Epicenter, trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Joel Rosario, blasted down the home stretch to set a track record in the 109th Louisiana Derby, finishing 2 1/2 lengths ahead to win in 1:54.38 for the 1 3/16 race. This is an important prep race for the Kentucky Derby and cemented the colt as a top contender. Epicenter has now won three of his last four races, including the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at 1 1/8 miles in gate-to-wire fashion. He has won 4 of 6 starts and earned more than $1 million.
Epicenter had already qualified for the Derby but this win puts him on top of the leaderboard with 164 points.
“The progression of the races for us to a mile and an eighth and now a mile and 3/16ths, and the opportunity to tuck him in today, we feel like we’re as prepared as we could possibly be mentally and physically, with a great chance at the Kentucky Derby,” the Hall of Fame trainer said.Steve Asmussen
In the Louisiana Derby, Epicenter got a skillful ride from Joel Rosario (who rode last year’s winner, Hot Rod Charlie) and showed tactical speed when asked to go wide. Louisiana Derby is the longest prep race in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series and one of the oldest. The historic race dates back to 1894, which makes the Louisiana Derby almost as old as the Kentucky Derby itself. Over the years, the length of the Louisiana Derby has varied four times, most recently moving to 1 3/16ths miles in 2020. The purse has risen from a $1500 in 1894 (the equivalent of $49,485 dollars) to $1 million. Although it is an important stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby, only two winners of the Louisiana Derby have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby: Black Gold in 1924, and Grindstone in 1996. Three others, Funny Cide , Country House , and Mandaloun , triumphed in the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs after losses in the Louisiana Derby.
Asmussen said that Epicenter would be back at Churchill Downs by Monday and he would let the weather dictate the plan for the colt’s first work back en route to the world’s most prestigious horse race.