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Two Week Review

We've run six days of this meet and the battle lines have been drawn and teams have been established. The jockey's race is going to be interesting, to say the least. Shane Sellers and Corey Lanerie have established themselves as forces to be reckoned with. They're both off to good starts and so are James Graham, Jamie Theriot and John Jacinto. Sellers and Lanerie are tied in the early standings, each having ridden seven winners in the first six days. Jacinto, who had a very strong meet here last year, is right behind the top two with six winners, while Graham has won five. Theriot, Brian Hernandez, Jr. and newcomer Richard Eramia are all locked-up with four winners each. Robby Albarado, Shaun Bridgmohan and Francisco Torres are three of the Fair Grounds regulars still currently riding at Churchill Downs that will ride here when that meet concludes on Saturday, November 28th. Look for them to start accepting mounts here during the first week of December and the jocks race to get real tough.

In the trainer's competition Steve Asmussen, Merrill Scherer and Brett Calhoun are off to strong starts. The "Big Blue Machine" hasn't been able to send out as many runners as they would have liked to, but just wait, because when they get crankin', the Asmussen team wins races in bunches. Merrill Scherer sent down a bunch from Churchill Downs early this year and it's evident they're ready to run and win. Brett Calhoun has been the picture of consistency wherever he's stabled and he wins on a regular basis. Cody Autry, fresh off of accepting the leading trainer trophy at Delaware Park, always comes in ready to fire and this season will be no exception. Native New Orleanians Tom Amoss and Al Stall, Jr. are gearing-up for a strong meet, as is Steve Margolis and Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.

The current standings show Merrill Scherer in front with four winners, while Brett Calhoun and Steve Asmussen are tied with three wins each. There are 10 trainers tied with two winners a piece. It's early yet, but my money is on the "Big Blue Machine".

A recap of the owners standings shows Carl Moore and the partnership of John Duvieilh and Keith and Earl Hernandez tied with two wins apiece. There are 56 owners tied with one win each. As one of our colleagues used to say, "this race is a wide open betting affair".

From the size of the crowds and the response from patrons I've talked to, the earlier opening of this year's meet has been a big success. No doubt, the picture-perfect weather has played a huge part of that success and opening in conjunction with the two Breeders' Cup cards sure sparked interest. We've got a lot to look forward to as the momentum of this season builds. The stakes program is about to take-off with the Thanksgiving Handicap on Thursday, November 26th and then just around the corner is Louisiana Champions Day on December 12th. Before we know it Christmas and the New Year will be here and we'll start prepping for all of the season ending big races.

The elimination of one mile races has sparked a little discussion from some of the regular patrons and handicappers. I think the majority of both are glad they're gone. A few handicappers liked the mile races because speed was even more dangerous with the use of the short-stretch finish line, but I think overall the use of the Fair Grounds long, grueling stretch is what makes this track the special place that it is.

Most patrons, especially the casual customers, were always confused by the short-stretch. Even though it was always announced that the race starts and finishes at the sixteenth pole, many patrons could be seen cheering for their horses long after the race was over. Some of the looks on their faces were priceless while they were trying to figure out why their jockey stopped riding and stood up at the sixteenth pole. No more confusion - one wire - one finish line - every race.

On my next report I'm gonna talk with James Graham, one of the most likable and capble jockeys in this entire country. His story about coming here, to the U.S., is a great story. I'm gonna sit down with him and try to put into words. See ya' in a day or two.