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Lukas, Court, Bluegrass Hall Connections Do It Again With Optimizer in Gr. III Col. Bradley


By Graham Ross, Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Saturday, January 26, 2013) – A week ago Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas won Fair Grounds’ Grade III Lecomte Stakes with Bluegrass Hall’s Oxbow with jockey Jon Court in the irons. Saturday it was a different week and a different horse – Bluegrass Hall’s Optimizer – who won Fair Grounds’ Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, but the more things changed the more they stayed the same.

Different week, different horse and different surface, but the same owner, the same trainer, the same jockey and the same running style that earned the winning laurels in the second graded stakes race of the Fair Grounds season.

Under Court, Optimizer was away alertly and quickly in command, made the pace with early splits of 24.06 and 50.04 before accomplishing the about 1 1/16-mile distance over the course rated “good” in 1:46.22, and came home 3 1/2-lengths in front, returning $6, $3.80 and $3 while increasing his career earnings to $461,942 with his fourth win from 20 starts.

“I thought (Optimizer) handled (the course) real well,” said Court. “I knew he should run really good today and was counting on it. Mr. Lukas is having some luck there at Oaklawn so I wanted to make sure I could bring some of that luck with Optimizer here today.

“I think he likes these distances,” Court added of the Col. Bradley ’Cap and the two races that will follow it in Fair Grounds’ three-race grass series. “If the race sets up I think he’s capable of going a mile, a mile-and-a-quarter. He’s got that in him, but it’s a matter of how things set up. He can handle it, especially on the grass. Anything over a mile is in his favor.”

Charles Craig Smith’s String King, a winner of two straight grass stakes at Fair Grounds that were restricted to Louisiana-breds, held his own in open company with a runner-up finish behind Optimizer and returned $4 and $3.20 to place. Chuck and Ella Lou Hagaman’s Bim Bam got up to be third, three-quarters of a length behind String King, and paid $5.80.

DAISY DEVINE WINS AGAIN IN $75,000 MARIE KRANTZ MEMORIAL HANDICAP – James Miller’s Daisy Devine won for the first time in 2013 but for the second time during the current Fair Grounds season when she made the pace and galloped home 1 3/4-lengths in front in Saturday’s $75,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Handicap.

After setting early fractions of 24.36 and 50.70 over a Stall-Wilson Turf Course rated “good,”the 5-year-old daughter of Kafwain who won the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks in 2011 accomplished the about 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:44.06, returning $2.20, $2.20, and $2.10.

“She got across (the turf) just fine, said winning rider James Graham. “As long as she was happy, I was happy, too.”

Daisy Devine increased her career earnings to $991,281 with her 10th victory in 17 lifetime starts.

“She won on a soft course when she won the Pago Hop here two years ago, so I was confident she’d handle the soft going again,” said trainer Andy McKeever. “We’ll probably take a look at the Bayou (Handicap at Fair Grounds Feb. 23 for her next start) but our main objective will be the (Grade I) Jenny Wiley (at Keeneland) this spring.”

Shadwell Farm’s Ausus, who will be retired shortly to become a broodmare, finished second in the Krantz Memorial, 13 3/4-lengths in front of Barnett Stables’ Anniversary Girl.  Ausus paid $8 and $3.60 as the runner-up and Anniversary Girl returned $5.60 to show.

DELAUNAY WINS $75,000 F.W. GAUDIN MEMORIAL ’CAP – Maggi Moss’s Delaunay proved worthy of his odds-on favoritism when he made the pace in Saturday’s 28th running of the $75,000 F.W. Gaudin Memorial Stakes before drawing clear by 4 1/4-lengths at the wire.

After setting early fractions of 21.46 and 44.12, Delaunay accomplished the six furlongs in 1:09.06, paid $3.40, $2.20 and $2.10 and increased his earnings to $459,455 with his 12th win in 37 lifetime starts.

“He doesn’t like the rail, but that’s where he was today,” said trainer Tom Amoss, “so (jockey) Shaun (Bridgmohan) and I made the decision to try to run them off their feet, go very, very fast and just try to coast home at the end. Maggie and I will talk about it, but if I had my druthers, I’d look for him to come back in the Duncan Kenner (Mar. 9).”

Brittlyn Stables’s Gantry finished second, paying $2.80 and $2.10, while Jones-Lyster Partnership’s Hamiltonian was third, three-quarters of a length farther back, and paid $2.10.

ANIMAL STYLE TAKES $75,000 VAN BERG STAKES – Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Animal Style, unhurried early, closed with a bold rush on the extreme outside in the late stages of Saturday’s inaugural running of the $75,000 Van Berg Stakes for 3-year-olds at about 5 1/2-furlongs on the turf and proved be best by a length and a half at the wire.

Asked if the middle of the track was the best place to be, trainer Mike Maker’s assistant Joe Sharp said, “I don’t know about that, but it worked.”

Ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, Animal Style paid $12.60, $6.40 and $4.20, toured the distance in 1:05.85 and increased his career earnings to $83,410 with his second victory from six starts.

“He had two horses beat early on but he was down in the inside and I didn’t think he was traveling very comfortably down there,” Brigmohan said. “So I opted to tip him to the outside and I think that’s when he got his feet under him and he, obviously, had a big turn of foot.”

Preston Stables’ Strong Response finished second paying $13.20 and $11 after pressing the early pace and gaining a clear advantage before the winner’s late surge.

Mike Munna Racing Stable Stables’ Evan’s Calling finished third, a length farther back, returning $5.60, while Earl Bellamy’s Jo Jo’s Comet set early splits of 22.10 and 47.20 before tiring.