez; Trubs, Shane Sellers; Mr. Woodrow, Richard Eramia; and Awesome Bet, Justin Shepherd.

The Super Derby will anchor a card of six stakes worth a cumulative $1 million. It will also be the third leg of an all-stakes, $100,000-guaranteed pick four that will run from races 9-12. The bet will have a fifty-cent minimum. Post for the Super Derby, which is race 11, is 5:21 p.m. Central.

Louisiana Downs will run 13 races in all Saturday, and as a result will have a special early post of 12:15 p.m. The program is the richest of the meet. Forecasters are calling for sunny skies and a high of 90 degrees.