Cross-Entered Giant Oak Will Go in Mineshaft

Virginia Tarra’s Giant Oak, cross-entered in Saturday’s Grade III Mineshaft Handicap on the main track as well as the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap over the Stall-Wilson turf course, is now all but certain to face last winter’s Louisiana Derby winner Friesan Fire and last spring’s Blue Grass Stakes winner General Quarters in the 1 1/16-mile Mineshaft as a prep race toward the ultimate goal of the Grade II New Orleans Handicap March 27.

“We’re going in the Mineshaft,” trainer Neil Pessin confirmed Friday morning while speaking outside his tack room. “We’ve been leaning that way all along. The only thing that would make us change our mind at this point in time is if it rained and they had to take the grass race (Fair Grounds Handicap) off the turf.”

An off-the-turf scenario appears highly unlikely, as the weather.com forecast for Saturday calls for mostly sunny skies with an afternoon high of 64-degrees and only a 20-percent chance of precipitation.

Silverfoot Training Sharply for Fair Grounds Handicap In Spite Of Long Layoff
Chrysalis Stables’ Silverfoot, who won Arlington’s Grade III Stars and Stripes Handicap two years ago and then finished a close fourth behind three world-class European invaders in that summer’s Arlington Million, cannot be overlooked in Saturday’s Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap despite the fact that he has not run since last summer’s Stars and Stripes ’Cap on Sept. 7.

“Silverfoot hasn’t been training like he’s had a long layoff,” said conditioner Dallas Stewart, who saddled West Point Stable’s Macho Again to win last year’s Grade II New Orleans Handicap. “(Silverfoot) has been training really, really well ever since he got down here. All of his works here have been very good ones.

“Last year he won a race off a long layoff,” said Stewart, speaking of Silverfoot’s victory by a neck in Arlington’s $54,000 The Tin Man Stakes June 6 after being away from the races since a fifth-place finish in Keeneland’s Grade III Sycamore on Oct. 18 of 2008. “I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t do that again Saturday.

“Of course, he is a 10-year-old now,” said Stewart of his almost white gray gelding. “If he does need a race to run his best he’ll get it in this one and that should set us up perfectly for the (Grade II) Mervin Muniz (Memorial Handicap March 27).”

Incidentally, Macho Again had his first work of the season on Thursday morning, going three-eighths in 38 flat.  “I thought he looked really good out there,” said Stewart. “He’s coming along very well.” 

Hotep’s Horsemen Hoping for Good Trip in Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes
After winning his last start Feb. 1, Sam-Son Farms’ Hotep, a full brother to last year’s Grade I Queen’s Plate winner Eye of the Leopard, was initially considered as a doubtful starter in Saturday’s Grade III Risen Star Stakes because it came up only three weeks later, but trainer Mark Frostad called an audible on that decision when Hotep breezed a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 flat last Saturday.

“He’s been training so forwardly since that last race I decided coming back that quick would not be a problem,” said Frostad. “I think we’re in good shape.”

What may present a problem is the fact that Hotep drew the extreme outside post in the 12-horse Risen Star. “He’s been training so well, we just hope he’ll get a good trip,” said Frostad assistant Hugh Chatman Friday morning. “Robby (Albarado, jockey) will be the key to that. If anybody can find a way to save some ground early, he’s the one who can get it done.”

Stay Put Gets Last Gallop Friday Prior to Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes
Trainer Steve Margolis, who has been travelling between Fair Grounds and Oaklawn in recent weeks, was back in New Orleans to watch Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s Stay Put enjoy a final gallop Friday morning prior to Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes. The high-percentage trainer also has Winmore and Robert and Lawana Low’s Cool Bullet entered in Saturday’s rescheduled Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn.

“They’re both doing well,” said Margolis, speaking in his tack room Friday morning. “Now all we can do is go out and let them run. Hopefully, both of them will be competitive.”

Mineshaft’s Good and Lucky Has Been Underestimated Before
Laconian Racing Stable, Steve Organ and Josie Carroll’s Good and Lucky has never gone to the post as the favorite in his last 12 starts, but during that time he has won last season’s Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds, last fall’s Formal Gold Stakes at Monmouth as well as this season’s Tenacious Handicap here.

Ruth Schmidt, trainer Josie Carroll’s assistant, has been getting on Good and Lucky in the mornings, including during a gallop Thursday over the main track.

“He’s relaxed, he’s happy and he’s playful,” said Schmidt. “I think he’s doing very well.”

In addition to those stakes wins over the last year, Good and Lucky defeated Mineshaft Handicap favorite Friesan Fire in a $100,000 optional claiming race at Fair Grounds Dec. 9.