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Monday Notes: Proud Strike, Code West, Revolutionary, Palace Malice Get Louisiana Derby Works; Mark Valeski Fires Bullet for N.O. 'Cap

By Graham Ross, Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Monday, March 25, 2013) –Mike McCarty’s Proud Strike breezed a half-mile Monday morning in 50.40 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in final serious preparation for the 100th anniversary edition of the $1 million Louisiana Derby this Saturday  at the Crescent City oval.

Proud Strike is conditioned by 11-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Steve Asmussen, who is currently tied for leading trainer honors this season with nine-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Tom Amoss with 36 wins apiece entering Wednesday’s local racing program.

Asmussen also only needed only four wins at the conclusion of Sunday’s races to pass Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg and move into second-place among the world’s all-time leading trainers.

Proud Strike disappointed in his last start Feb. 23 in Fair Grounds’ Grade II Risen Star Stakes when he finished eighth after making the pace briefly in an unanticipated change of running style. The Smart Strike colt had broken his maiden with a 7 1/2-length tally at previous asking Jan. 12.

Out on the West Coast, Gary and Mary West’s Code West worked five furlongs handily in 1:00.20 at Santa Anita Sunday in advance of Saturday’s Louisiana Derby. The son of 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid is trained by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and was beaten a nose when second in the Risen Star Stakes

Down in South Florida at the Palm Meadows Training Center on Sunday, Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice, third in the Risen Star when beaten a half-length for the win, breezed five-eighths in 1:00.80 for five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher and will be returning to New Orleans for Saturday’s Louisiana Derby.

Also expected for the Louisiana Derby is WinStar Farm’s Revolutionary, who breezed a half-mile in 48.20 at Palm Meadows Sunday. Revolutionary, also trained by Pletcher, won Aqueduct’s Grade III Withers Stakes at last asking on Feb. 2.

MARK VALESKI FIRES BULLET MOVE MONDAY FOR NEW ORLEANS HANDICAP – Brereton Jones’s Mark Valeski, most recently the winner of the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Feb. 23, breezed a bullet five furlongs in 58.20 at Fair Grounds in preparation for Saturday’s Grade II New Orleans Handicap, showcase event of the season for older horses on the main track here.

Saturday’s $400,000 New Orleans Handicap as part of the gala Louisiana Derby Day program promises to have one of the most exciting renewals in its 88-year history.

In addition to Mark Valeski and Tenth Street Stable’s Mineshaft Handicap runner-up Cool Street, the New Orleans Handicap will include Gulfstream’s Grade I Donn Handicap winner Graydar, owned by Twin Creeks Racing Stable, and Bourbon Lane Stable’s Bourbon Courage, runner-up behind Graydar in the Donn but winner of last year’s Grade II Super Derby.

Others slated for Saturday’s New Orleans Handicap are Preston Stables’ Flat Out, fourth in the Donn; Jerry Durant’s Macho Macho, winner of last year’sGrade II West Virginia Derby; and Gallant Stable’s MajesticHarbor, clearly best in his most recent start at Fair Grounds in high-level allowance and $62,500 optional claiming company March 1.

BLUE VIOLET WORKS HANDILY MONDAY FOR SATURDAY’S FAIR GROUNDS OAKS – Five of the last eight winners of Saturday’s Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks have gone on to victory in Churchill’s Grade I Kentucky Oaks some weeks later, and locally-based trainer Larry Jones worked Susan Knoll’s Blue Violet five furlongs handily in 1:00.40 Monday in advance of Saturday’s renewal of the feminine equivalent of the Louisiana Derby.

Jones is the conditioner of Brereton Jones’s Believe You Can, who parlayed a win in last year’s Fair Grounds Oaks to another in the Kentucky Oaks.

Also, in 2008, Jones trained Proud Spell to win that season’s Fair Grounds Oaks as well as the Kentucky Oaks later that spring for Brereton Jones.