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A Full Thursday for Albarado

Headlines for Friday, January 09, 2009

  • A Full Thursday for Albarado
  • Fair Grounds Adds Flavor to Eclipse Award Finalists
  • FG Graded Stakes Leaders: Albarado, Howard
  • Husbands Wins at FG Thursday - Heads West Saturday
  • Sandburr Retired at Age 10


A Full Thursday for Albarado

NEW ORLEANS, La. - It's not unusual to see six-time Fair Grounds leading rider Robby Albarado at a racetrack other than Fair Grounds on a winter weekend to ride a stakes horse.  But on a Thursday?

Albarado was at Gulfstream Park Thursday, where he rode Landon Robbins and Samuel Delaney's Danger to Society to victory in a first-level, 1 1/8-mile allowance race for 3-year-olds.  The Ken McPeek trainee won for the second time in as many starts, and Albarado was also aboard for his debut at Churchill Downs in November.

            "He ran well," Albarado said Thursday afternoon.  "It came easy to him.  He put his ears up the last couple of strides."

            Like most top-level riders, Albarado is looking for that horse that could land him in the winner's circle on the first Saturday in May at Churchill.  Last year, he began riding more for McPeek, who had four of the 17 horses entered in the two divisions of Thursday's allowance.

"Kenny, he's got a pretty good eye for a horse," Albarado said.

Albarado's Thursday didn't begin and end with the allowance win.  Earlier in the day, he was named an Eclipse Award finalist for the second consecutive year.  After the allowance win, Albarado headed to Dolphin Stadium to watch Florida's 24-14 victory over Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship Game.

On Saturday's "Road to the Derby" Kickoff Day at Fair Grounds, Albarado has five stakes mounts, including 4-1 early second choice Patena in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes.  He needs one more stakes win to become the first rider to win 100 stakes races at Fair Grounds.


Fair Grounds Adds Local Flavor to Eclipse Award Finalists

Finalists for the 2008 Eclipse Awards were announced Thursday, and in addition to Albarado, there is a strong Fair Grounds flavor to many of the nominees.

The other nominee in the "human" categories with Fair Grounds connections is seven-time local leading trainer Steve Asmussen, who set a North American record for wins in a year with 622 victories in 2008. Asmussen also led all trainers by purse earnings with $24,235,247.

Among the local equine connections:

Fox Hill Farms' Old Fashioned, one of three up for 2-year-old male honors, breezed four furlongs in :48.20 Wednesday morning at Fair Grounds.

Although trainer Larry Jones will saddle Old Fashioned's stablemate Friesan Fire in Saturday's Lecomte at Fair Grounds, Old Fashioned remains under consideration for both the Grade III Risen Star Stakes here Feb. 7 and the Grade II Louisiana Derby March 14.

Old Fashioned was most recently the 7 1/4-length winner of Aqueduct's Grade II Remsen Stakes on Nov. 29 in New York.

Also from the Jones barn, Brereton Jones' Proud Spell, who captured the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks last winter, the Grade I Kentucky Oaks last spring, and the Grade II Delaware Oaks and Grade I Alabama last summer, is one of three nominees for the 3-year-old filly award.

Defending Horse of the Year Curlin, who trained at Fair Grounds last winter before leaving for the United Arab Emirates to capture the Grade I Dubai World Cup, is nominated as older male and is also an obvious candidate to defend his title as Horse of the Year.  Curlin would be the first back-to-back Horse of the Year winner since Cigar in 1995-96.

Brazilian-bred Einstein, another nominee for older male honors, won Fair Grounds' Grade II Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap in 2007.

Patti and Hal Earnhardt III's Indian Blessing, nominated for female sprinter honors, shipped from California to win Fair Grounds' Grade III Silverbulletday last season, but ran second to Proud Spell in the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks.


FG Graded Stakes Leaders:  Albarado, Howard

            Another season of graded stakes at Fair Grounds gets underway Saturday with a pair of Grade III races - the Lecomte and Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap.

            In the 36 years of graded stakes races contested in New Orleans, no one has won more than Robby Albarado and Neil Howard, according to statistics compiled by Equibase Company.

            Albarado has 14 graded stakes wins and $3.85 million in graded stakes earnings at Fair Grounds, more than any other rider, and his 72 mounts in graded stakes are nearly twice as many as anyone else.  Two riders now retired from the saddle rank second and third on the list of graded wins at Fair Grounds - Pat Day with nine and Jerry Bailey with six.  Donnie Meche and Garrett Gomez are tied for fourth with five wins each.

            Among trainers, Howard has nine wins from 30 starters, putting him just ahead of Steve Asmussen, who has eight wins but leads in graded earnings with $2.47 million.  Bobby Frankel and Todd Pletcher each have six graded wins at Fair Grounds.

            Fair Grounds will once again contest 10 graded stakes in 2009.  After Saturday, there are four graded stakes each on Louisiana Derby Preview Day Feb. 7 and Louisiana Derby Day March 14.           


Husbands Wins at FG Thursday - Heads West Saturday

            Sovereign Award-winning jockey Patrick Husbands, who hung his tack in New Orleans last winter, rode his first winner at Fair Grounds this season with his first local mount in Thursday's sixth race aboard Star Valley Thoroughbreds (Gerry Hunsicker) and Mark Casse's Box Wine Betty.

            As it turns out, the Barbados-born Canada-based reinsman's stay was short-lived, and he will depart New Orleans for California with a perfect local record. By Saturday, Husbands will have transferred his tack to Santa Anita.

            "We're going to ride for Mark Casse out there for the rest of the winter," said Gary Kemplen, Husbands' agent.  "This whole change of plans just came up for the last couple of days.  Patrick will fly out (Friday) and ride Marchfield in the (Grade II) San Pasqual (Handicap) Saturday."

            Marchfield, owned by Melnyk Racing Stables, won Woodbine's Grade II Autumn Stakes in his last start Nov. 9.

            Also, this interesting aside about Box Wine Betty's co-owner Hunsicker, who as a former general manager of the Houston Astros, incorporated the team's red and black colors and open-ended star logo into his racing silks.  Hunsicker, who has been a visitor to Fair Grounds in the past, is now a vice president of the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays, but Star Valley still sports the Astros-themed silks.


Sandburr Retired at Age 10

Sandburr, the popular Texas-bred who is now 10, was retired following a fourth-place finish in a $25,000 claiming race at Fair Grounds Jan. 3.  Before that, the gelding was third in the $75,000 Star of Texas at Retama Park, a state-bred stakes he had won in both 2006 and 2007.

"The race the other day was his final start," said Michael Stidham, who trained Sandburr for Feel The Thunder Stable.  "We're going to retire him."

Stidham said he plans to contact Chris McCarron about Sandburr being part of the program at the Hall of Fame jockey's North American Racing Academy.  Another of Stidham's past trainees, Desert Air, is now based at the academy.  There is also the option of life on a private farm for Sandburr.

"People have asked me about him," Stidham said, "like as a riding horse, that type of thing, just giving him a happy home."

Sandburr retires with a record of 16 wins from 62 starts for earnings of $476,321.  Feet The Thunder Stable claimed the gelding for $20,000 in 2006, and he went on to become a multiple stakes winner.  Stidham said one of Sandburr's career highlights was his 2007 win in the $75,000 Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds.

"He was a great horse to have around the barn," Stidham said.  "He was a real hard-trying barn pet we had a lot of fun with.  Everybody will miss him."

Sandburr, who is stabled at Fair Grounds, is a son of Sandpit.