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Oaks Day Recap: Believe You Can Survives in $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks

By Graham Ross, Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Saturday, March 31, 2012) – Brereton Jones’s Believe You Can, with regular rider Rosie Napravnik aboard, looked like she would, then looked like she wouldn’t, but finally did win Saturday’s 45th running of the $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks, the 3-year-old filly counterpart to Sunday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby.

“I was jumping around hugging everybody,” said her trainer Larry Jones, speaking of when Believe You Can drew off by a comfortable margin in the stretch, “but then here comes this four-horse (R Group Management’s favored Summer Applause) and then I had to start riding (cheering for her to hang on) my filly again. But then when Rosie got into her again, she started running again.”

The late charge of Summer Applause was not good enough, coming up short by a head, and when her rider Robby Albarado came back to weigh in, someone in the crowd yelled in sympathy, “One more jump, Robby.”

“Yeah, one more jump,” repeated the seven-time Fair Grounds riding champion of Summer Applause’s belated but not quite successful bid.

Back in the winner’s circle, Cindy and Larry Jones and Brereton Jones were posing for pictures when the winner of this year’s Fair Grounds Oaks as well as the $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes here Jan. 21 came back with Napravnik aboard.

“That was probably about the most uncomfortable pace scenario we could have gotten today,” said a relieved Napravnik, “but I’ve got to give all the credit to my horse. She overcame a lot, and as far as breast cancer survivors are concerned, who could have been a better horse to win this race than Believe You Can?”

Fair Grounds Oaks Day served as a fundraiser for Susan G. Komen, New Orleans, which included a Survivors Parade and a Silent Auction and Raffle benefitting breast cancer awareness and research.

The winner returned mutuels of $9, $2.80 and $2.10, accomplished the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:43.94, and increased her career earnings to $495,284 with her fifth win from eight lifetime starts for annexing the Grade II event, richest race for female horses run at the Fair Grounds each season.

It was also the 111th win of the Fair Grounds season for the successful defending local champion Napravnik – who eclipsed her final total of last season with her Oaks score.

Summer Applause paid $2.40 and $2.10 as the Oaks runner-up, and Glencrest Farm’s Disposablepleasure, who finished third nine lengths farther back, returned $2.10 to show.

Bluegrass Hall’s Colonial Express contributed to the early fractions of 22.88 and 46.47 before tiring.

Racing resumes Sunday at Fair Grounds with its gala Louisiana Derby Day program – also closing day of the current New Orleans racing season. In addition to the 99th running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby as its centerpiece, the afternoon will offer 14 races including seven stakes events worth more than $2.1 million.

A special early post time of 12:10 p.m. is scheduled.

ARTEMUS KITTEN HOLDS OFF UPPERLINE IN BAYOU ’CAP – Ken & Sarah Ramsey’s Artemus Kitten settled off the early pace, made the lead in upper stretch and held off a final rush from Michael Stidham, John Adger, Oakcrest Farm & Stone Farm’s favored Upperline by a neck in Saturday’s $100,000 Bayou Handicap for older turf females on the Fair Grounds Oaks undercard.

Longshot Vera Belle set the opening fractions of 13.84, 48.75 and 1:13.24 over a turf course rated “good” before Artemus Kitten took over and held sway through the stretch, completing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.89.

“It was a good trip and this filly really liked the turf here last time and she ran even better this time,” said winning jockey Rosie Napravnik. “We were able to go up on the inside and get a jump on the other favorite and she just dug in to the wire. It was a great race.”

The Bayou was Napravnik’s meet-leading 110th winner, equaling her leading total from last year with 19 races left to go.

Hal Snowden Jr.’s Bet On the Blue got up for third, 3 ¾ lengths behind Upperline in the field of seven.

Artemus Kitten paid $7.60, $2.80 and $2.40. Upperline returned $2.40 and $2.10 while Bet On the Blue was worth $3 for a $2 show wager.

The winner upped her career earnings to $146,388 with her first stakes victory and third triumph overall.

--Jim Mulvihill

SHE’S PRADO’S IDOL CONVINCING CRESCENT CITY OAKS WINNER – Garland Goins’ She’s Prado’s Idol pushed herself into the running for top 3-year-old filly bred in Louisiana with a convincing 4 ½-length win in the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks on the Fair Grounds Oaks undercard.

The one mile and 70 yard stakes event was a rematch for many of the horses who ran in the Sarah Lanes Oates earlier in the meet, where She’s Prado’s Idol showed significant improvement with a game effort behind eventual winner Sunday’s Child, who was part of a favored Brittlyn Stables-owned entry today. The narrow Sarah Lanes Oates loss, officially listed as a nose, came after She’s Prado’s Idol was steadied and checked on the far turn, costing her at least three lengths in the process.

With a cleaner trip today, the daughter of Screen Idol powered home a clear-cut winner for her third career victory from six starts. Jockey Tracy Hebert, who rode her to an allowance win in December at Delta Downs, reunited with owner-trainer Garland Goins for the win.

“I had some obligations at Delta and I couldn’t ride her last time,” Hebert said. “I am grateful I was able to do it today. We wanted to kind of sit off the pace a little bit and it worked out well. She dug in real hard.”

Patrick Devereaux Jr.’s Little Miss Protocol finished a well-beaten second while Sunday’s Child and her entry-mate, Bleu Darling, checked in third and fourth, respectively.

The winner paid $15.20, $7.60 and $2.80. Little Miss Protocal returned $3.80 and $2.20, while the entry was worth $2.10 for a $2 show wager.

The final time was 1:43 4/5.

--Travis Stone

BOMBS AWAY FOR BEVERLY BELLE IN RED CAMELIA – It was “Bombs Away” in Saturday’s $60,000 Red Camelia Stakes for Morris Hewitt’s overlooked Beverly Belle, who returned to the winner’s circle as her mutuels of $88.60, $20.60 and $10.60 flashed on the infield tote board.

“It was a pleasant surprise to us,” admitted winning trainer Bret Calhoun of the 8-year-old mare while being interviewedmoments after the grass stakes restricted to accredited Louisiana-bred fillies and mares. “We ran her going short and it just wasn’t her game. There was a lot of optimism. There were a lot of horses here that really couldn’t quite go the distance and I think that’s how it ended up.”

Ridden by Miguel Mena, Beverly Belle was unhurried early, rallied boldly when set down for the drive, challenged at the furlong grounds and drew clear by a length at the wire. She accomplished the about 1 1/16-mile distance over a Stall-Wilson turf course rated “good” in 1:45.78 and increased her career earnings to $127,333 with her fourth win in 19 lifetime starts.

“It’s pretty soft out there and there was plenty of speed in the race,” said winning rider Mena. “About the five-sixteenths pole when I asked her she took off and I got really excited.”

Maggi Moss’s favored Little Polka Dot pressed the pace briefly before taking command, could not withstand the winner when challenged but was easily second best, paying $2.60 and $2.20, while Randy Davis & Associates’ Divine Loretta got up for third, 3 1/4-lengths farther back and returned $4.20

Russell Welch’s Warrior Maid made the pace with splits of 23.24 and 47.81 before tiring.

--Graham Ross