Updated on 09/16/2011 7:58AM

Stage belongs to Repent

A. J. Sisco
Repent had an adventurous trip to the track on Friday.

NEW ORLEANS - During what was supposed to be a routine morning of training on Friday at Fair Grounds, Repent did his best impression of Fusaichi Pegasus and Point Given by refusing to cooperate with his exercise rider, Helen Pitts.

"It was adventurous," Pitts said.

At one point, Repent, jogging near the outer rail, was on a collision course with trainer Dallas Stewart, who was astride his pony.

Stewart nimbly avoided an accident. "He almost ran me over," Stewart said.

Bettors are expected to take a position that that's as close as Stewart will get to Repent this weekend.

Repent, an odds-on favorite on the morning line, will be an overwhelming favorite in Sunday's Grade 2, $750,000 Louisiana Derby, in which he will take on seven rivals, including the Stewart-trained Bob's Image.

In addition to a first prize of $450,000, the Louisiana Derby winner will have taken the first step toward claiming a $1 million bonus, offered by Fair Grounds, for a horse who can win both the Louisiana Derby and the May 4 Kentucky Derby.

Post-time for the Louisiana Derby, the ninth race on a 10-race card that begins at 12:15 p.m. Central, is 4:10 p.m. The race will be shown on tape-delay on ESPN2, in a one-hour telecast that begins at 11 p.m. Eastern time Sunday.

Repent beat a similar field at this track in last month's Risen Star Stakes, which was run at the Louisiana Derby's distance of 1 1/16 miles. He finished 2 1/4 lengths in front of Bob's Image, who set a blistering pace and held on well for second. Since then, Repent has had a change of jockeys, from Tony D'Amico to Jerry Bailey.

As a result, though Repent has much to gain in terms of purse money, he has little to gain in terms of his position among the nation's leading 3-year-olds. Repent is expected to win. Anything short of a clear-cut victory likely will be perceived as a demerit.

The race's pace certainly should flatter Repent. Charioteer, who is exiting sprints at Gulfstream Park, figures to make the lead after breaking from post 3, with Bob's Image stalking him after starting from post 7. White Flame, a recent Gulfstream allowance winner, also should be forwardly placed. Repent, who breaks from post 4, should fall back early while the speed develops well in front of him.

In the Risen Star, Repent had just one horse beat halfway through the race, then unleashed a furious rally while wide to win. He lugged in through the lane that day while failing to change leads. Ken McPeek, Repent's trainer, said his pre-race strategy session with Bailey will consist of "talking about his running style and some of his idiosyncracies."

In addition to Bob's Image, others returning from the Risen Star to try again against Repent include Easyfromthegitgo and French Assault. Steve Asmussen, who won last year's Louisiana Derby with Fifty Stars, admitted that this year's race appears far more one-sided than last year's, when Dollar Bill, Hero's Tribute, and Millennium Wind vied for favoritism.

"There's a lot more conceding going on this year," said Asmussen, who trains Easyfromthegitgo. "This race seems sorted out already. From what I've seen, there's a lot to like about Repent, not just for this race, but for the whole picture."

There is the possibility there will be an off track on Sunday. Temperatures have warmed as the week has gone on, and a high of 75 degrees was expected for Saturday, but along with warmer temperatures there is a forecast of thunderstorms for Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. It is supposed to be drier, and slightly cooler, on Sunday. The only benefit of the rain would be that the Louisiana Derby horses might be saddled in Fair Grounds's fan-accessible paddock. Runners in the Louisiana Derby, and Saturday's Fair Grounds Oaks, traditionally are saddled in the infield, thus denying the largest crowds of the meet a chance to see the track's best runners up close.



Purse: $750,000, 1 1/16 miles, Grade 2


1EasyfromthegitgoD. Meche8-1

2It'sallinthechaseG. Melancon20-1

3CharioteerC. Perret 8-1

4RepentJ. Bailey4-5

5PublicationR. Baze8-1

6White FlameJ. Chavez20-1

7Bob's ImageP. Day9-2

8French AssaultR. Albarado12-1

All starters carry 122 pounds

Odds by Byron King

Television: 11 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2 (tape delay)

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