NEW ORLEANS -- Intense Holiday has drawn the inside post position and is listed as a 2-1 morning line favorite for Saturday's $1 million, Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, one of the premier prep races for the Kentucky Derby.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Intense Holiday already has a major victory at the New Orleans Fair Grounds Race Course, taking the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes last month.
A Risen Star winner has gone on to win the Louisiana Derby twice in the past decade. It happened two years in a row, with Pyro doing it in 2008 and Friesan Fire in 2009.
This 10-horse field for this year's 1 ⅛-mile Louisiana Derby includes two second favorites each listed at 4-1. One is Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes winner Vicar's In Trouble, trained by Mike Maker and starting from the sixth post. The other is similarly named In Trouble, trained by Tony Dutrow, in the ninth slot.
Risen Star runner-up Albano, trained by Larry Jones, drew the outside position and is listed at 9-2 odds.
Jones, who attended Wednesday's draw in the Fair Grounds paddock, sounded optimistic that Albano was still improving and had the potential to peak as the Triple Crown races approached.
"He's actually matured so much. Horses usually go one way or another and he has just stepped it up and done very well," Jones said. "He's really beefing up now, getting the muscle on, settling down a lot in the barn and his gallops are much better. He's learned to relax. We're real pleased with the way he's coming along. Hopefully we'll be on time for this race and the [Kentucky] Derby."
Rise Up, trained by Tom Amoss, will start from the eighth post, opening at 10-1 odds.
Rounding out the field are Gold Hawk in the fifth slot at 12-1, King Cyprus in the second slot at 15-1, Louies Flower in the third post at 20-1, Commanding Curve in the seventh slot at 20-1 and Flat Gone in the fourth post at 50-1.
Commanding Curve, trained by Dallas Stewart, finished sixth in the Risen Star.
"He just got outrun. We were coming off a layoff but it was a good effort," Stewart said of his horse's only race of 2014. "We're looking for a step up. He's trained very well. He's feeling good, his energy's good, so we're looking for a good race."