Barn Notes: Friday, December 20

IN TODAY'S NOTES: Unknown Road Now Likely For Familiar Path at FG; Istanford Impresses in Local Bow Thursday; Jockey Jesse Campbell, Wife Allyson Visit Fair Grounds Thursday

Fans in attendance at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Thursday as well as those watching the local simulcast signal around the nation got an early Christmas present if they paid attention to the fourth race of the afternoon.

That was when a 2-year-old JMJ Racing Stables ridgling named Unknown Road cut out early fractions of 22.20 and 46.49 before increasing his lead throughout the stretch and come home 11 ¾ lengths in front with a final time of 1:10.91.

“That was exciting,” admitted his understated trainer Al Stall Jr. Sunday morningof the youngster who is a half-brother to 1998 Eclipse Award–winning 3-year-old filly Banshee Breeze.  “We were very pleased with his race, yesterday.”

What made the performance especially exciting was that the black and yellow silks of JMJ Racing are strikingly similar to those of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, and that image sets one’s imagination racing to an earlier golden era.

What’s next?  Does Unknown Road now have a more clear-cut path to pursue?

“We’ll probably now start looking at the (Grade III) Lecomte,” said Stall.  “His breeding certainly suggests he’ll be better at two turns.  Also, he’s an early bird nomination to the (Grade II) Louisiana Derby, so we’ll just have to see how everything goes from here.”

The Lecomte, at a mile and 70 yards, serves as Fair Grounds’ showcase event on Road to the Derby Kickoff Day Jan. 18.  The $1 million Louisiana Derby, at nine furlongs, will be run on March 29, 2014.

JMJ Racing is the nom-de-course of Dennis Narlinger, a New Jersey-born 61-year-old San Juan Capistrano, California, resident now semi-retired from the computer and electronics industry.  His son Michael serves as his racing manager as they pursue their racing and breeding interests.

Stall also indicated that Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Central Banker, second by a neck in the $100,000 Thanksgiving  Handicap, has been sent west for theGrade I Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Dec. 26.

ISTANFORD IMPRESSES IN LOCAL BOW THURSDAY —Sam and Janet Alley and Ike and Dawn Thrash’s Istanford, a 2-year-old grass-favoring filly that trainer Mike Stidham had indicated showed him some promise when he was asked about her earlier in the meeting, gave everyone further indications that she could fulfill that potential in Thursday’s seventh race at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

The daughter of Istan out of a Tale of the Cat mare made the pace with early splits of 24.59 and 49.37 in an allowance and optional $75,000 claiming race at about one mile and then drew clear in the lane for a 2 ¾-length tally in 1:39.79 over a firm Stall-Wilson turf course.

Istanford, who finished fifth beaten less than three lengths in the Arlington-Washington Lassie over Polytrack at last asking Sept. 7, will be pointed toward the $75,000 Allen Lacombe Memorial Stakes to be contested here March 1, 2014 at about 7 ½-furlongs over the local lawn.

“Of course, this is still December,” said Stidham.  “I’d like to give her a race in a “two other than” that might fit her in between now and then.”

JOCKEY JESSE CAMPBELL, WIFE ALLYSON VISIT FAIR GROUNDS THURSDAY—Jockey Jesse Campbell, who rode Windy Hill Farm’s Nates Mineshaft to victory in the 2012 Grade II New Orleans and Grade III Mineshaft handicaps at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, along with wife Allyson, who served in various capacities in Fair Grounds’ marketing department for several winters, passed through New Orleans briefly Thursday to renew acquaintances with their many friends in the Crescent City.

Campbell, raised in Lake Zurich, Illinois, and the Chicago-born Allyson are on their way to spend Christmas with their families in the Windy City area, and Allyson is currently seven months pregnant with due date of Feb. 11 for their little girl.

Campbell, who reached a new career highlight by riding Tucci Stables’ Midnight Aria to victory in Canada’s Grade I Queen’s Plate last July 7, finished third in the Woodbine standings at the conclusion of that meeting.

The 36-year-old reins master, who also won the Grade II Super Derby with Adele Dilschneider’s Apart at Louisiana Downs in 2010, has more than 1,800 wins to his credit and enjoyed a five-win day at Woodbine last summer, plans to retire when he turns 40.