03/26/2016 7:56PM

With Stewart, it's best to ignore tote board

Barbara D. Livingston
Dallas Stewart saddled Tom's Ready to a second-place finish at 30-1 in the Louisiana Derby.

NEW ORLEANS – When trainer Dallas Stewart runs a 3-year-old in a major stakes race and the odds say the horse has little chance – bettors beware.

Stewart has a track record for getting 3-year-olds to perform at a high level when the bettors aren't on board. His latest of four against-the-odds successes, all second places, came with Tom's Ready in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on Saturday at Fair Grounds. A 30-1 shot, Tom's Ready finished second, 4 1/2 lengths behind Gun Runner, and earned a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

Tom's Ready paid $24 to place and $12.40 to show.

"Odds don't mean anything,'' said Stewart, and he should know.

In the Kentucky Derby won by Orb in 2013, Stewart finished second with Golden Soul, a 34-1 shot. In the Kentucky Derby won by California Chrome in 2014, Stewart finished second with Commanding Curve, a 37-1 shot. And in the Preakness won by eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah last year, Stewart finished second with Tale of Verve, a 28-1 shot.

Tom's Ready came into the Louisiana Derby off a seventh-place finish in the Grade 2 Risen Star.

Stewart said he had been fighting "a little foot issue'' with Tom's Ready after the Grade 3 Lecomte, in which he finished second to Mo Tom. Another reason for the subpar performance by Tom's Ready in the Risen Star, Stewart said, was that the colt didn't settle in the early running and was too close to a fast pace.

"We made some adjustments,'' Stewart said. "We just had to get him to settle just a little more. We've got some more work to do with him.''

Brian Hernandez Jr., who rode Tom's Ready on Saturday, said: "He ran big. He's a neat little horse. We got him to settle today. He's improving at the right time.''

Stewart said that Tom's Ready needs to keep improving. "This is a huge performance,'' Stewart said. "We've got to put two good races together – this one and the Kentucky Derby.

"He wants to win a race. This is a very nice horse that beat him.''

Stewart, 56, who was born in Mississippi but grew up in New Orleans and went to high school here, came up in racing under trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Stewart lost a friend and mentor this week when Jeff Lukas, Wayne's son, died.

Stewart said he learned much from Jeff, who was Wayne's top assistant before being injured in a debilitating accident at Santa Anita in December 1993.

"I worked with him, lived with him, ate with him,'' Stewart said. "I'm just proud of Jeff the way he fought through it.''