NEW ORLEANS — While the Florida Derby and Dubai’s UAE Derby (for 3-year-olds) will command some attention from most followers of thoroughbred racing today, the prime focus of the local community will be directed to New Orleans where Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice will seek victory in the Louisiana Derby.
Shipped to New Orleans for the Risen Star Stakes five weeks ago, Palace Malice gave a good account of himself, finishing third in his first start in a two-turn race.
Beaten by a nose and a neck, the Dogwood color-bearer hardly had a smooth trip after contentiousness behind the gate and a tardy break caused him to lose the opportunity for position in the early stages of the race. Weaving though the field, Palace Malice had a shot down the long Fair Grounds homestretch, but couldn’t quite get there.
“He should have benefitted from that experience,” said Cot Campbell, Dogwood Stable president. “I think he was a trifle short for the Risen Star and he got a little tired. He’s had plenty of time to settle since and he’s done quite a bit of schooling in the gate. He outworked Shanghai Bobby (one of the favorites in the Florida Derby) last week and he certainly seems to be good right now.”
He’ll need to be, because of a new system – in place for the first time this year – which significantly alters the process by which the field of 20 Kentucky Derby aspirants is selected.
Over the past decade or so, eligibility to enter has been based on the sole criterion of graded earnings. This system has now been replaced with one in which points are earned by finishing first through fourth in 10 stakes races last year and 26 this season.
The net result is de-emphasis on last year’s performance as compared to the current year and a much heavier weighting being accorded to the past seven major preps as distinguished from earlier races.
For example, before today’s features, the most points that could be earned by the winner of a Derby prep was 50. The big three events to be run today award 100 points to the winner of each. Will Take Charge leads the eligibility parade as of this morning with 60. Others will take charge before sundown.
Campbell hopes that one will be Palace Malice, presently on the outside looking in with 10 points.
The 100 points that will go to the Louisiana Derby winner would be nice, but the 40 for second should be enough to qualify the Dogwood horse for the trip to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
“In the absence of bad luck, I have to believe he has an awfully good chance to win it,” Campbell concluded with some confidence.