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Sunday Notes: Probables for Black Gold, 'Black Cat'

Two promising sophomores are expected to get the chance to polish their skills on grass this Saturday at Fair Grounds when the Crescent City oval hosts the 55th running of its traditional  $75,000 Black Gold Stakes at about 7 1/2- furlongs over the local lawn.

Among those slated to make their grass debuts over the Stall-Wilson turf course this weekend are two veterans of the Grade III Lecomte Stakes – Terry Hamilton’s Hammers Terror and David Randal’s Capetown Devil – sixth and seventh, respectively, in the first leg of  the local sophomore series that leads up to the $1 million Louisiana Derby here on April 1.

Hammers Terror, trained by Mike Stidham, broke his maiden over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface last fall and then won here over the main track with an impressive 2 3/4-length tally Dec. 8 in first level allowance and $50,000 optional claiming company.

Capetown Devil, conditioned by David Carroll, also broke his maiden over the synthetic going at Keeneland and made it two straight over Churchill’s main track Nov. 9.

When going over the grass for the first time in their careers this weekend, they are expected to face Fletcher and Carolyn Gray’s Icon Ike and Don Eberts’ Pure Tactics – both winners of their last two starts locally over the Stall-Wilson turf.

Also expected for the Black Gold is Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Wayward Sailor, who will be making his Fair Grounds debut but has won his last two starts in South Florida over the Gulfstream grass.

Zayat Stables’ Bravo Habibi, who broke his maiden over the Stall-Wilson ground at last asking Feb. 12, is also expected to go to the post in the Black Gold, as is Woodford Racing’s Rock Harder, who broke his maiden on the Fair Grounds main track Nov. 27 but experienced two starts over grass going at Belmont Park last fall.

SOPHOMORE FILLIES TO BE FEATURED ON TURF IN ALLEN LACOMBE MEMORIAL – White Hall Lane Farm’s Citizen Advocate has arrived at Fair Grounds from South Florida to contest the fourth renewal of the $75,000 Allen LaCombe Memorial Stakes this Saturday.

Trained by David Vivian, the daughter of Proud Citizen won Calder’s $75,000 Catcharisingstar Stakes Aug. 27 over the Miami grass, won Delta’s $150,000 My Trusty Cat Stakes last Oct. 22 but was then outdistanced in her last start at that western Louisiana oval in the Grade III Delta Princess Stakes Nov. 19.

Likely to oppose Citizen Advocate in the LaCombe Memorial, for 3-year-old fillies scheduled at about 7 1/2 furlongs over the Stall-Wilson turf, is Hinkle Farms’ Firehouse Red, a two-time winner over that local lawn.

Also LaCombe-bound at this time is Glencrest Farm’s Kiss In the Forest; Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s Miz Ida; Stoneway Farm’s Queen Teuta and Cindy and Larry Jones’ Robi Jo.

JOCKEY JAMES GRAHAM WINS FOUR STRAIGHT AT FAIR GROUNDS – Irish-born jockey James Graham closed out his week in fine fashion Saturday, winning the last four races on the 10-race program.

Graham won the seventh aboard Michael Collins Kat’s Court for trainer Pat Mouton, the eighth astride M & M Thoroughbred Partners’ Lady Chesterfield for conditioner Mike Stidham, the ninth on Louie Roussel III’s Holiday Ballad for trainer Louie Roussel and the finale for owner-trainer Jed Steffee aboard Prince Robear.

Graham, who won leading jockey honors in Chicago at Arlington Park last summer, is currently second in the local standings behind last season’s Fair Grounds jockey champion Rosie Napravnik.

LAST YEAR’S LOUISIANA DERBY HERO BEATS 2011 FLORIDA DERBY WINNER – George and Lori Hall’s Pants On Fire, hero of 2011’s $1 million Louisiana Derby, made his first start as a 4-year-old Saturday at Gulfstream Park and drew off for an impressive 4 1/2-length tally in his initial outing of the season.

Among those he defeated in that one-mile allowance test Saturday afternoon in South Florida was Robert LaPenta’s Dialed In, hero of last year’s Grade I Florida Derby.

Pants On Fire appears to be headed for the Grade II New Orleans Handicap April 1, closing day of the current Fair Grounds season and one of four Grade II stakes slated for that Louisiana Derby Day program. A status update from the Pants On Fire fan page on Facebook posted Sunday afternoon read: “Up to the GII New Orleans!”

CHRIS CHAMPAGNE TO TOAST FAIR GROUNDS ON SATURDAY NIGHT—Chris Champagne, the New Orleans-based poet, political satirist, playwright and comic who is also a mutuel clerk at Fair Grounds, will return his one-man show Win, Place and Show – Fair Grounds Tales to the Steak Knife Restaurant on Harrison Avenue this coming Saturday at 8 p.m.

Champagne’s late father Ed Champagne, a former pro football player, was a steward and paddock judge at Fair Grounds and racetracks all over the nation, and his mother Miss Elsie Champagne, who died the day after Thanksgiving last November, was for many years the switchboard operator at Fair Grounds.