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Stakes Advance: Jones Entry Favored in Sunday's 14-Horse $1 million Louisiana Derby
By Graham Ross, Staff Writer
NEW ORLEANS (Monday, March 26, 2012) – Brereton Jones’s highly-regarded Mark Valeski, second by a nose in Fair Grounds’ Grade II Risen Star Stakes, will run as part of a coupled wagering interest with that same owner’s Mr. Bowling, hero of the Crescent City oval’s Grade III Lecomte Stakes, in Sunday’s 99th running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby. Together, the two Larry Jones-trained sophomores have been installed as the 2-1 morning line choice in the centerpiece event of the New Orleans racing season
The 1 1/8-mile Grade II Louisiana Derby, as always a significant gauge for Triple Crown candidates, will be contested as one of 14 races – seven of which are stakes – slated for April 1 when Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots brings down the curtain on its 2011-2012 meeting.
Mark Valeski’s game second-place run to Let’s Go Racing El Padrino in the $300,000 Risen Star Feb. 25 allows him to be considered the stronger half of the Jones’ entry. El Padrino went on to be third choice among individual horses at the closing of the second Kentucky Derby Future Wager days later. Nevertheless, Mr. Bowling has won twice going two turns – a presumed handicapping advantage that still eludes Mark Valeski.
Defending Fair Grounds jockey champion and current leading rider Rosie Napravnik is named astride Mark Valeski while seven-time Fair Grounds jockey champion Robby Albarado is listed aboard Mr. Bowling.
Jake Ballis and Rashard Lewis’s Cigar Street, who broke his maiden with an eye-popping 13 3/4-length tally in his last start here March 10, has been pegged as the 7-2 second choice in the morning line among the 14 horses entered in the Louisiana Derby. Veteran reinsman Shaun Bridgmohan, Fair Grounds’ jockey champion two seasons ago, has been engaged to handle the Steve Margolis-trained Cigar Street, a son of 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense who will be making only the third start of his career in Fair Grounds’ showcase race.
West Coast invader Rousing Sermon, owned Mr. and Mrs. Larry Williams and conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, will arrive from California to contest the Louisiana Derby as the 6-1 third choice in the early line. The winner of last fall’s $100,000 California Cup Juvenile was fifth in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes in his last start March 10. Veteran West Coast-based jockey Mike Smith will journey to New Orleans for the mount.
Zayat Stables’ Z Dager, runner-up in the $175,000 Lecomte Stakes and third in the Risen Star, is rated next in the early line at 8-1. The consistent son of Mizzen Mast is conditioned by 10-time Fair Grounds trainer champion and two-time Louisiana Derby winner Steve Asmussen and will be ridden by native Louisianan Shane Sellers, reemerging as one of the nation’s elite jockeys after several years of retirement.
Completing the field for the 2012 Louisiana Derby, listed in order of morning-line odds with their respective jockey assignments, is Jerry Namy’s Shared Property, Leandro Goncalves (10-1); WinStar Farm’s Windsurfer, John Velazquez (12-1); Donegal Racing’s Finnegans Wake, Corey Lanerie (15-1); Jim Tafel’s Afford, James Graham (15-1); Gary and Mary West’s Fire Alarm, Miguel Mena (20-1); Casner Racing’s Arm Force, Julien Leparoux (20-1); Mike Munna’s Comisky’s Humor, Richard Eramia (20-1); West Point Thoroughbreds’ Flashy Sunrise, Rajiv Maragh (30-1); and Raut LLC’s Hero of Order, Eddie Martin, Jr. (30-1).
ADDITONAL LOUISIANA DERBY NOTES – The Louisiana Derby will be run as Race 10, set for 4:55 p.m. The 14-race card kicks off at 12:10 p.m…If all 14 entrants start, it would be the first 14-horse Louisiana Derby field since 1962, when the race was won by Admiral’s Voyage, and the largest since 1976, when Johnny Appleseed beat a field of 15. The largest was 17 in 1954, won by Gigantic…The Louisiana Derby is the final leg of a special $150,000-guaranteed Pick Four on races 7-10. The sequence also includes: a $51,000 one-mile turf race with 13 set to run; the nine-horse $400,000, Grade II New Orleans Handicap with one of the strongest fields of older horses seen in North America this year, including the last two Louisiana Derby winners, Mission Impazible and Pants On Fire, plus last year’s Louisiana Derby and Kentucky Derby runner-up, Nehro, and 2011 Grade I Wood Memorial winner Toby’s Corner; and the Grade II, $400,000 Mervin H. Muniz Memorial with 11 older turf horses entered…The entire Louisiana Derby Day card will be broadcast nationally by HRTV (Cox digital cable channel 313 in Orleans and Jefferson parishes), with Kurt Hoover and Richard Migliore reporting on-site from New Orleans…Louisiana Derby stakes histories and statistics can be found in the online Media Center at FairGroundsRaceCourse.com/Media.