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Friday Notes: Machen, Wilkinson On Track for Louisiana Derby

Beware the Ides of March, they say. Courtlandt Farms’ Machen, fourth in Fair Grounds’ Grade II Risen Star Stakes as the local prep for the upcoming $1 million Louisiana Derby March 26, worked a bullet five-eighths in 59.60 on March 15 without being asked for anything extra.

“He did it on his own,” said trainer Neil Howard, speaking at Fair Grounds Friday morning during training hours. “There was another horse with him – an older horse – but we didn’t ask (Machen) to do any more than he wanted to do.”

Gaillardia Racing’s Wilkinson, winner of Fair Grounds’ Grade III Lecomte Stakes Jan. 22 as the first leg of the local sophomore series leading up to the Louisiana Derby, had breezed last Monday one day prior to Machen’s move, going five furlongs in 1:00.60.

“Both horses are doing fine,” said Howard of his double-barreled Louisiana Derby threat. “Both of them will work again on Monday. It won’t be anything serious – just a half and then galloping out down the backside.”

Veteran reinsman Edgar Prado, who rode Lael Stable’s Barbaro to victory in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, has been named to handle the reins on Machen in the Louisiana Derby and will fly in for Monday’s work, while 2009 Eclipse Award-winning jockey Garrett Gomez has elected to ride Wilkinson in the centerpiece event of the Crescent City oval’s Thoroughbred racing season.

Howard has two previous victories to his credit in the Louisiana Derby, saddling Elkins, Farish and Humphrey’s Comic Strip to capture the 1998 renewal, and Farish’s Line In The Sand to win the 1992 edition.

LITTLE MISS HOLLY, SWITCHING GEARS FAIR GROUNDS OAKS-BOUND – Conditioner Steve Margolis entered Friday’s nine-race program at Fair Grounds in a three-way tie for second in the local trainer standings, and it looks like he’ll have two promising 3-year-old fillies with a chance to add a win to his totals in the upcoming Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks March 26.

“Right now, the reality is that (Gold Square’s) Little Miss Holly and (Thoroughbred Futures Racing II’s) Switching Gears are both doing really good and are coming up to this race (the Fair Grounds Oaks) in good order,” said Margolis on Friday. “They have two different owners, so barring something unexpected happening, it looks like I’m going to have two fillies in the (Fair Grounds) Oaks. 

“Little Miss Holly had a very nice work yesterday (six furlongs in 1:11.60 on March 17),” Margolis said, “and she came out of her last race (third beaten 1 1/4-lengths in the $100,000 Silverbulletday Jan. 22) in good order.   

“Switching Gears ran a very nice race last time (a Feb. 25 neck victory in allowance optional claiming company), and she had a nice work yesterday, too (1:14 flat),” said Margolis. “She’s been getting good very fast lately, so I see no reason not to run her as well.

“Our other filly, Bouquet Booth (Right Time Racing’s Silverbulletday winner who was fourth in the Grade III Rachel Alexandra), we’ve decided to give her a little time off so we’re waiting for something at Keeneland for her,” Margolis said.

LEFT, APART LIKELY ACTIVE FOR LOUISIANA DERBY DAY FOR STALL – Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Left remains on track for his upcoming assignment in the Grade II Louisiana Derby March 26 and Adele Dilschneider’s Apart is being pointed for the Grade II New Orleans Handicap on that same star-studded program, trainer Al Stall Jr. confirmed Friday morning during training hours.

“Left has done everything right since he’s been here,” said Stall, speaking of his altered sophomore son of Arch who broke his maiden at first asking over the Stall-Wilson turf course Jan. 29 and came back to be clearly best once again in first-level allowance company on the main track Feb. 26. “He’s made it to the front in both of his races but once he gets there he gets a little lost and starts waiting on horses. He’ll get over that. They all do.

“The reason we ran Left in that grass race first time out was that he needed a race but we were looking for a dirt sprint for (Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s highly regarded) Bind, and Left was the odd-man out.”

“As for Apart, we’re starting to crank him up a little bit now,” said Stall of last year’s Grade II Super Derby winner who was second in the $60,000 Louisiana Handicap and third in the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap this winter at Fair Grounds. “This next race (the New Orleans Handicap) is the race we’ve been waiting on. We hope it works out for us.”

FAIR GROUNDS FAMILY FUN DAY CELEBRATED SUNDAY – Fair Grounds guests are reminded that Family Fun Day returns March 20 with a petting zoo, two inflatable bounce houses, face painting, a rock-climbing wall and more. Admission is $5 (children three and under are free).