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100th Louisiana Derby Day in the Books; Asmussen, Amoss Battle for Leading Trainer Honors

By Graham Ross, Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Sunday, March 31, 2013) –Five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher’s trio of successful invaders – WinStar Farm’s $1 million Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary, Repole Stable’s $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks heroine Unlimited Budget and Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ $400,000 New Orleans Handicap hero Graydar – all left New Orleans at 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning for brief return trips to South Florida before moving on to their respective Kentucky campaigns, as did Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s $400,000 Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap winner Amira’s Prince, owned by Wachtel Stable et al. and Oaks second-place finisher Flashy Gray, owned by West Point Thoroughbreds.

That left GoldMark Farm’s Louisiana Derby runner-up Mylute, Brereton Jones’s New Orleans ’Cap second-place finisher Mark Valeski and All In Stable et al.’s Muniz Memorial runner-up Willcox Inn still in residence on the backstretch and the connections of each with comments on their horses’ futures.

“We’re going to head right to Louisville,” said trainer Tom Amoss Sunday right after attending Easter Sunday mass. “I’m still not exactly sure what our plans are when we get there, but our horse ran a huge race yesterday and we’re very proud of him. He came out of the race just fine.”

Hilary Pridham, assistant to Willcox Inn’s trainer Mike Stidham, was equally proud of his performance. “The real Willcox Inn showed up once again yesterday. He had a lot of doubters for awhile, but we never lost faith in him.

“As for (West Point Thoroughbreds’) Ground Transport (fifth in the Louisiana Derby), he’s fine, too. He’s just about three months behind where he should be right now, but once he gets some experience, we’ll have a real nice horse for the summer.”

Larry Jones, conditioner of Mark Valeski, was his usual optimistic self, speaking with his familiar warm Western Kentucky drawl while reflecting on his horse’s performance on an Easter Sunday morning.

“Mark gave it his all yesterday,” said Jones. “Running second behind Graydar, we don’t have to hang our heads. He’s the real deal. We beat (Bourbon Lane Stable’s) Bourbon Courage and he’s a real nice horse, too."

OTHER LOUISIANA DERBY DAY LAGNIAPPE – Pam Fitzgerald, assistant to trainer Al Stall Jr., spoke about Louisiana Derby third-place finisher Departing, owned by Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm, and eighth-place runner Sunbean, owned by Brittlyn Stable, shortly after Stall had left the barn area to take his youngsters on an Easter Egg hunt.

“They’re fine today,” she said of the pair that both suffered from less-than-ideal trips Saturday. “Sunbean got absolutely slammed a couple of times yesterday but he seems to be alright.”

Charlie Smith, owner, trainer and breeder of the Louisiana-bred String King, third in the Muniz Memorial, was quite pleased with his horse’s performance.

“I thought he ran a real nice race,” said Smith. “He did the (Louisiana) breed ranks pretty proud yesterday.”

ASMUSSEN VS. AMOSS STILL BATTLE FOR LEADING TRAINER HONORS ON MARCH 31 – Eleven-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Steve Asmussen and nine-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Tom Amoss were still in a heated battle for the local championship entering Sunday, closing day of the 2012-2013 season at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Asmussen enjoyed a two-win advantage, with six horses entered Sunday, while Amoss had seven slated to start.