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Barn Notes: Saturday, March 21




Southern Equine Stable’s homebred Grade I winner Moreno will head to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap, according to trainer Eric Guillot.  The 5-year-old gelded son of Ghostzapper is listed as the 122-pound highweight and wheels back three weeks after kicking off his 2015 campaign with a front-running second to the world’s top-ranked horse – according to the IFHA (International Federation of Horseracing Authorities) – Shared Belief in the Grade I $1,000,000 Santa Anita Handicap on Mar. 7.

“They put him down at 122 (pounds) with five pounds to the next horse, so I might ride him myself from California to get him into shape to carry that,” Guillot joked. “We’re coming.  We leave 4:30 Tuesday morning and when we arrive we’re going into (trainer) Eric Heitzman’s barn.”

Moreno, despite only three career wins from 24 starts, has over $2 million in earnings.  His best career effort thus far was a victory in the Grade I $1,500,000 Whitney Handicap on Aug. 30 at Saratoga – the same course over which he was a nose-second a year prior in the Grade I $1,000,000 Travers Stakes to eventual Eclipse Award champion 3-year-old colt Will Take Charge.  At the New Orleans’ 1 1/8-miles distance, the great-grandson of multi-national champion Dance Smartly has never finished worse than third.  On Friday, the bay Kentucky-bred worked five furlongs at Los Alamitos in 1:00.40.

“He’s in really good shape right now,” Guillot said.  “Joe Talamo will ride him.  He was on board for the work and he rode him a couple years ago in the Breeders’ Cup.  The plan is to go three weeks (between the Santa Anita and New Orleans Handicaps) and then three weeks to the (Grade II $1,500,000) Charles Town Classic (on Apr. 18).  Then we’ll freshen him for a summer campaign.  I’m not too concerned about the short break for him.  He’s a horse who keeps himself in good shape.

“We might go back to California afterward if we can get a flight – if not, we’ll take him up to Keeneland to prepare for Charles Town,” he continued.  “If I had another week after the Santa Anita Handicap, I would have gone to Dubai with him for the (Group I $10,000,000 Dubai World Cup at Meydan on Mar. 28).  There’s just not enough time in three weeks to make sure he comes out well enough to ship him all the way there and then to actually get there.”


Grade III-winning turf mare Strike Charmer heads a good field of grass fillies and mares in Thursday’s Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots feature race, a one-mile conditioned allowance turf event that goes as the fourth race of 11.  Trained by David Carroll for owner and breeder Courtlandt Farm, the 5-year-old bay daughter of Smart Strike will take on a field that includes talented local allowance winners Compelling Case, Tipthetrolleygirl and Treaty Oak, as well as stakes-winning distaffer Malibu Yankee.

Last out, Strike Charmer was fifth behind impressive winner Parranda in the Grade III $150,000 Marshua’s River Stakes at Gulfstream Park.  Parranda would subsequently win the Group I $3.05 million Singapore Cup overseas in February.  One race prior to her Gulfstream effort, Strike Charmer was a sharp winner of the Grade III $100,000 Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 22.

“She ran a decent race down (at Gulfstream),” Carroll said.  “The winner was exceptionally good.  We were going to run next in the (Grade III $150,000) Hillsborough (Stakes) at Tampa Bay Downs (on Mar. 7), but when we got her back from Gulfstream and she was a little tired and seemed out of sorts.  It was nothing specific; she just wasn’t herself.  After talking it over the owner, we decided go in an allowance race here and then aim for the (Grade II $300,000 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile) on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs.

“We’re hoping to get her back on track and running well,” Carroll continued.  “She’s acting well and training forwardly.  She’s ready to run.”

Jockey Florent Geroux picks up the mount on Strike Charmer and is slated to break from post-two of seven.


Gallant Stable’s Grade I winner Maestic Harbor has exited his dull performance in the Grade III $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots well and will move forward under the care of trainer Paul McGee.  The 7-year-old son of Rockport Harbor recently was returned to McGee after an extended tenure with California-based conditioner Sean McCarthy, for whom he won last summer’s Grade I $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita by a romping 6¼ lengths.  On Wednesday, he worked a half-mile at Fair Grounds in :49.80.

“We’re doubtful for the (Grade II $400,000) New Orleans Handicap (on Mar. 28 at Fair Grounds),” McGee said.  “He came out of the race fine and I thought he breezed great.  We’re thinking probably Keeneland for him.”

Previous to his time in California, Majestic Harbor spent a significant portion of his early career with McGee, including finishing sixth after setting the pace in the 2013 edition of the New Orleans.  Expected Keeneland targets for the six-time winning owner of $675,764 could include an allowance event or the Grade III $150,000 Bel Ali Stakes on Apr. 11.