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Stakes Advance: Delaunay to Defend Duncan F. Kenner Stakes Title

Maggi Moss’s Delaunay, who won last season’s listed Duncan F. Kenner Stakes by 4 ½-lengths on his way to Horse of the Meeting honors at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, looms as the strong choice once again to earn a second straight victory in Saturday’s 61st running of the $100,000 six-furlong event that serves as the richest open sprint stakes of the New Orleans winter meeting.

In his lone previous appearance this season at Fair Grounds, Delaunay captured the $60,000 Gaudin Memorial by 3 ¼ lengths in what was a repeat performance of his victory in that sprint one year ago.

Conditioned by Fair Grounds’ 10-time trainer champion Tom Amoss, Delaunay will be ridden once again by Fair Grounds’ three-time defending jockey champion Rosie Napravnik.

Seemingly capable of providing competition for Delaunay is Rowell Enterprises’ Heitai, a Louisiana-bred altered son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus who has been dominating in his last three starts – all of them in races restricted to accredited Louisiana-breds.  Most recently, Heitai captured Delta’s $100,000 Premier Sprint on Feb. 1 by five lengths, but before that he won Fair Grounds’ $60,000 Costa Rising Stakes on Jan. 11 by 2 ¾-lengths as well as the Crescent City oval’s $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint on Dec. 14 by seven. 

However, earlier last year, Heitai pressed the pace of Calumet Farm’s front-running Oxbow in Fair Grounds’ Grade III Lecomte Stakes, four months before that horse went on to win Pimlico’s Preakness Stakes in Maryland.  Regular rider Diego Saenz has been named to handle the reins aboard the Karl Broberg-trained Heitai.

Bet Seattle, owned and trained by Hugh Robertson, may be another player.  The winner of Canterbury’s $50,000 Honor the Hero Stakes last spring also most recently won on in allowance and $62,500 optional claiming company by 2 ¼ lengths on Feb. 6.  James Graham is slated for the tack.

Mike McCarty’s Lemon Drop Dream cannot be discounted in the Duncan Kenner.  The entire son of 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid is undefeated at Fair Grounds this winter, breaking his maiden Dec. 20 and coming back Jan. 18 by 2 ½ and Feb. 7 by 3 ½ while gradually advancing through allowance and optional claiming conditions.  Conditioned by 13-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Steve Asmussen, Lemon Drop Dream will be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr.

Al and Bill Ulwelling’s Countercyclical, trained by Gary Scherer with Florent Geroux aboard, broke his maiden by 12 ½-lengths at last asking in an eye-catching performance but will be asked to step up into stakes company in the Duncan Kenner.

Silver Lining John, recently second in stakes company at Sam Houston completes the field and will be ridden by Jamie Theriot for trainer Jeff Engler.