A year ago, the principals in Starlight Racing came into this weekend of Kentucky Derby prep races with the reigning juvenile champion carrying their colors. They probably would have shaken their heads in disbelief if told they'd be in a seemingly sweeter position 12 months later.
Starlight Racing's Intense Holiday is the 2-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday's Grade II, $1 million Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds and will break from post No. 1 in a field of 10.
Starlight Racing had much attention on it in 2013 thanks to 2-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby. But an injury discovered after his fifth-place run in the Florida Derby knocked him out of the Kentucky Derby.
Intense Holiday is already sitting pretty with 53 qualifying points toward the first leg of the Triple Crown and enters off a nose victory over Albano in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 22.
"We had all the press with Shanghai Bobby, and Intense Holiday has been just sort of the opposite," said Starlight's Jack Wolf. "He didn't have much luck when he made these graded stakes as a 2-year-old. But I think he's coming along at the time that you'd want a horse to come along. So the two paths that the horses have taken, I'd much rather be in the shoes of this one."
The Risen Star was the first graded stakes victory in five tries for Intense Holiday and the second win in seven career starts for the son of Harlan's Holiday.
The long Fair Grounds stretch played to Intense Holiday's late-running style in the Risen Star. Albano, who led every step but the last one in that outing, is also back for the Louisiana Derby as is Grade III Lecomte Stakes winner Vicar's in Trouble.
Owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Vicar's in Trouble had a wide trip after breaking from post No. 13 en route to finishing third in the Risen Star but drew a more ideal post No. 6 for Saturday's 11⁄8-mile race.
Vicar's in Trouble is the 4-1 co-second choice on the morning line along with In Trouble, a Tony Dutrow-trainee who won the Grade II Futurity last September and was third in the Grade III Gotham Stakes on March 1.