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Thursday Notes: Normandy Invasion, Mark Valeski, Preview Day Stakes Probables


By Graham Ross, Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Thursday, February 14, 2013) – Speaking over the phone from South Florida Thursday morning, trainer Chad Brown confirmed that Fox Hill Farms’ Normandy Invasion would be coming to New Orleans for the Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Louisiana Derby Preview Day Presented by Lamarque Ford Feb. 23.

“We’re planning on it,” said Brown of Normandy Invasion when asked if Normandy Invasion would be invading the Crescent City oval next week for Fair Grounds’ designed prep for the 100th running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby March 30.

The bay sophomore son of Tapit has not run since finishing a fast-closing second in New York’s Grade II Remsen Stakes at nine furlongs last Nov. 24,  but  his defeat by a nose in that Aqueduct race has Brown thinking positively about the long stretch run at Fair Grounds.

“He ran good in the Remsen,” Brown said, “and he’s been training real good down here in Florida. But he hasn’t had a lot of experience and I know the (speed-favoring) track at Gulfstream wouldn’t be conducive to his style. We’re searching for a better situation.”

Normandy Invasion breezed a bullet five furlongs at South Florida’s Palm Meadows training center in 1:00.40 last Sunday.

“We’re cranking him now,” said Brown. “I’m probably also going to send (Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s) Hyper up there with him (for the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap) and at some point I’m planning on being there, as well.”

The $150,000 Fair Grounds Handicap at about 1 1/16-miles over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course on Louisiana Derby Preview Day is Fair Grounds’ prep for the Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap as the main grass test of the New Orleans racing season also to be run on Louisiana Derby Day. Brown won the Muniz last year with Gary & Mary West’s Casino Host.

MARK VALESKI DIALS IT UP IN RECENT MINESHAFT HANDICAP WORK – Brereton Jones’s Mark Valeski, winner of Belmont’s Grade II Peter Pan last summer and runner-up in last year’s Grade II Louisiana Derby and Grade II Risen Star Stakes, breezed five furlongs last Sunday in 1:00.20 in preparation for theGrade III Mineshaft Handicap as part of Louisiana Derby Preview Day Presented by Lamarque Ford Feb. 23 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

The Mineshaft ’Cap is Fair Grounds’ designed prep for the Grade II New Orleans Handicap, showcase race for older horses on the main track that will be run on Louisiana Derby Day March 30.

“That was a pretty good work for Mark Valeski,” trainer Larry Jones said during training hours on Mardi Gras morning at Fair Grounds. “He’s really never been much of a work horse but he surprised me a little bit in that work. He actually galloped out on his own.

“Rosie (Napravnik) was up for the work,” Jones said speaking of Fair Grounds’ two-time defending jockey champion. “She came back and said he (Mark Valeski) did it all on his own and it surprised her a little bit. Usually I don’t even have to be up on my pony when Mark works because he just eases up when it’s over. When she went by me on the pony I just let her keep going, but when it  looked like she was having a  little trouble pulling him up I started to think I should have gone after her to help pull him up, but she was able to handle him just like always. But she did say he surprised her a little bit, too.”

GARY STEVENS TO RIDE PROUD STRIKE IN RISEN STAR STAKES – Newly-unretired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens will be part of a National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Communications National Media Teleconference Tuesday at 11 a.m. CDT to discuss his upcoming ride aboard Mike McCarty’s Proud Strike in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes on Louisiana Derby Preview Day Presented by Lamarque Ford Feb. 23.

Proud Strike, conditioned by 10-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Steve Asmussen, is a son of Smart Strike who broke his maiden with a dominant 7 1/2-length tally on Jan. 12 at the local oval.

Stevens has also been named to ride Stoneway Farm’s Midnight Ballet in the Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes Feb. 23 as the final local prep for the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks March 30.

LOUISIANA DERBY DAY PRESENTED BY LAMARQUE FORD GRADED STAKES PROBABLES –The following lists of known probables were compiled from information provided by the Racing Office, as well as from interviews with horsemen and other published media reports. Probables are listed first, alphabetically (with trainer), followed by those considered possible. Entries for the Feb. 23 card will be drawn Wednesday.

Grade II, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles):Agent (Amy McAnally), Bethel (Gennadi Dorochenko), Departing (Al Stall Jr.), Golden Soul (Dallas Stewart), Ive Struck a Nerve (Keith Desormeaux), Mylute (Tom Amoss), Normandy Invasion (Chad Brown), Oxbow (Wayne Lukas), Palace Malice (Todd Pletcher), Proud Strike (Steve Asmussen) and Sunbean (Stall). Possible: Code West (Bob Baffert).

Grade III, $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes(3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles):Alluring Lady (Ronny Werner), Blue Violet (Larry Jones), Dancinginthecircle (Jones), Gal About Town (Bret Calhoun), Midnight Ballet (Tom Proctor), Neith (Wayne Lukas), Promise Me More (Wes Hawley),Seaneen Girl (Bernie Flint), Touch Magic (Pat Devereux Jr.) and Unlimited Budget (Todd Pletcher). Possible: Every Way (Mike Stidham) and Finding More (Kellyn Gorder).

Grade III, $150,000 Mineshaft Handicap (4-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles): Cool Street (Bernie Flint), Golden Ticket (Ken McPeek), Golden Yank (will cross-enter in Fair Grounds Handicap; Gary Thomas), Hero of Order (Gennadi Dorochenko), Infrattini (Paul McGee),Macho Bull (Dorochenko), Mark Valeski (Larry Jones) and Raison d’Etat (Wayne Lukas).

Grade III, $150,000 Fair Grounds Handicap (4-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on turf): Bim Bam (Steve Asmussen), Cavalero (Wayne Catalano), Golden Yank (will cross-enter in Mineshaft Handicap; Gary Thomas), Hyper (Chad Brown), Optimizer (Wayne Lukas), Strike Impact (Pat Dupuy), Twinspired (Mike Maker), Two Months Rent (Jimmy Toner) and Willcox Inn (Mike Stidham).