Vicar's in Trouble, who captured the Louisiana Derby and Lecomte at Fair Grounds last winter by a combined margin of 10 ¼ lengths, returns to his home state Saturday as the one to catch in the Grade 2, $400,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs.
The Into Mischief colt did not scare any of the competition away -- a total of 11 are in the Super Derby -- and there are other speed elements he will have to contend with, but class could carry Vicar's in Trouble a long way in the nine-furlong heat.
Vicar's in Trouble hopes to snap a three-race losing streak in the Super Derby. Burdened with the disadvantageous 1 post in the Kentucky Derby, Vicar's in Trouble failed to make the lead, endured a troubled trip and trailed the field of 19. He also failed to make the lead in his comeback, the Iowa Derby over a sloppy Prairie Meadows strip, but hung on for third after a wide trip.
He had everything his own way, though, in the August 2 West Virginia Derby, but was simply outfinished by two better horses -- Tapiture and Candy Boy. Vicar's in Trouble will be reunited Saturday with Rosie Napravnik, who was aboard Tapiture at Mountaineer and has guided Vicar's in Trouble to all three career wins.
SUPER DERBY DRAW
Jessica's Star, who captured the Iowa Derby by a length, enters off a second-place finish to the returning East Hall in the $300,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown. The latter snapped a three-race win streak for Jessica's Star, who landed the Prairie Mile before the Grade 3 triumph over Vicar's in Trouble. East Hall, a 9-1 winner of the Ohio Derby, placed in three stakes at Gulfstream earlier this year, including a third in the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year's Day.
Likely to keep the pressure on Vicar's in Trouble is fellow Louisiana-bred Ide Be Cool, who began his career with seven straight wins, including four state-bred stakes. That skein was halted in the $100,000 Super Derby Prelude on August 2, where the Ide gelding retreated to second in his first outing against open company.
Victory Nor Defeat is a promising colt making his graded stakes debut for trainer Ralph Nicks. The Gulfstream-based son of Unbridled's Song was a deep-closing winner against maiden and allowance company at the Miami track going a one-turn mile, did not threaten when trying the grass, and ran out of real estate in the $90,000 Cherokee Run going 6 ½ furlongs two back.
Alamo Heights, who took the Super Derby Prelude by 1 ¼ lengths over Ide Be Cool, achieved that score in a pokey 1:47 for 1 1/16 miles and will need to improve. Also exiting the Prelude are third-placer Louies Flower and fourth-placer Gold Appointment, both stakes winners.
Completing the field are Louisiana Flyboy, a multiple state-bred stakes winner; Announcement, a recent maiden winner at Ellis Park; and Declan's Fast Cat, a last-out allowance winner on the grass.
Noted state-bred older horse String King will be among the favorites in the $75,000 Unbridled over 1 1/16 miles on the turf. A neck second in the event last season, String King exits a 2 ¼-length victory in an off-the-turf renewal of the Louisiana Cup Turf Classic.
Other leading contenders include Benwill, hero of the $60,000 John Henry at Evangeline Downs in April; Red Strike, a winner in three of five starts since being claimed by trainer Tom Amoss for $40,000 in March; and Coalport, a multiple stakes winner on turf.
A competitive renewal of the $75,000 River Cities, a 1 1/16-mile turf fixture for fillies and mares, features recent stakes winners Sassy Kitten, Malibu Yankee, and Hot Tempo. Queenie Vic and Miss Addison, second and third, respectively, in the 2013 River Cities, are also joined by the stakes-placed fillies Synapse and Anahauc.
Two-year-olds will be in action in the $75,000 Sunday Silence and $75,000 Happy Ticket, both over a mile on turf. It'll Be Fine and Task Force Glory recently ran one-two in a grass maiden at Indiana Grand, while My Point Exactly invades from Gulfstream after a 10 ½-length maiden score on the dirt. Locally-based contenders include dirt allowance winner Sharon's Boy and the turf maiden scorer Serious Fun.
Likely contenders in the Happy Ticket, for fillies, are the Mike Maker-trained pair of La Rambla, a neck second in a turf maiden at Indiana Grand last time, and Know It All Anna, claimed by Maker after a three-length maiden win at Saratoga for a $50,000 tag. Gulfstream allowance scorer Naval Command, turf maiden winners Five Hearts and Four of a Kind, and Evangeline maiden claiming graduate Zelda Can Dance also look like potential players.