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Barn Notes: Wednesday, February 25




Thursday’s featured seventh race at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots sets up as a possible prep for the Grade II $750,000 Louisiana Derby on Mar. 28 – particularly for three of its main players.  An allowance optional claiming event for sophomore non-winners of two at a mile and 70 yards on the main track, it appears as a perfect spot for horses with an eye on the meet’s centerpiece event who either were not ready or did not wish to compete in last weekend’s Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes. 

Leading the way is West Point Thoroughbreds’ Defondo (above).  An agile son of El Corredor, this $170,000 Fasig-Tipton purchase is trained by Dallas Stewart and exits a sharp victory in a six-furlong maiden special weight event on Jan. 30 in which he altered course between the three-sixteenths and eighth-poles to rally around his rivals and scamper off to a 3¼ length victory in 1:10 3/5.  Brian Hernandez, Jr. has the return call Thursday from post two.

“He’s doing well and I hope we get a dry track,” Stewart said.  “He didn’t do too well in the mud (on Dec. 27 at Fair Grounds, his second start) and I don’t think I’ll run him if it’s wet.  We’re hoping we can stretch him out.  When (West Point) bought him, they did heart scans and said he has a strong heart – hopefully that’ll help him out.  It’s all how much talent they have and what’s the best distance for them.  If he’s to win, I’d go (to the Louisiana Derby).”

Defondo, who is the 5-2 morning line favorite, could get his biggest challenge from 3-1 second choice Vici.  Owned and bred by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, the Al Stall, Jr.-trained son of War Front was a strong winner of a Fair Grounds maiden on New Year’s Day at the same distance as Thursday’s feature.  Out of a dam who is a half-sister to four graded stakes winners and from the family of Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero, Vici was last seen finishing an even fourth in an allowance at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 6.  Francisco Torres, who was aboard for his lone victory, returns to the saddle from post seven.

“We’re just hoping that he didn’t like Oaklawn,” Stall said.  “He didn’t train so great up there, but his (speed) figures were comparable to his maiden race.  We’re going to see if he runs a good race tomorrow and that’s what we’ll focus on; it’s a one-race deal.”     

A third horse worth keeping an eye on is another Claiborne-bred colt, Indict, from the barn of Vickie Foley.  A quickly improving type from the first crop of Blame, he was sold for $35,000 at the same sale as Defondo and took a one-mile $30,000 claiming event on Feb. 7 with a three-wide midrace move and a hard-fought victory over fellow Thursday entrant In the Chamber. 

Owned by Foley and partners, the bay colt is out of the stakes-placed Malibu Moon mare Sweet Temptress – a half-sister to Grade I winner and stellar broodmare Spinning Round (dam of Dream Supreme and granddam of top sire Majestic Warrior). Needless to say, if Indict steps up and improves upon his co-field-high 81 Beyer Speed Figure, his value may considerably rise.  He breaks from post four under Roberto Morales with 5-1 morning line odds.


Anstu Stable’s surprise 21-1 winner of the Grade III $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap, Street Babe, has exited his second lifetime victory in only three career starts no worse for the wear, according to conditioner Michael Dilger.

“The horse got back to Palm Meadows (Training Center) on Monday, traveled back fine and came out in good condition,” Dilger said.  “Right now we’re leaning toward the (Grade II $400,000) New Orleans Handicap (at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Mar. 28), (Grade II $1,500,000) Charles Town Classic (on April 18) or maybe even the (Grade II $600,000) Oaklawn Handicap (at Oaklawn Park on April 11) for his next race.”

An apparent late bloomer, the son of Street Sense broke his maiden at first asking going a one-turn mile on Nov. 20 at Aqueduct.  The sizeable dark bay gelding then returned on New Year’s Eve at Gulfstream Park going 1 1/16 miles – finishing at the auxiliary finish line and with an abbreviated stretch –  to finish second to Fast Falcon, the third-place finisher in the 2012 Travers Stakes.

“He’s easily 17 hands and always showed he had some talent but also showed he needed some time to develop,” Dilger said.  “Coming to (the Mineshaft) was more than just the horse that beat him – it was more of a reflection of his breezes and his run-up to the race.  He was working very well and we thought that while it was taking a chance we thought he had a big chance.  The longer stretch run was a factor, too.  He’s a big horse; it gives him time to straighten.”


Loooch Racing Stable and Chris Dunn’s War Story – twice a runner-up this meet in major sophomore graded stakes – has exited his second in the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes on Saturday in good form and will tentatively point toward the Grade II $750,000 Louisiana Derby on Mar. 28, according to trainer Tom Amoss. 

Originally slated for the postponed Grade III $300,000 Southwest Stakes, the chestnut son of Northern Afleet was rerouted back to his Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots base after a disadvantageous outside draw and the menacing threat of poor weather at the Hot Springs, Arkansas track.  Despite consequentially missing a work – as well as the break under new rider Kent Desormeaux – the game charge gave an admirable performance to pick up the place check.