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Friday Notes: 'Bet or No Bet' Game Luring New Fans

It’s only a week away! The third of four Starlight Racing programs to be offered at Fair Grounds this winter is happening Feb. 18 with its special first post set for 5 p.m., but its intention of attracting new fans to the sport of Thoroughbred racing has already been realized – at least for one family of native New Orleanians who had lived here all their lives without ever attending the races at Fair Grounds.

That all changed for New Orleans fireman Paul Templet and his wife Karen during the last Starlight Racing program Jan. 21, when they attended the races at their hometown oval as part of a group of fellow firemen who had made plans for an evening outing together.

Templet’s name was drawn at random to play Fair Grounds’ “Bet or No Bet” game on that night, allowing him the opportunity to walk away with $100 cash from Fair Grounds – no questions asked – or to challenge his handicapping skills by betting $250 of Fair Grounds’ money on one horse of his choosing to win that evening.

Because he was at the local races with a group of firefighters, and there was a horse in the race named Da Blaz N Bells, Templet elected to roll the dice and follow his hunch, wagering $250 to win on that horse. Owned by Pegasus Stables, trained by Carl Woodley and ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, Da Blaz N Bells won the race easily, returning $18.20 for a $2 wager and allowing Templet to cash his $250 wager and collect $2,278.

“Oh, yeah, it was exciting,” said Templet when asked about the experience a few days later. “It was nice winning all that money, but the whole evening was fun. Karen and I had a real good time. I’d never seen a horse race before, but it was pretty cool watching them all come around the turn. It was a lot of fun spending the evening with my friends and the food was good, too. I want to come back to the races again in the daytime and bring my kids the next time.”

What did Templet do with his profits?

“I’m a commercial fisherman as well as a fireman,” Templet said, “and a few weeks ago when a low pressure system came through the Gulf, I lost about 85 crab traps.

 “During a storm like that, the traps roll over and the cork that marks them for you gets pulled under water,” Templet explained. “Sometimes, they roll back and the cork resurfaces when the next system comes through, but most times you just lose them.

“The traps cost about $35 apiece,” Templet concluded, “so I was able to replace all the ones I lost.”

NO CHANGE IN STATUS OF HOWARD’S RISEN STAR DUO – Trainer Neil Howard breezed Gaillardia Racing’s Grade III Lecomte Stakes winner Wilkinson a half-mile in 48.20 Tuesday, as well as his highly regarded undefeated 3-year-old Machen, owned by Courtlandt Farms, who accomplished that same four-furlong distance in 49.80 in a separate move on that day. However, there was no change in either horse’s status as of Friday morning in relation to Fair Grounds’ upcoming Grade II Risen Star Stakes as the middle jewel of New Orleans three-race series for sophomores to be run Feb. 19.

“Nothing has changed yet,” said Howard, speaking in his office Friday morning. “The plan is still to definitely run Machen in the Risen Star, but we’re still no sure about Wilkinson.  That horse is still 60-40 to go in there.

“The thing about Wilkinson is that he ran a good race in the Lecomte, but it was also a hard race,” Howard explained, “so we’re in a little bit of a quandary trying to decide what is best for him. He’s already had three races here this winter and we don’t want to ask him to do too much.

“As for Grasshopper (the winner of Fair Grounds’ Grade III Mineshaft Handicap in 2008 owned by W. S. Farish, E. J. Hudson and the Estate of James Elkins Jr.), he had a good work Wednesday (a half in 49 flat), but we don’t have his next start penciled in just yet.”

ERAMIA SCORES A HAT TRICK THURSDAY – Jockey Richard Eramia rode three winners Thursday at Fair Grounds, allowing him to move into second in the jockey’s standings, six wins behind current leading rider Rosie Napravnik entering Friday’s race day.

Eramia won Thursday’s opener aboard Joseph Robson’s Future Direction for trainer Don Roberson, the third race on Al and Bill Ulwelling’s Shimmering Port for conditioner Gary Scherer and the eighth astride Paulette Nager’s Jim N Peg’s Gal for trainer Michelle Lovell.

CHAMBERLAIN BRIDGE HEADED TO HOUSTON – Carl Moore’s Chamberlain Bridge, hero of the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last November, will be going to Sam Houston Park to contest the $75,000 Rail Splitter Stakes Feb. 12, trainer Bret Calhoun advised Friday morning.