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Fair Grounds Runners Well Represented in Breeders' Cup Pre-Entries

By James Scully, Twinspires.com

Fair Grounds Breeders’ Cup horses

Pre-Entries for the 32nd Breeders’ Cup on October 30 and 31 were released Wednesday and include 10 horses that competed at Fair Grounds during the 2014-15 season as well as a distinguished performer from the 2013-14 meet.

I’m a Chatterbox burst upon the 3-year-old filly scene at Fair Grounds over the winter, recording an eight-length tally in the Silverbulletday before convincing victories in the Rachel Alexandra (G3) and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), and she rates as a leading contender for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and divisional Eclipse Award.

The Fletcher & Carolyn Gray homebred tied for the 2014-15 Fair Grounds Horse of the Meet with Louisiana Derby (G2) hero International Star, who swept the 3-year-old male stakes, and I’m a Chatterbox will enter the Distaff off a sterling two-length score in the September 19 Cotillion (G1) at Parx for Larry Jones. Florent Geroux rides the talented chestnut daughter of Munnings.

Untapable, the 2013-14 Fair Grounds Horse of the Meet, did not compete at the New Orleans track during the 2014-15 season but bears mentioning given her past accomplishments and championship status. A Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred, the Tapit filly will make a title defense in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff for Steve Asmussen.

A spectacular 9 ½-length winner of the Rachel Alexandra and a 7 ¾-length romper in the Fair Grounds Oaks last year, Untapable went on to add the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Mother Goose (G1) and Cotillion before wrapping up champion 3-year-old filly honors with a 1 ¼-length Distaff victory. She’s only 1-for-6 in 2015, but ran well finishing second four times, including a neck runner-up in the October 4 Spinster (G1), and Untapable remains a top Distaff contender with jockey John Velazquez.

Donegal Racing’s Keen Ice will seek to carry his improving form forward in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. Trained by Dale Romans, the Curlin colt raced twice at Fair Grounds earlier this year, finishing third in the Risen Star (G2) and fourth in the Louisiana Derby, and Keen Ice began to really come on in his last two starts, finishing second in the Haskell Invitational (G1) prior to an upset of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the August 29 Travers Stakes (G1).

Classic-bound Hard Aces stamped himself as an improving type in a couple of Fair Grounds appearances, finishing second in the Tenacious before posting a four-length victory in the Louisiana H. in mid-January, and the 5-year-old son of Hard Spun was sold to Hronis Racing and transferred from Jones to John Sadler after the latter. He punched his Breeders’ Cup ticket when capturing the “Win and You’re In” Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) three starts previously, but Hard Aces will need to rebound from a pair of sixths in the Pacific Classic (G1) and Awesome Again (G1).

James McIngvale’s Runhappy is the probable favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint but his appearance at Fair Grounds last January was not a career highlight. In his only attempt at two turns, the 3-year-old son of Super Saver finished ninth after a rough start in the Lecomte (G3) and then received a six-month freshening. The Maria Borrell trainee is unbeaten from his other five starts sprinting.

Michael Dubb, Sheep Pond Partners & Bethlehem Stables' Slumber made an early-season appearance in New Orleans when finishing second in the Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap in late March, a race that turned out to be a springboard to notable tries throughout the season. Since train Chad Brown's addition of blinkers on the 7-year-old British-bred horse, he has captured the Grade I Manhattan Stakes and earned runner-up finishes in the Grade I United Nations and Grade I Turf Classic Invitational. Slumber will attempt to win his second Grade I event in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Skychai Racing’s Da Big Hoss began an upward ascension after making four starts at the Fair Grounds meet. The 4-year-old captured an off-the-turf allowance and recorded a second and a pair of thirds versus similar company on turf. In his first outing after the Fair Grounds, the Lemon Drop Kid colt was haltered for a $50,000 tag at Churchill Downs. He captured the John’s Call Stakes at Saratoga two starts later and will enter the Breeders’ Cup Turf off a two-length score in the September 14 Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) for Mike Maker.

Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Red Rifle raced twice on the Fair Grounds’ main track earlier this year, finishing third in the Mineshaft (G3) and fifth in the New Orleans H. (G2), but he’s become a turf specialist for Todd Pletcher, winning the Bowling Green (G2) at Saratoga before a runner-up in the Sword Dancer (G1) at the same track and a fourth in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont Park on September 26. A 5-year-old gelded son of Giant’s Causeway, Red Rifle will bring good tactical speed to the Turf line-up.

Miller Racing’s Kiss to Remember made a couple of Fair Grounds appearances over the winter, capturing the off-the-turf Pago Hop in late December and recording a fourth in the February 17 Mardi Gras as the favorite, and the 4-year-old filly is headed to the Filly & Mare Sprint for trainer Marty Wolfson. A three-time stakes winner and runner-up in the Ballerina (G1) at Saratoga two starts back, Kiss to Remember is a Maryland-bred daughter of Big Brown.

Channel Marker, who is in the main body of an overflow Turf Sprint field, made one start last meet, finishing sixth versus allowance/optional claiming rivals in early March for new owners Rigney Racing and trainer Phillip Bauer – the 6-year-old gelding had been claimed for $62,500 in his final outing of 2014 and was returning from a 10-month layoff. Channel Marker followed with a close second at 44-1 odds in the Shakertown (G3) at Keeneland last April and two starts later posted a 10-1 upset in the Jaipur (G3) on the Belmont Stakes undercard, but he’s been unplaced in his last two races.

Loooch Racing Stable & Chris Dunn’s War Story needs one defection to make the Dirt Mile from the also-eligibles list. An allowance winner last December, the 3-year-old finished second in the Lecomte and Risen Star before a third in the Louisiana Derby. Previously conditioned by Tom Amoss, the Jeffrey Radosevich-trained gelding finished third in the West Virginia Derby (G2) two starts previously and exits a well-beaten sixth in the September 19 Pennsylvania Derby (G2).

Windy Hill Farm’s Nates Mineshaft was pre-entered to both the Dirt Mile and Sprint but will need several defections from the also-eligibles list to make either race. The 8-year-old made four starts at Fair Grounds over the winter for Anne Smith, the best result being a third in the Thanksgiving H. nearly 11 months ago.