Sunday: Smart Bid Bids for Second Muniz 'Cap
Augustin Stable’s Smart Bid, defending champion in the Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap over Fair Grounds’ Stall-Wilson turf course, will head the field once again in the upcoming 20th anniversary edition of the Crescent City oval’s premier grass test for older horses.
Trained by Graham Motion, the 6-year-old son of Smart Strike must share the top impost of 121 pounds in the Mervin Muniz Memorial, run at about nine furlongs, and will be piloted by regular rider Edgar Prado.
The Peruvian-born reinsman was most recently astride Smart Bid in the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap on Feb. 25 and the pair took down winning honors by a head in that designed prep for Sunday’s Muniz Memorial.
Also with that top impost Sunday is the Irish-bred Willyconker, owned by Kenney and Vielle Gardner, who will invade from the West Coast for California-based trainer Doug O’Neill and be ridden by Joel Rosario Sunday. In his last trip to the post March 3, Willyconker won Santa Anita’s Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile by a neck.
Next in the Mervin Muniz Memorial weights is Andrews T & S Racing’s Mr. Vegas at 117 pounds after winning Fair Grounds’ Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap Jan. 21 and finishing second by a head behind Smart Bid in the $125,000 Fair Grounds ‘Cap on Louisiana Derby Preview Day Feb. 25.
Jockey Miguel Mena, whose idol was his native countryman Edgar Prado as a youngster, will be in the irons on the Richie Scherer-trained Mr. Vegas.
Also with the second high weight 117-pound impost in the Muniz Memorial is Connie Apotelos’ Papaw Bodie, winner of Sam Houston’s Grade III John B. Connally at last asking Jan. 28. Trained by Mike Maker, Papaw Bodie has Fair Grounds’ defending jockey champion Rosie Napravnik slated for the saddle.
Next in Sunday’s Muniz Memorial weights is Henry Pabst Trust’s Joinem at 116 pounds, most of which will be made up by Irish-born jockey James Graham. The 5-year-old gelding won his last start Feb. 11 over the Gulfstream grass and will be saddled by Irish-born conditioner David Carroll in the Mervin Muniz.
James Covello’s Swift Warrior, trained by John Terranova II, gets in with 115 pounds in Sunday’s Stall-Wilson turf test and will be ridden by French-born rider Julien Leparoux after finishing third by a half-length in Tampa Bay’s Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes Feb. 25 on the west coast of Florida.
Assigned 114 pounds for the upcoming Mervin Muniz Memorial are Wertheimer et Frere’s Slow Pace, Javier Castellano aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher; Gaillardia Racing’s Wilkinson, Brian Hernandez Jr. up for trainer Neil Howard; Team Block’s Suntracer, Shaun Bridgmohan aboard for Neil Pessin; Lothenbach Stables’ Mister Marti Gras, also trained by Pessin with Calvin Borel named but cross-entered in the New Orleans Handicap.
Getting in the Muniz Memorial with the lightest impost of 113 pounds is Gary and Mary West’s Casino Host, trained by Chad Brown with John Velazquez named to ride.