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Friday Notes: All-Grade II Pick Four on Louisiana Derby Day!
By Graham Ross, Staff Writer
NEW ORLEANS (Friday, March 29, 2013) – Saturday is Louisiana Derby Day at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots – as always the centerpiece day of the New Orleans racing season.
Obviously, the showcase race Saturday is the 100th anniversary edition of the $1 million Louisiana Derby but its filly equivalent is the $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks and if the Louisiana Derby winner or in-the-money finishers earn their ticket to the upcoming Kentucky Derby on May 4, it should be remembered that five of the last eight Fair Grounds Oaks winners have gone on to victory in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks one day earlier.
However, for serious students of the sport, Saturday’s race of the year – so far at least – may turn out to be the 88th running of the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap,bringing together the best older horses in the nation over the main track, and Saturday’s 20th renewal of the $400,000 Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course may bring the best grass horses in the nation to the forefront.
Combined as a quartet, those four Grade II races promises to be a very attractive package. For bettors, they make a most attractive option as a special $150,000-Guaranteed All-Grade II Pick Four on Races 7-10.
THREE LOUISIANA-BRED STAKES ADD AN INTERESTING GARNISH – Brittlyn Farm’s Sunbean, installed at 12-1 in the morning line for Saturday’s 100th running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby, and Charles Craig Smith’s String King,pegged at 8-1 in the early line for Saturday’s 88th running of the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap, are two accredited Louisiana-breds not to be discounted when they face open competition on the Louisiana Derby Day program at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
The sophomore Sunbean was scratched by trainer Al Stall Jr. from Fair Grounds’ Grade II Risen Star Stakes Feb. 23 due to an outside post that would have compromised his chances, but he dominated by 4 3/4-lengths in restricted $60,000 Gentilly Stakes on the same day.
String King proved clearly best in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf last December and following that performance trainer Charlie Smith deemed him ready for open competition in the Grade III Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap Jan. 26 where he finished second to Calumet Farm’s Optimizer.
However, the four Grade II stakes slated for Saturday at the Crescent City oval will be supported by three stakes restricted to accredited Louisiana-breds. They also are expected to serve up some interesting competition.
Rebecca Farms and T. J. Dickey’s Heavy On Themister is the deserving 8-5 early choice in Saturday’s $60,000 Costa Rising Stakes based on his one-length win the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic here last December.
The Costa Rising, incidentally, is the race that allowed Brittlyn Farm’s Star Guitar to become the top Louisiana-bred money earner of all-time last season.
Dale Ladner’s Sittin At the Bar, heroine of Fair Grounds’ $100,000 Louisiana Lassie and $100,000 Louisiana Futurity last December, is an equally deserving 9-5 early choice in Saturday’s $75,000 Crescent City Oaks for accredited Louisiana-bred sophomore fillies.
Sittin At the Bar finished fifth in Oaklawn’s Grade III Honeybee when facing open company for the first time in her last start March 9.
Finally, Saturday’s $75,000 Crescent City Derby for accredited Louisiana-bred 3-year-olds has attracted an evenly-matched group of nine, with Robbie Norman’s Hero Force getting the favorite’s role at 5-2 in the morning line based on his back-to-back victories in Delta’s $125,000 Premier Night Prince and $75,000 Pelican stakes earlier this year.
JOCKEY JOHN JACINTO BODY SORE BUT OK FOLLOWING THURSDAY FALL – Jockey John Jacinto thankfully escaped serious injury in a horrific-looking spill Thursday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
“I’m pretty body sore and I’ve got bruises all over my body,” said Jacinto while speaking over the phone Friday morning during training hours. “I’m not going to ride today but I expect I’ll be able to ride tomorrow after I spend some time today in the whirlpool.”