Super Derby allure attracts winning owner, bigger turnout to Louisiana Downs

WINNING RALLY: Big Data, with jockey Emisael Jaramillo aboard, started slow but came on strong to win Super Derby 41 at Louisiana Downs. (Journal photo by TONY TAGLAVORE)

By TONY TAGLAVORE, Journal Sports

The last time Big Data’s owner and breeder, Kimberly Boulmetis, flew from her home on the Jersey Shore to watch the Bay Colt run, it was a wasted trip.

The three-year-old, which its trainer calls “high maintenance,” acted up in the post parade and finished sixth in a January race at Gulfstream Park. That was — and still is — the only time the colt has finished out of the money.

Boulmetis had not been to another of Big Data’s races — until Saturday. This time, her horse was on his best behavior.

With jockey Emisale Jaramillo along for the ride, Big Data ($8.20) started slow, but finished strong, winning the $200,000 Super Derby presented by Lip Chip at Louisiana Downs.

“I had to come here,” Boulmetis said minutes after watching Big Data cross the finish line first. “The history of this race — my father (Sam) passed away two summers ago at the age of 94. At the time, he was the oldest living Hall of Fame jockey. My brother is a paralyzed jockey. He got hurt in the 80’s. My brother-in-law, Jimmy Wofford, is a jockey. My cousin, Tony Black, is a jockey. They all rode in the 80’s, so the prestige of this race — I knew about it.”

 Big Data, which shipped from Florida and arrived at the Bossier City track last Tuesday morning, was last, as the seven-horse field passed the grandstand for the first time. He rode the rail for most of the mile-and-an-eighth distance on the dirt, and was content to lay off the pace set by Machine Gun Man. As the horses approached the far turn, Big Data started to gain ground, but was third with a furlong to go.

It was then that Big Data kicked into gear, beating No White Flags ($7.80/$4.40) by three-quarters of a length. How Did He Do That ($3.40) finished third.

The winning time was 1:51.83. The post time favorite, Promise Me A Ride, was pushed out in the first turn and never recovered, finishing sixth.

“He’s strong. He wants to go,” Big Data’s trainer, Michael Lerman, told the Journal after the race. “We’ve tried to relax him. Ideally, you want them finishing. You want them running their fastest the last eighth, through the wire, whenever possible.”

The Super Derby was Big Data’s eighth career start, and his first at two turns.

“We’ve been very happy with the way he’s developed the last few months,” Lerman said. “He’s a big, strong horse. He’s a little mentally immature — kind of behind the curve. His races at Gulfstream this winter were really excellent.”

Except for that one race where he finished out of the money.

“I kind of backed off — took a few steps back — and worked with him to get him a little more settled, and he’s really responded.”

Lerman was considering some other races when he made the decision to run in the Super Derby.

“This one I liked mostly because it was a mile-an-eighth instead of a mile-and-a-sixteenth. The purse was really irrelevant. It was more a question of letting him develop and take the next step, because I really want to run him around this time next summer.”

Even though Boulmetis could have the final say on when and where her horse runs, she lets Lerman make those calls.

“I’m not there day in and day out. I have to let the trainer make the decisions. There are many times I say, ‘Hey, Mike, how about this race? How about this race? How about this race?’ And quite frankly, (he says) ‘No, No, No.’…That’s when owners and trainers get in trouble, when the owners try to dictate too much. All I care about is that he takes care of the horse, and the horse is well-cared for.”

After a four-year hiatus, the Super Derby returned for its 41st running in Louisiana Downs’ 50th anniversary season. While attendance wasn’t what it was when the Derby was one of racing’s premier events, there was a much larger crowd than on a normal race day.

There was a buzz inside and outside the grandstand, making for an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation.

Despite the Derby not being a graded race, and its purse equaling the smallest amount in the event’s history, winning meant everything to Lerman.

“This is a race, growing up, I wanted to win. It was a million dollars. It was a Grade I in the beginning.  Just look at the wall inside (the grandstand). You see horses we all watched growing up as the superstars of the entire game. To add (Big Data) to the list is significant to me.”

Even though it’s September, Big Data may not be done for the year.

“There are a few more three-year-old races out there,” Lerman said. You have the Pennsylvania Derby, the Oklahoma Derby, and there’s a new race at Churchill Downs which is a mile-and-three-sixteenths. I don’t think he will have any problem with either. We’ll get him back home, see how he is in the next week to 10 days, and as long as he’s up to running again, that’s what we’re going to do.”

With Saturday’s win, Big Data has now earned $192,480 in six starts this year. For his career, Big Data has won $213,680 in eight starts.

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