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Brisnet Handicappers Edge Fair Grounds notes 1/10/10

Heiligbrodt Racing Stable's HALLWAY (Graeme Hall) benefited from a switch in surfaces to land Saturday's $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace S. by a nose over 1-2 favorite Desert Wheat (Wheaton) at Fair Grounds. This initial added-money triumph was long overdue for the six-year-old Louisiana-bred, who had run second or third in 10 previous stakes attempts. Among these were third-place efforts in the last two editions of the Dixie Poker Ace, the 2008 version on turf and the 2009 renewal which was also switched to the main track. On Saturday, Shaun Bridgmohan guided the Steve Asmussen charge to victory in a time of 1:39 4/5 for a mile and 40 yards over the fast main track. His record now stands at 28-5-10-3, $327,617...

Fair Grounds to offer Starlight Racing programs

Starlight Racing -- a new upscale night racing experience with specialty drinks in the trackside Miller Beer Garden chalet, live music by The Wise Guys, world famous charbroiled oysters from Drago's and more -- comes to Fair Grounds for the first of three Friday evenings this season on January 15 at 5 p.m. (CST).

"Starlight Racing marks a complete re-imagining of the racetrack experience in New Orleans," Fair Grounds President Austin Miller said. "Live racing remains the centerpiece, but on our three Starlight Racing dates we will complement the on-track action with upscale entertainment to make for a complete night on the town.

"We're excited to show the city a new side of horse racing where young professionals who have never been to the track and casual fans who aren't gamblers will have as much fun here as our loyal regulars. Based on the tremendous response to our most popular annual programs, like Thanksgiving and Louisiana Derby Day, we are eager to offer additional opportunities for fans to 'see and be seen' at the races."

Starlight Racing will offer two distinct experiences -- a high-energy club atmosphere in the heated Miller Beer Garden chalet and patio with track views along the rail and a more sophisticated vibe in the Clubhouse with semi-private cabana-style lounge seating and live music from The Wise Guys. 

The Miller Beer Garden chalet and patio, outfitted with space heaters in the event of cold weather, will incorporate the charbroiled oysters from Drago's, specialty fare from Messina's, lounge seating, cabana-style seating, premium martinis and cosmopolitans, themed lighting and high-definition plasma monitors.

The Clubhouse, levels 4 and 5, will offer the first-come, first-served semi-private cabana-style seating with elegant drapery, themed decor by Mardi Gras Productions, premium martinis and cosmopolitans, and an enhanced Starlight Racing clubhouse menu by Chef Ray Derderian.

The Wise Guys, one of the city's most popular party bands, will take the Clubhouse bandstand (4th floor East) at 6 p.m. Please call (504) 948-1171 for Clubhouse dining reservations.

General admission for the Miller Beer Garden chalet and patio is $5. Clubhouse admission is $10. Standard dress code rules apply for the Clubhouse (collared shirts required; no shorts, windsuits or sandals permitted). There is no dress code for the Miller Beer Garden chalet and patio but Fair Grounds urges all Starlight Racing guests to "dress to impress."

Starlight Racing is presented by Miller Beer, Where Y'At, Drago's and Messina's Catering. Additional Starlight Racing dates are set for February 19 and March 19.

Multiple stakes winner DESERT WHEAT (Wheaton) has been installed as the 7-5 morning line choice against eight rivals in Saturday's $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace S. at Fair Grounds. The Bill Mott trainee captured the 2007 running of the about one-mile turf test, but was fourth by 1 1/2 lengths last year and fourth by three parts of a length in 2008. Victor of the Louisiana Champions Day Turf and Mr. Sulu S. in his past two, the seven-year-old bay will attempt to keep his win streak going here under Corey Lanerie. Others in with a chance include stakes scorers IDE LIKE A DOUBLE (Ide), runner-up in the Louisiana Champions Day Classic most recently, and NOWANDFOREVERMORE (Sky Classic), runner-up to Desert Wheat in the Champions Day Turf and Mr. Sulu...

FAIR GROUNDS NOTEBOOK

JANUARY 7, 2010

by Frank Cotolo

Fair Grounds welcomed the new decade with five competitive days of racing, and one would never know that the surfaces were deluged a few weeks back based on the excellent conditions we witnessed on the dirt and the turf last week. Forty-nine races, 33 on dirt and 16 on the grass, were presented and the competition was stiff, with plenty of generous payouts and overlays as favorites won at a 22-percent clip.

SURFACE REPORT

Wire-to-wire winners scored at a decent 33 percent clip in both sprints and routes last week, and late runners were also very capable on the main track. Stalkers, those racing within a couple of lengths of the lead, surprisingly didn't perform as well as you might think. Horses were generally winning on the front end or from well off the pace.

On the turf, a stout late rally was the best way to get the bulk of a purse. Fifty-six percent of the winners from sprints and routes on the grass came from far behind, and there were just two wire-to-wire winners overall.

There was an anomaly last week on the turf that probably turned the heads of handicappers; first-time starters KYRIANA (Hold That Tiger) and SNAKEBITE KIT (Sky Classic) were both able to win at a grassy mile on the same day. You won't see first-time starters win going two turns on the turf very often, and I can't recall it ever happening twice on the same program. Kyriana, who won off the pace, and the front-running Snakebite Kit were unaware of the stats.

TRAINERS

Tom Amoss, who recorded the most wins two weeks back, led all conditioners with five victories last week. Bret Calhoun, Michelle Lovell and Richard Scherer came next with three each, and the prolific barn of Steve Margolis scored a pair of wins.

Besides Morris Nicks and Edward Johnston, trainers of Kyriana and Snakebite Kit, respectively, Bret Calhoun and Margolis were each successful with a first-time starter last week.

HORSES TO WATCH

Thursday (12/31)

1ST -- WALL OF WORRY (The Cliff's Edge) did not respond as the favorite, but the maiden was claimed for the Cody Autrey stable, so worry no longer.

3RD -- RODEO RACER (Rodeo) was an impressive first-timer, hot from post 10 with a rush to the front, and held for second at 27-1.

Friday (1/1)

1ST -- RUN FOR Z (Kimberlite Pike) put in a great first half at 31-1 and may do better sprinting unless let loose on the front as sole speed in a route.

2ND -- WALLOON (Alphabet Soup) won as the second choice in this turf affair and can maintain her form off the claim with new conditioner Lovell.

8TH -- CAT AT PLAY (Distorted Humor) sprinted well on the green, but a midrace duel played a big role in the loss.

Saturday (1/2)

9TH -- OKIE SOUVENIR (Souvenir Copy) flashed speed to three-quarters at 47-1 to the surprise of the crowd and appears to like this course.

Sunday (1/3)

3RD -- Kyriana, as noted above, won first time out of the box at a mile, a rarity, and should be a bet-back on the rise.

5TH -- Snakebite Kit, as noted above, doubled the freak show with a first-time win at a mile, producing another bet-back situation.

Monday (1/4)

5TH -- MISSISSIPPIRINCES (Abajo) deserves attention because this 112-1 shot had speed that kept up with the eventual winner, that one going wire to wire, and because this race was her second in nine days.

Fair Grounds LIVE CHAT

FREE Ultimate Past Performances for Fair Grounds in January! Happy New Year handicappers!

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