NEW ORLEANS -- Perhaps Peter Graves, who died recently, might have had one last thing to oversee before the tape self-destructed. The colt Mission Impazible, named for the television show in which Graves endeared himself to Baby Boomers, ran his way right into the Kentucky Derby on Saturday with a tenacious victory in the Grade 2 $750,000 Louisiana Derby here at Fair Grounds.
Mission Impazible ($16.20) was given a gorgeous ride by jockey Rajiv Maragh, who had Mission Impazible on the rail in fourth, behind three dueling leaders, for the first six furlongs of the race. Mission Impazible eased out three lanes wide at the top of the stretch but had to call on all his reserves to catch A Little Warm, who battled bravely after being hounded on the lead the whole race by Discreetly Mine.
Mission Impazible won by three-quarters of a length in 1:50.32 for 1⅛ miles on the fast main track. The Derby, five weeks away, is a furlong longer.
"I just sat a trip where he was comfortable," Maragh said. "The way he won going a mile and an eighth, and galloping out as strong as he did, I wouldn't doubt he could get a mile and a quarter."
Drosselmeyer, who was able to rally inside under a clever ride from Kent Desormeaux despite beginning from the far outside post in the field of 13, was a close third, just a neck behind A Little Warm. Discreetly Mine was fourth, a neck behind Drosselmeyer, in the blanket finish.
Trainer Todd Pletcher -- who swept the three graded stakes here Saturday -- sent out both Mission Impazible and Discreetly Mine, who were saddled by assistant Michael Dilger. Discreetly Mine had won the major prep for this race, the Risen Star Stakes, and went off the tepid favorite at 7-2. Mission Impazible was the sixth choice.
Mission Impazible, a gray colt by Unbridled's Song out of the Hold Your Peace mare La Paz, is owned by the Twin Creeks Racing Stable of Randy Gullatt. This was his second win in five starts, but he was coming off a deceptively good effort in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn, in which he finished fourth despite racing wide the whole way.
"I'm not surprised he won," Pletcher said. "His race at Oaklawn was better than it looked. Nothing went right. He shipped down, the race was postponed, then he got hung wide on both turns the whole trip. Today he sat right in the garden spot and when called on he kept finding more."
A Little Warm, who finished second in the Louisiana Derby, was making his first start around two turns. His trainer, Tony Dutrow, was happy with the effort by A Little Warm -- "he gave it all he had," Dutrow said -- but said, if left up to him, he would not go on to the Derby. A Little Warm is owned by Ned Evans, who will make the final call, Dutrow said.
"It won't be my decision," Dutrow said. "If it was, I would not go."
Javier Castellano, who rode Discreetly Mine, said he had a "perfect trip."
"I wanted a target, and I got it," Castellano said. "He just didn't punch it in."
Mike Welsch contributed to this report.