Tuesday Notes: Louisiana Derby Colts Added to Triple Crown

By Graham Ross, Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Tuesday, March 26, 2013) –The connections of four horses expected to run in the 100th-anniversary edition of the $1 million Louisiana Derby this Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots also made their colts late nominations to the 2013 Triple Crown by last weekend’s deadline.

All but one of the other expected Louisiana Derby starters had already been nominated earlier to this year’s Triple Crown, which begins with the $2 million Kentucky Derby May 4, continues with the $1 million Preakness Stakes May 18 and concludes with the $1 million Belmont Stakes June 8.

The four latest Louisiana Derby prospects that have now officially joined the Triple Crown trail are Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s undefeated Departing, Brittlyn Stable’s Sunbean, Ken & Sarah Ramsey’s Brazilian Court and J-Lu LLC’s Hip Four Sixtynine.

“Some people nominate all their horses to the Triple Crown right away, but we don’t do that,” said Al Stall Jr., trainer of both Departing and Sunbean. “We waited until we thought these two horses were ready to take the next step and now we think they are ready to do that. Everything is looking good for both our horses on Saturday so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

Departing won the $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes by 2 3/4-lengths at last asking on March 2 and Sunbean captured the $60,000 Gentilly Stakes by 4 3/4-lengths Feb. 23.

“Some people have said we might be biting off a little more than we can chewbut our colt is coming up to this race Saturday the right way,” said Bobby Barnett, conditioner of Hip Four Sixtynine.“This colt looked very good breaking his maiden last time (by 3 1/4-lengths) and in the only two-turn race he’s ever run in so far he got absolutely hammered and lost all chance.”

OPTIMIZER ONE TO BEAT IN SATURDAY’S $400,000 MERVIN MUNIZ MEMORIAL – With two convincing wins already behind him at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Calumet Farm’s Optimizer has already proved he loves the Stall-Wilson Turf Course at the Crescent City oval.

The 4-year-old son of English Channel conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas galloped home by 3 1/2-lengths in Fair Grounds’ Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap Jan. 26 and then came back to tally by two in the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap Feb. 23.

This Saturday, as part of the gala Louisiana Derby Day program, Optimizer will attempt to win the Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap, the season’s showcase event for older horses over the local lawn.

However, Optimizer is expected to face some serious competition. Five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher is sending WinStar Farm’s Doubles Partner, most recently runner-up by a half-length despite a troubled trip in the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes Feb. 16, who is also the winner of last year’s Grade III Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream.

Chuck and Ella Lou Hageman’s Bim Bam, AJ Suited Racing Stable’s Two Months Rent and Marette Farrell et al.’s Willcox Inn, second and third and fourth, respectively, behind Optimizer in the Fair Grounds Handicap, are all expected to try again.

Expected at this time to complete the Mervin Muniz field is Wachtel Stable et al.’s Amira’s Prince,Charles Craig Smith’s String King, Dream Racing Stable’s Fast Track and Joseph Witek’s Tiz Sardonic Joe.

LARRY JONES PLEASED WITH MONDAY MOVES OF MARK VALESKI, BLUE VIOLET – Trainer Larry Jones expressed his satisfaction with the Monday works of Brereton Jones’s Mark Valeski and Susan Knoll’s Blue Violet during training hours Tuesday morning.

Mark Valeski, in a tune-up for Saturday’s Grade II New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Louisiana Derby Day,breezed a bullet five-eighth in 58.20, while Blue Violet worked five furlongs handily in 1:00.40 in advance of Saturday’s Grade II $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks.

“Mark Valeski worked great,” said Jones, “despite the fact that he blew a shoe during the move or while he was coming back. He did the same thing in last year’s Louisiana Derby.

“Blue Violet worked in company with a colt we have named (Dreamchaser Thorobreds’) Hard Aces and he’s a nice colt that finished second by a length to (Willis Horton’s Grade II Rebel Stakes winner) Will Take Charge last fall at Keeneland. 

“But every time that colt came to her, she just took off again,” said Jones of Blue Violet.