Home of the Louisiana Derby

Barn Notes: Monday, March 27


·        Full-Sister to Destin, Creative Cause Invades for Oaks

·        Local Hero and Guest Suite Have Final Louisiana Derby Drills

·        Eagle Giving Howard Confidence

·        Believe in Bertie Making a Disciple out of Cox



One of the more intriguing entrants on Louisiana Derby Day, Apr. 1, is sophomore filly Vexatious in the Grade II $400,000 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks. In a trio of starts, the impeccably bred bay filly has shown flashes of promise for the top connections of trainer Neil Drysdale and owner Calumet Farm, while facing solid company.

“She’s an improving filly,” Drysdale said. “I liked her race the other day against the colts a lot. She got into trouble and still was able to come home well down the lane.”

Third on debut on Nov. 26 at Del Mar going six furlongs to next-out Grade III winner Shane’s Girlfriend, she closed from eighth of nine fillies at the wire under Kent Desormeaux. Next out, four weeks later, she broke her maiden at one-mile at the same track by a head over Majestic Quality, who three starts later would finish second in Farrell’s Grade II $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Feb. 25.

Given more than three months off, the full-sister to Grade I winner Creative Cause and Grade II-winning Belmont Stakes runner-up Destin returned in an ambitious spot, going two turns against well-regarded colts Battle of Midway and Reach the World, finishing a rallying 5½ lengths behind that pair in third.

“We got held up by the weather this year, so a lot of our horses are coming late,” Drysdale said. “There was just lots of rain and it’s not like in New Orleans where they’ll train over a wet track. They close them and we can’t train.

“I don’t think she’ll have any problem shipping,” he continued. “She needs to start to learn and it’ll be good for her. She arrives on the 29th and will go into Neil Howard’s barn.”

To get a class-line read on Vexatious, Majestic Quality and Shane’s Girlfriend finished second and fifth in the Rachel Alexandra behind expected Fair Grounds Oaks favorite Farrell. Keith Desormeaux-trained Majestic Quality returns for the Oaks, but will be ridden this time by Richard Eramia in lieu of Kent Desormeaux, who will ride Vexatious.


A pair of Grade II $1,000,000 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby entrants had their final drills on Monday morning for the meet’s top event, led by 13-time leading trainer Steve Asmussen’s Local Hero, who worked a half-mile in 49.60 for owner e Five Racing Thoroughbreds.

The good-looking $500,000 purchase finished third last out in the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star after opening up six lengths on the backstretch under Florent Geroux. Blessed with a high cruising rate, the son of Grade I-winning Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun and Grade III-winning dam Liam’s Dream will look to improve upon his first trip outside maiden ranks and stretch that speed nine furlongs.

Leading rider Geroux returns to ride on Saturday.

William S. Farish and Lora Jean Kilroy’s homebred gelding Guest Suite once again impressed onlookers with a sharp morning drill at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, working a half-mile in 48 flat, third-best of 38 moves at the distance.

The move was the third-consecutive impressive move by the son of Quality Road following his fourth-place finish at 7-2 odds in the Risen Star, finishing a diminishing neck behind aforementioned Local Hero.

A winner of the Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes one race prior, the consistent sort will have the return services of Robby Albarado.


Few horses are more fun to cheer for than William S. Farish’s homebred Eagle. A throwback in both soundness and determination, the compact son of Candy Ride (Arg) is often dwarfed by many of his opponents, yet still fights until the end for his proud connections, including trainer Neil Howard.

“He’s just a really good horse,” Howard said. “He’s doing well right now and I really liked his work the other day.”

The 5-year-old Grade I-placed horse worked on March 14, getting five furlongs in 1:01.20. The move was his second since his seasonal debut, a rare off-the-board finish when fourth, beaten four lengths in the Grade III $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap on Feb. 25. On Monday, Mar. 27, he put in his final drill for the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap on Apr. 1 with a half-mile drill in 48.40.

“He’s done extremely well since his race,” Howard explained. “The (Mineshaft) did him a world of good, having come off a layoff. Mr. Farish and I touched on the fact that it was just a first race back and every horse is different with a first race back like that. Relative to how he’s trained since the race, it no doubt put him forward as we head to the next one.”

Eagle’s run was his first in seven months after a break following an 11-race run from Sept. 2015 to July 2016. His only other similar layoff was an eight-month period prior to that stretch in which he returned to finish sixth of 10 in a six-furlong sprint.  His race after that was a sharp neck victory in a second-level Keeneland allowance.


Mention the talented Believe in Bertie once to trainer Brad Cox and the meet-leading conditioner cannot help but show visible pride. With an operation as large as Cox’s impressive 27%-strike rate-earning barn, it has to be difficult to pick favorites, but if he was forced to, one could discern that the Louisville native would choose Believe in Bertie.

A three-time stakes winner and four-time winner this season, the daughter of Langfuhr is making her case — no matter what happens with Farrell or Girvin on Apr. 1 — to be the ‘Horse of the Meet’ for Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ 2016-17 season.

“She really is becoming a better racehorse,” Cox said. “She’s one who can carry her quick speed two turns and now is starting to dial back and shut off the speed a little bit like she did the other day and then sprint home. I think she came home faster the other day than she ever has.

“I really believe there are bigger things for her out there,” he continued. “We’ll look at the (Grade II) Distaff Turf Mile on Kentucky Derby Day for her (at Churchill Downs). If she can keep shutting off like she did last time and coming home like she did, she will be tough in there.”

A Louisiana-bred, Believe in Bertie set two course records — for a mile and 1 1/16 miles — this season for over the Stall-Wilson turf course, in addition to one-sided tallies in three of her four local wins.