Home of the Louisiana Derby

Barn Notes: Friday, February 21

IN TODAY'S NOTES: Pletcher's Quartet Tuned Up for Saturday's Show; Bob Baffert's Pair Ready for Louisiana Derby Preview Day Saturday; Reminder: Early Post Time Saturday at 12:30 P.M.

Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher shipped four horses to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for the graded stakes portion of Saturday’s Louisiana Derby Preview Day Presented by Lamarque Ford and the formidable foursome arrived at the local oval shortly after noon on Thursday without incident.

“They are all in some pretty tough races,” said Ginny DePasquale, Pletcher’s longtime assistant who traveled with the horses, “but they’re all doing well and trained very well this morning.”

Starlight Racing’s Intense Holiday is here for the Grade II Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford after finishing a fast closing third in Gulfstream’s Grade II Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 25.  He would appear to be well-suited for the long stretch run of the Risen Star, and Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings’ precocious Got Lucky, who broke her maiden with a 5 ¼-length win at Gulfstream Jan. 29, will challenge six other fillies in the Grade III Rachel Alexandra.

Repole Stable’s Micromanage comes in to face eight other older horses on the main track in the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap while Robert Evans’ Unitarian, who will be going for his third straight victory,is here for the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap on the Stall-Wilson turf course after registering one of those last two scores on good ground with the other coming on firm turf.

“This is a new track for all of them,” said DePasquale, “but they all seemed to really take to it this morning.  We had the filly jog a mile but the other three galloped about a mile and a quarter.  I think they all like to cooler weather they had this morning.  I packed night blankets for all of them but when we got here yesterday it was so warm I had to borrow a bunch of fans to keep them comfortable.”

BOB BAFFERT’S PAIR READY FOR LOUISIANA DERBY PREVIEW DAY SATURDAY—Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will be well represented at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Saturday’s gala program after shipping one well-established filly for the Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes and a colt with a lot of promise for the Grade II Risen Star Stakes.

Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings’ sophomore Smart Strike filly Streaming and Mike Pegram et al.’s 3-year-old Any Given Saturday colt Hoppertunity arrived Wednesday at the Crescent City oval under the care of longtime Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes.

“I couldn’t be happier with the way both of them have adapted to the track here,” said Barnes during training hours Friday morning.  “I expect both of them will run good races tomorrow.”

Streaming broke her maiden at first asking last November and then captured the Grade I Hollywood Starlet by 1 ½ lengths Dec. 7.  She missed by a half-length when the runner-up in her sophomore bow Feb. 1 in Santa Anita’s Grade I Las Virgenes but raced wide, finished willingly and should appreciate the added sixteenth of the Rachel Alexandra.

Hoppertunity is less experienced, having broken his maiden by three lengths in his second and most recent start Jan. 30, but Barnes speaks highly of both of them.

“You never know how they’re going to handle a new surface in a race,” said Barnes, “but the colt has a very good mind and I’m really very confident he’s going to run very well and surprise a lot of people.

“Also, I think they both are enjoying the cooler weather today,” said Barnes.  “They both got a little warm yesterday but they’re used to that warmer weather.  It’s like the weather in California, but today when it’s a little cooler, I think they like that.  The cooler weather seems to have freshened them both up a little bit.”

REMINDER:  EARLY POST TIME SATURDAY AT 12:30 P.M —Guests of Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots and fans of the Fair Grounds simulcast signal are reminded that there will be a special early post time of 12:30 p.m. for Saturday’s 13-race program on Louisiana Derby Preview Day Presented by Lamarque Ford.

The expanded program will feature five stakes races – four of them graded – as well as a 50-cent All-Stakes Pick 4 on races 8-11.

Also, the Risen Star, as part of the elite “Kentucky Derby Championship Series,” is worthy 85 points toward qualifying for the “Run for the Roses.”  The 50 points to be awarded to the winner virtually guarantees a berth in the world’s most famous horse race on May 3.  The runner-up will earn 20 points, with 10 points to third and five points to fourth.

The Countdown Annual issue of the magazine Horseplayer Now reminds horseracing fans that all of the points-based 3-year-old prep races can be accessed through the free digital magazine at Countdowntothecrown.com or directly through the link http://issuu.com/horseplayernow/docs/c2c_final_merge. Weekly updates with stakes selections and analysis of past Kentucky Derby preps can be located at: www.countdowntothecrown.com