Kingsbarns may be hitting his best stride at an optimum time.
After opening his career with a pair of clear victories in Florida, Kingsbarns successfully stepped up in class March 25 as he led every step of the way in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course—drawing off in the stretch to post a 3 1/2-length win in his stakes debut.
The Spendthrift Farm-owned runner adds to a strong Kentucky Derby (G1) hand for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, who also conditions 2-year-old champion male Forte and Tampa Bay Derby (G3) winner Tapit Trice. While plans call for each of those runners to start again ahead of the Kentucky Derby (G1), Kingsbarns took full advantage of the spotlight Saturday.
"It was a lot to ask to go to a graded stakes going 1 3/16 (miles) for the 1st time in his third career start," Pletcher admitted. "We gave up a lot of seasoning and he responded in a big way."
After breaking well from post 6 under Flavien Prat, Kingsbarns found himself on the lead and he moved to the rail as Ricardo Santana Jr. asked speedy Shopper's Revenge to rate after he started from post 1. In his lone win, Shopper's Revenge went gate-to-wire, and in Kingsbarns' previous two races he rated just off the pace, but those two would switch roles early in Saturday's 1 3/16-mile test.
Kingsbarns would thrive.
After securing the advantage and inside position into the first turn, Kingsbarns relaxed under Prat, cruising through a quarter-mile in :24.71, a half-mile in :49.6, and six furlongs in 1:14.69. Throughout those slow fractions, Kingsbarns was lightly pressed by Jace's Road, who in December captured the Gun Runner Stakes on the Fair Grounds dirt.
Coming out of the far turn, jockey Florent Geroux asked for more from Jace's Road but Kingsbarns immediately responded to that challenge, quickly drawing off and putting the race away. The son of Uncle Mo was timed in 1:57.33, the slowest time in the race in four runnings since it was extended to 1 3/16 miles.in 2020. He paid $11 to win.
Kingsbarns punched his Kentucky Derby ticket with the Louisiana Derby awards 100 qualifying points to the winner. Those points are used by Churchill Downs to determine the classic's field should more than 20 horses be entered.
Prat said going to the lead was an option after talking things over with Pletcher.
"He told me that the race was pretty straightforward, and if (Kingsbarns) ended up on the lead, he was fine with that. So he jumped well and I was able to get myself in a comfortable spot," Prat told Fair Grounds publicity. "From there he did the job."
Responding to a comment that Kingsbarns figured to move forward off the effort, Prat added, "I thought it was already a great performance so if you can just build on it, that's even better."
Winning jockey Flavien Prat, who was aboard Kingsbarns in the Louisiana Derby, talks to @ScottFDTV about the ride. pic.twitter.com/JoKzsiXZKL— TVG (@TVG) March 25, 2023
While any drama over the Louisiana Derby winner ended early, another sophomore making his stakes debut also turned some heads. Winchell Thoroughbreds' homebred Disarm punched through a gap on the inside of the well-bunched field and quickly put away all other challenges to secure second by 2 3/4 lengths—a move that landed him 40 qualifying points for the Derby.
Rounding out the top spots and also earning Derby points were Jace's Road, 30 points, Shopper's Revenge, 20 points, and Sun Thunder, 10 points. Instant Coffee, favored at 3-2 odds after back-to-back graded stakes wins at Churchill Downs and Fair Grounds, flattened out after a wide second-turn rally from behind the slow pace to reach contention. He finished sixth.
Kingsbarns did not race at 2. He opened this season by rallying from fourth to win a maiden special weight race contested at the one-turn mile at Gulfstream Park by 1 3/4 lengths. He followed that effort with a 7 3/4-length score in an allowance-optional claiming race Feb. 12 at Tampa Bay Downs at one mile and 40 yards—his first try at two turns.
Bred in Kentucky by Parks Investment Group, Kingsbarns is the first winner of two starters out of grade 3-placed Lady Tapit, by Tapit . Lady Tapit, out of Temperence Gift, by Kingmambo, is a half sister to grade 1 winner Gozzip Girl.
Spendthrift purchased Kingsbarns for $800,000 at The Gulfstream Sale in 2022 at Fasig-Tipton, where he was consigned by Tom McCrocklin. McCrocklin, as agent for Champion Equine, had purchased Kingsbarns the previous year for $250,000 at The Saratoga Sale at Fasig-Tipton in upstate New York, where he was consigned by Paramount Sales.