Home of the Louisiana Derby

Nelson Duo Favored in So. Miss Stakes


By Graham Ross, Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Sunday, January 06, 2013) – The William Gilmore-owned coupling of Mr. Bandini’s Band and Rock Time looms as the strong choice in Friday’s 18th running of the $40,000 South Mississippi Owners/Breeders Stakes. The pair has been installed at 4-5 in the morning line in the six-furlong restricted sprint for sophomores which comply with the bylaws of the South Mississippi Owners & Breeders Association.

The Delta Downs-based duo is trained by Eric Nelson Jr. and that conditioner has successfully invaded Fair Grounds twice this season in three attempts.

“Both of these horses look pretty good to me coming into this race,” said Nelson earlier this week when speaking from his western Louisiana base of operations. “I would say that Mr. Bandini’s Band looks like the better of the two, but Rock Time just seems to be getting better and better each time he runs.”

“Mr. Bandini’s Band had won two straight until I put him in that ($125,000 Premier Night Prince) stakes last Saturday, but in that race he just didn’t show up at all. I have no idea what happened in there. I have no excuse for that performance.”

Prior to the Premier Night Prince, Mr. Bandini’s Band had crossed under the wire first in the $100,000 Big Drama Stakes at Delta Jan. 5, but was subsequently disqualified and placed fourth.

“That race is kind of a sore subject with me,” said Nelson. “Mr. Bandini’s Band ran a hell of a race that night. I didn’t agree with the decision to take him down, and a lot of other people didn’t either, but you know how that goes. There’s nothing you can do about it.

“Maybe the most important thing is that he thinks he won,” Nelson said. “In his race before that one, he won by 5 ½ lengths, and I think he’s ready to run another big one on Friday.

“Rock Time was very immature when I first got him,” said Nelson, “but lately he’s starting to figure things out. He didn’t run very well when I brought him over there for the ($100,000) Louisiana Futurity (Dec. 31), but he’s turned things around now. He’s been training really well since then.”

Nelson, incidentally, was born in New Orleans, and saddled his first winner at Fair Grounds back in 1987. He got out of the business for several years, but returned to training seven years ago.

Owner Gilmore won this race two years ago with One Pretty Penny, but that horse was trained by Ray Sibille.

Trainer Tom Amoss has saddled two out of the last three winners of Friday’s restricted affair – Pop-A-Top’s Raiseanothergator last season and Pop-A-Top’s Red Hot Buddah three years ago, and that owner-trainer tandem will be represented by Always Broke on Friday.

Always Broke has been pegged as the 9-2 second choice in the early line after breaking his maiden for a $20,000 tag at Delta Downs last November.

Completing the field Is Howard Alonzo’s Valentine Eddie,10-1; Baronne Farms’ Surely Grand, 6-1; Earnest Stovall’s Fiji D, 15-1; William Reed’s Edolie, 8-1;  Deborah Strahan’s Elijah Raine, 12-1; and James Alexander’s Badtotheboneblake, 20-1.

SURELY GRAND SET TO SCRATCH OUT OF BREEDERS-RESTRICTED EVENT – Baronne Farms’ Surely Grand, third choice at 6-1 in the $40,000 South Mississippi Owners/Breeders Stakes, is expected to be scratched from the restricted sprint.

“I think I’m going to take her out of that race,” trainer Michelle Lovell said Thursday morning during training hours. “The race came up a little tougher than I expected it to be. Also, she’s a filly who would be running against the boys, and I think that’s a little more than I want to ask her to do right now.”