Giant Oak, Inglorious, Battle of Hastings Head Derby Day Supporting Stakes

Donver Stables’ Inglorious, a fast-closing second to the highly regarded Kathmanblu in last month’s Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes, was made the 3-1 favorite in Saturday’s Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks despite drawing the outside post for the 1 1/16 mile contest.

With a purse recently bumped to $500,000, the Fair Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies is the richest prep race for the prestigious Grade I Kentucky Oaks on May 6. Four of the last six winners of the Fair Grounds Oaks have gone on to win the Kentucky Oaks: Rachel Alexandra in 2009, Proud Spell in 2008, Summerly in 2005 and Ashado in 2004 (the race was not run the season following Hurricane Katrina).

Inglorious, an Ontario-bred daughter of Hennessy trained by Josie Carroll, won her first two starts in restricted stakes as a 2-year-old at Woodbine. The Rachel Alexandra was her first start as a 3-year-old and both Carroll and jockey Chantal Sutherland, who has the return mount, were pleased with the runner-up effort as a springboard to Saturday’s event.

Second choice on oddsmaker Mike Diliberto’s morning line at 4-1 went to Lanaluce Educe Stables’ Niji’s Grand Girl, invading from South Florida for trainer Ken McPeek, who also conditions Kathmanblu and won this race in 2002 with Take Charge Lady.

A Candy Ride filly, Niji’s Grand Girl has never been worse than third in seven lifetime starts. She came home third last time out in the Florida Oaks on turf at Tampa Bay Downs and posted a five-furlong work in :59 4/5 Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

The 10-horse field also includes Grandacious (6-1, jockey Jesse Campbell), distanced in her last start but competitive in two Delta Downs stakes this past winter for trainer Bret Calhoun; Snow Fall (8-1, Rosie Napravnik), a highly impressive 5 ½-length maiden winner at Fair Grounds last month for trainer Mike Stidham; and a promising pair from the barn of Steve Margolis, listed separately at 8-1 each, Silverbulletday third Little Miss Holly (Edgar Prado) and allowance winner Switching Gears (Shaun Bridgmohan).

The rest of the field is comprised of Tapit Dancer (Michael Baze), Daisy Devine (James Graham), Tourmaline (Miguel Mena) and St. John’s River (Kent Desormeaux).

NEW ORLEANS HANDICAP

Virginia Tarra Trust’s Giant Oak, who captured Gulfstream’s Grade I Donn Handicap Feb. 5, has been installed as the slight 5-2 morning line choice for Saturday’s 85th renewal of the Grade II New Orleans Handicap – Fair Grounds’ season highlight for older horses run as part of the Louisiana Derby Day program.

On the same centerpiece afternoon of the Fair Grounds racing season the Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap will be run over the Stall-Wilson turf course as the featured grass test of the Crescent City racing season and Mike House’s Battle of Hastings is pegged as the 5-2 favorite in the 19th running of that event.

In the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap, run at nine furlongs on the main track, Giant Oak – trained by Chris Block – will be ridden once again by Shaun Bridgmohan, Fair Grounds jockey champion last season, who was aboard for the Donn and also Churchill’s Grade I Clark Handicap last fall when Giant Oak was the adjudged winner following a disqualification of the first horse under the wire.  He carries the top impost of 122 pounds.

Among the dangerous rivals for Giant Oak Saturday are Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s Mission Impazible, who won last season’s Grade II Louisiana Derby and was second in this winter’s Grade III Mineshaft Handicap.

Amerman Racing Stable’s Demarcation, winner of the Mineshaft, and Adele Dilschneider’s Apart, third in the Mineshaft and winner of last fall’s Grade II Super Derby at Louisiana Downs.

Mission Impazible shoulders 118 pounds including Garrett Gomez; Demarcation is assigned 118 with Rosie Napravnik astride; and Apart also carries 118 with Jesse Campbell aboard.

Completing the New Orleans Handicap field, with jockey and weights, is the Jim Tafel-owned coupling of Fast Alex, Trey Agilar (114) and Country Flavor, Shane Sellers (117); James Spence’s El Caballo, Robby Albarado (115); and Preston Stables’ Bird Run, Rajiv Maragh (119).

MERVIN H. MUNIZ MEMORIAL

In the $350,000 Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap Battle of Hastings got the favorite’s role with a win in Churchill’s Grade III River City Handicap and a fourth-place finish in the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap at last asking Feb. 5.  Robby Albarado will make up most of the top weight of 121 pounds.

Brazilian-bred Moryba, winner of the Group I Grande Premio Brasil last summer and his only start in this country this winter at Gulfstream, has 119 pounds including Kent Dersormeaux and Augustin Stable’s Smart Bid, second in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, gets in with 118 with Edgar Prado named.

Completing the Mervin Muniz field, including jockeys and weights, is Stacey Moak’s Southern Anthem, James Graham (114); George and Lori Hall’s Sleepless Knight, Joe Bravo (115); Millennium Farms and Mike McCarty’s Expansion, Gerard Melancon (117); Estrorace’s Workin for Hops, Rosie Napravnik (116); Sam-Son Farms’ Giant’s Tomb, Corey Lanerie (114); and Henry Pabst’s Joinem, Shaun Bridgmohan (113).

DUNCAN KENNER STAKES

The Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein-owned coupling of the Steve Margolis-trained Cash Refund and Early Return heads Saturday’s 60th anniversary running of the $150,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes at six furlongs.

Cash Refund won last year’s Duncan F. Kenner here and the $75,000 Gaudin Memorial earlier last season, while Early Return captured this year’s Gaudin Memorial on Jan. 22. 

Brian Hernandez Jr. is slated for the saddle on Cash Refund and Shaun Bridgmohan gets the riding assignment aboard Early Return.

Completing  Saturday’s Duncan F. Kenner field is Starlight Partners’ Three Day Rush, Corey Lanerie; Agave Racing Stable’s New Bay, Miguel Mena; Louie Roussel III’s Mambo Galliano, James Graham; Zayat Stables’ Riley Tucker, Gerard Melancon; Gold Mark Farm’s Backtalk, Rosie Napravnik and Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wygod’s Snapshot, Kent Desormeaux.

BAYOU HANDICAP

Oakcrest Farm et al.’s Upperline, heroine of this winter’s $58,000 Allan Lacombe Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds and last summer’s Grade III Arlington Oaks at Arlington Park has been installed as the 9-5 morning line choice for Saturday’s 43rd running of the $100,000 Bayou Handicap for older fillies and mares at about 1 1/16-miles over Fair Grounds Stall-Wilson turf course.  Fair Grounds soon-to-be officially crowned 2010-2011 jockey champion Rosie Napravnik rides.

Sam Son Farms’ Forest Uproar, third in the Lacombe Memorial but winner of the $58,000 Marie Krantz Memorial earlier this season, has been pegged as the 2-1 second choice with jockey James Graham up.

Completing the Bayou Handicap field is Darrell and Lendy Brown’s Valli With a Vow, Robby Albarado; Robert and Lawana Low’s Born Indy U S A, Shaun Bridgmohan; and James Perron Racing Stable’s Category Seven, Richard Eramia.