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Derby Day Undercard Stakes Preview:
Saturday’s $750,000 Louisiana Derby as the richest race in Fair Grounds history, the 85th running of the tradition-rich Grade II New Orleans Handicap for older horses and the 17th renewal of the Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap for older horses on the Stall-Wilson turf course serve as the top troika of attractions this weekend on the penultimate day of the 2009-2010 Crescent City Thoroughbred racing season.
However, highlighting the three supporting stakes on the 13-race Louisiana Derby Day program with its first post time of 12:10 p.m. is the 59th running of the $105,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes at six furlongs, and in that race three of the top sprinters in the nation are set to match strides in a sprint that many think could threaten the track record of 1:08.03 established seven and a half-years ago.
Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s Cash Refund, hero of Fair Grounds’ $73,500 F. W. Gaudin Memorial Stakes on Jan. 23, has been established as the slight 7-5 morning line choice in the race. His only loss in five career starts came in Churchill’s $106,000 Matt Winn Stakes last spring, when he finished second by three-quarters of a length. The Steve Margolis trainee will be ridden by regular jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.
Right behind Cash Refund at 8-5 in the early odds Saturday is Stonestreet Stables and Gulf Coast Farm’s Kensei, who has been away from competition for five months but won last summer’s Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga and finished second in last spring’s Grade III Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. Kensei comes from the barn of Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen and will be ridden by Fair Grounds’ seven-time jockey champion Robby Albarado. Kensei breezed a half in 49 flat at Fair Grounds Tuesday morning.
Getting in at 3-1 in the Kenner morning line is James and Marilyn Helzer’s Euroears, who won Fair Grounds’ $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap this season and swept the $100,000 Gaudin Memorial, $100,000 Colonel Power and $162,000 Duncan Kenner two years ago. Bret Calhoun trains the speedy son of Langfuhr who has recorded three bullet breezes in the last two months. Jockey Jamie Theriot, Fair Grounds’ leading rider two years ago, has been named to handle the reins.
Mimicry Partnership’s Grand Traverse, third in the Gaudin, is 8-1 in the Kenner morning line, is trained by Tim Glyshaw and will be ridden by James Graham, while completing the field is Southern Style, owned and trained by Maynard Chatters Jr., who is 15-1 in the morning line despite a convincing 2 1/4 length tally in his last start Jan. 29, and will have Wilfredo Lozano Jr. in the irons once again.
Workin for Hops Tops Saturday’s Grindstone Stakes
Estrorace LLC’s Workin for Hops, a 4 1/2-length winner in his last start Dec. 28 here on grass, has been installed as the solid 7-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $60,000 Grindstone Stakes, to be contested at about 7 1/2-furlongs over the Stall-Wilson turf course
The extended sprint restricted to 3-year-old is named in honor of the 1996 Louisiana Derby hero Grindstone, who parlayed that local Derby win to one in that year’s Kentucky Derby later in the spring. Workin for Hops, trained by Mike Stidham, has Brian Hernandez Jr. slated for the saddle.
Among those opposing Workin for Hops, who drew the outside post, is Last Mango Racing Stable’s Daddy Forty Nine, who drew the rail as the 9-2 third choice in the morning line. Trained by Tom Amoss, Fair Grounds’ only nine-time leading conditioner, Daddy Forty Nine will be ridden by Robby Albarado, Fair Grounds’ only seven-time leading rider. Members of the celebrity-laced ownership group include Sean Payton and Drew Brees, coach and quarterback respectively of this year’s Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints, as well as singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffet.
Completing the field, with respective jockeys assigned, is Agave Racing’s Random Move, Richard Eramia; Al and Bill Ulwelling’s Night Vision, John Jacinto; Team Block’s Striking Hight, James Graham; and Elite Thoroughbred Racing’s Why Not Be Perfect, Pat Valenzuela.
Tensas Cat Choice in Saturday’s $125,000 Crescent City Derby
Steve Garber’s Tensas Cat, hero of the $60,000 Gentilly Stakes here March 6 on grass, will attempt to transfer those talents to the main track at 1 1/16-miles when he heads a field of 12 accredited Louisiana-bred sophomores in Saturday’s 38th running of the $125,000 Crescent City Derby as the 7-2 morning line choice.
Steve Garber, who also conditions Tensas Cat, is a soon-to-be retiring sheriff in Hancock County, Mississippi, who will take up training full time when his term expires. He sends his horses to locally-based trainer Cory Patton when they are close to running, and Patton worked Tensas Cat five-eighths in a 1:00.40 last Saturday.
“I’ve known Steve almost all my life,” said Patton, who also hails from Hancock County. “He married a family friend and I oversee all his better horses when they get here.”
Named to oppose Tensas Cat, who will be ridden by John Jacinto, are: Pop-A-Top LLC’s Dynapac, James Graham, (8-1); Chad White’s Redsugar, K. P. LeBlanc, (9-2); Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s Heavenville, Shaun Bridgmohan, (5-1); J. D. Vice’s Brave Day, Corey Lanerie, (20-1); Lee Young’s Even Steven, Shane Sellers, (10-1); Dede McGehee’s Onethreesevenbox, Richard Eramia, (15-1); John Charles Geiner’s Target Flash, Curt Bourque, (15-1); Oak Leaf’s Productive Envoy, Robby Albarado, (8-1); Brooks, Larson and Fakouri’s Tupelo Playboy, Jamie Theriot, (12-1); Rolando Cabral’s Josiah, J.M. Camejo, (12-1); and Kevin Mullikin’s Pioneering Native, Miguel Mena, (8-1).
The Crescent City Derby, as the seventh race Saturday, will also serve as the first leg of Saturday’s $125,000 guaranteed pool in an All-Stakes Pick 4 that will continue with the New Orleans Handicap as the eighth, the Mervin Muniz Memorial as the ninth, and conclude with the $750,000 Louisiana Derby as the 10th race.