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Can Preakness Provide an FG-Connected Winner?
From horses to trainers to jockeys, there will be a Louisiana flavor to Saturday's middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness.
Four horses that local fans saw on Louisiana Derby Day - the 1-2-3 finishers in the Louisiana Derby and the sensational filly Rachel Alexandra, who captured the Fair Grounds Oaks two starts prior to her 20 1/4-length win in the Kentucky Oaks - were entered Wednesday for the Preakness.
Friesan Fire, who became the first Louisiana Derby winner in 84 years to be sent off as the Kentucky Derby favorite, is the co-third choice in the Preakness at 6-1. He drew post No. 5 in the field of 13.
The next two finishers from the Louisiana Derby, Papa Clem and Terrain, were separated by a nose, and they will be next to each other in the starting gate, just to Friesan Fire's outside. Papa Clem drew post No. 7, while Terrain drew post No. 6 for New Orleans native Al Stall Jr., a two-time leading trainer at Fair Grounds who will send out his first classic starter.
Catahoula native Calvin Borel, who won the Kentucky Derby on 50-1 longshot Mine That Bird, switches to ride Rachel Alexandra, who is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the Preakness but drew the outside post. Rachel Alexandra, after a much-publicized private sale last week, now is in the hands of eight-time Fair Grounds leading trainer Steve Asmussen.
Borel is one of three Cajun-born riders in the Preakness field, with the others aboard 50-1 longshots. Jamie Theriot, the 2007-08 leading rider at Fair Grounds, has the mount on Luv Gov, while Kent Desormeaux will ride Tone It Down.
A win by either Friesan Fire or Terrain would add to the list of 13 horses who have won graded stakes since racing at Fair Grounds this winter (Papa Clem and Rachel Alexandra have already won graded stakes since leaving New Orleans).
That list of graded stakes winner, as of Thursday, in order of their wins: Heart Ashley, Just Jenda, Secret Gypsy, It's a Bird, Kodiak Kowboy, Rachel Alexandra, Papa Clem, Hull, Wesley, Orthodox, Tizaqueena, Four Gifts and Smart Surprise.
Also in action Saturday at Pimlico is two-time Muniz Memorial Handicap winner Proudinsky, who wheels back two weeks after a sixth-place finish in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic to try the Grade II Dixie, which will be run just before the Preakness. The seventh-place finisher in the Muniz (though beaten only three lengths), Wesley, is also in the Dixie. Wesley won the Grade III Miami Mile Handicap at Calder in his last start.
Other stakes action on the Preakness undercard...
- The Grade II Allaire Dupont Distaff, which includes Chou Croute Handicap fourth-place finisher Unforgotten and Truly Bound Handicap fourth-place finisher Tammy's Victress;
- The Grade III William Donald Schaefer, with New Orleans Handicap sixth-place finisher Richard's Kid in the field;
- The Grade III Gallorette Handicap for fillies and mares on turf, with Shytoe Lafeet, who had a pair of seconds in stakes company here last winter;
- The Grade III Hirsch Jacobs, where Fair Grounds maiden and allowance winner Nuclear Wayne makes his first start since Jan. 17;
- And the Woodlawn, in which Risen Star also-ran Code of Honour, who has excelled since leaving New Orleans, looks to extend his winning streak to three.
Also Saturday, impressive Fair Grounds maiden winner Cash Refund faces multiple graded stakes winner Capt. Candyman Can in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Friday's card at Pimlico is headlined by the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan, but is dotted with other stakes action as well, including the Grade III Miss Preakness, where Fair Grounds allowance winner Heart Ashley seeks a second straight graded stakes victory, and the Jim McKay Turf Sprint, which includes Rouse the Cat, who dead-heated for third in the Colonel Power Stakes in February; Atticus Kristy, a high-end claiming winner here last winter, and Mr. Nightlinger, a two-time allowance winner at Fair Grounds in 2007-08.
Before we go, congratulations are in order for one of the best friends to racing in New Orleans, Times-Picayune turf writer Bob Fortus, who was honored at Pimlico on Thursday with the Old Hilltop Award for covering Thoroughbred racing with excellence and distinction, and to New Orleans native Tom Amoss, who scored his 300th career win at Churchill Downs Thursday afternoon, which is exactly 500 less than the 800 career visits to the winner's circle at Fair Grounds en route to nine local training titles.