NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Vicar's in Trouble was among smaller horses in the field for the $1 million Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.
The three-year-old colt also is now a big enough earner to get a spot in the first leg of the Triple Crown.
Jockey Rosie Napravnik guided Vicar's in Trouble to a commanding victory Saturday in the Louisiana Derby, one of the premier prep races for the Kentucky Derby.
"You know, he is a tiny horse but he's got a great big heart," Napravnik said.
Vicar's in Trouble is the first Louisiana-bred horse to win the Louisiana Derby since Heaven Again in 1990.
The triumph gave the Michael Maker-trained horse two victories and a third-place at the three biggest stakes races the Fair Grounds Race Course hosts, with combined earnings of $760,000 for those races. He won the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes in January and finished third at the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes last month.
Vicar's in Trouble broke from the gate in the sixth post position as one of two 3-1 second choices. He took the lead coming around the first turn and remained in front from there, completing the 1 1/8-mile race in 1:50.3 and winning by 3 1/2 lengths over 9-5 favorite Intense Holiday.
"He just broke really sharp and was comfortable in the lead," Napravnik said. "It couldn't mean any more. It's the premier race at the track at the end of the meet. ... It's the race that you want to win. "
A celebration was awaiting, owner Ken Ramsey said, at renowned 174-year-old French Quarter restaurant Antoine's.
Intense Holiday, winner of the Risen Star, remained near the front but was unable to mount a significant challenge down the stretch. His jockey, Mike Smith, credited Napravnik for riding, "A great race. A brilliant race, actually.
"It turned it into a two-furlong sprint," Smith added.
Maker said Napravnik "rode a tremendous race. ... She took control of the race and slowed it down."
Commanding Curve was third, five lengths off the pace, but jockey Robby Albarado was encouraged by how his horse responded after being bumped at the start and rallied for a top-three finish.
"He's progressing every time," Albarado said. "I got eliminated at the start, but he ran on so easily. There's more there."
Vicar's in Trouble paid $8.60, $4.40 and $3. Intense Holiday, trained by Todd Pletcher, paid $3.20 and $2.60, and Commanding Curve paid $5.20. Both Vicar's In Trouble and Intense Holiday already have qualified for the Kentucky Derby on May 3, though they could be held out by their owners for several reasons, such as a subsequent injury. Maker said he "absolutely" expects Vicar's in Trouble to race in the Kentucky Derby.
In Trouble, like the similarly named Vicar's in Trouble, was a 3-1 second choice. He ran fourth but was disqualified for bumping Albano, which ran fifth but was officially moved up to fourth.
"We were in a great spot," Albano jockey Kerwin Clark said. "But when (last place horse Rise Up) came up on the outside and then dropped over, In Trouble wheeled out and he hit my horse so hard, it knocked the air out of him. He just couldn't recover from that."