Pants on Fire Rebounds in Louisiana Derby
By Dick Downey
The Downey Profile
Pants On Fire held off longshot Nehro by a neck to win the Grade II Louisana Derby in an improbable finish.
Pants On Fire was sent off at 6-1 odds. Last seen finishing sixth in the Grade II Risen Star, he was coupled in the Louisiana Derby betting with touted horse Nacho Business. But Pants On Fire outlasted not only Nehro at 36-1 odds, but also 3-2 post-time favorite Mucho Macho Man, defeating him by three parts of a length.
Pants on Fire was ridden by leading local rider Rosie Napravnik for owners George and Lori Hall, who now have a Kentucky Derby horse. The son of Jump Start earned $600,000 today to add to $23,000 graded stakes earnings previously banked. Pants on Fire finished second in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes to Wilkinson, who in turn finished sixth in the Louisiana Derby.
Always at the fore today, Pants On Fire sat in second position behind 111-1 shot Liondrive for six furlongs timed in 1:12.01. He took over in the second turn and ran home in 1:49.92 for the 1 1/8 mile. Nehro closed from fourth after racing in tight quarters leaving the far turn. Mucho Macho Man was three wide on both turns while fourth, then third, then second before ceding the place to Nehro.
According to trainer Kathy Ritvo, Mucho Macho Man had an excuse, losing a shoe just after leaving the starting gate.
Elite Alex, the second betting choice at 7-2, finished fourth after running last of 12 up the backstretch. Just ahead of Elite Alex in the early going was Wilkinson, who attempted to come up the rail as he did in the Lecomte, only to finish sixth today. Machen, at 4-1, loomed at the top of the stretch but flattened out to fifth.
Placed in sixth was Left, followed by Nacho Business, Majestic Harbor, Le Mans, Mavericking and Liondrive. Populist Politics was scratched.
Pants On Fire was bred by K & G Stables in Kentucky and is out of the Cape Town mare, Cabo de Noche.
Trainer Kelly Breen, Pants On Fire: “I’m kind of shell-shocked a little bit right now. This is what you dream of, we got our ticket. You know it was like going to Disneyland, that sort of thing. We stamped our ticket, hopefully the horse comes out of the race in good order, and we’ll be on to Churchill.
On giving Rosie Napravnik the mount. “It was a matter of trying to see who we could get, and she made the call, and it was a nice phone call to receive. I wasn’t there for the last workout, and this horse here, I would say, maybe two months ago, he couldn’t hold a match up against Nacho Business. Nacho Business was one of our top horses, doing great, training great. And he went into the workout a week ago at Palm Meadows, and I got three or four phone calls saying that ‘That other horse, man, he really looked great.’ And Joe (Bravo) even commented that while he was flying in here.
“They’re like teenagers. Somebody starting to put everything together and things go in the right direction, and we’re fortunate enough to be in front at the wire.
“I said it all week, this horse is really blossoming. You know, sometimes you see it and sometimes you don’t, and sometimes you look back and say, ‘Hey, he was doing a little bit better.’ But we saw it. This horse, he was a little sick, got over it, shipped back and forth, you know three times here. This is his third time, he’s got frequent flyer miles, you know.
“I’m a private trainer and we have 33 horses in training right now. George runs a hedge fund out of Manhattan.”
Jockey Rosie Napravnik, Pants On Fire: “He had a lot of heart. They said he was best on the lead. And when the 5-horse went out in front of us, I said if he’s stuck outside, hopefully he’s still well off. But he ran with as much heart as a horse can run with down the lane. Mucho Macho Man came up next to us and he just dug in and he really finished with all heart.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen, Nehro, second: “I’m very pleased with his effort. You have to think about the Arkansas Derby, but I’ll have to talk to the boss about that one.”
Jockey Michael Baze, Nehro, second: “I saved ground, and everything worked out nice. It made it tougher to catch them, but he made a real strong run. A little traffic trouble at the quarter-pole but he went on through no problem.”
Trainer Kathy Ritvo, Mucho Macho Man, third: “The horse blew his shoe. One of the gate guys came over and handed it to me. Apparently he stepped on it right out of the gate and ran the whole race without that shoe. I’ll find out which one it was when I get back to the barn. It is an excuse, but Pants On Fire ran a great race.”
Rajiv Maragh, Mucho Macho Man, third: “Just outfinished. He didn’t sustain the run that he looked like he was making on the quarter-pole. He settled easy early, so I was expecting him to finish stronger than he did. had a 110-percent chance to win turning for home, but he just couldn’t sustain his run.”
Jockey Calvin Borel, Elite Alex, fourth: “The 10-hole kind of killed us. That left us with a lot to do. I thought we could get them turning for home, but they kept going and we just couldn’t keep up. He couldn’t make up ground.”