Graded Stakes Winners Dot Louisiana Derby Day Undercard
NEW ORLEANS, La. (March 9, 2009) - While the focus on Louisiana Derby Day presented by Budweiser Saturday at Fair Grounds will be on the 3-year-old divisions, some very accomplished older horses will run in the other four stakes on the program.
All told, 21 graded stakes winners were entered Monday to run in Saturday's six stakes races, and 15 are in one of the two Grade II races for older horses, the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap and the $500,000 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap, both of which attracted the maximum 14 entries.
Fox Hill Farms' Honest Man, winner of the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap in his last start, is the 121-pound highweight and 3-1 morning-line favorite for the New Orleans Handicap, which is contested at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt. He drew post No. 10 on Monday.
Honest Man's win in the Mineshaft was his second graded stakes win, after a victory in the Grade III Iselin at Monmouth last summer. Honest Man breezed five furlongs in :58 4-5 on Monday as trainer Larry Jones got in final works for all of his Saturday stakes starters.
Gabriel Saez has the return mount. He and Jones will also team up with morning-line choice Friesan Fire in the Louisiana Derby later Saturday.
Edmund Gann's It's a Bird, winner of the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic in January at Gulfstream Park, is the early co-second choice at 6-1. Thanks mostly to the $600,000 in earnings from his last start, the Marty Wolfson trainee tops the field with $817,885 in career earnings.
The other 6-1 choice on the morning line is the Barclay Tagg-trained Dry Martini, who was second to It's a Bird in the Sunshine Millions Classic. Three starts back, Dry Martini won the Grade III Stuyvesant Handicap at Aqueduct. Dry Martini got in his final workout for Saturday with a five-furlong drill in a bullet :59 2-5 Monday at Gulfstream Park.
The field for the New Orleans Handicap, from the rail with jockeys and weights, includes It's a Bird, Julien Leparoux, 120; Golden Yank, Jamie Theriot, 118; Secret Getaway, Kent Desormeaux, 116; Dry Martini, Edgar Prado, 117; Brothers Nicholas, James Graham, 116; Wishful Tomcat, Victor Espinoza, 117; El Caballo, Corey Lanerie, 115; Good and Lucky, Patrick Valenzuela, 118; Slew's Tiznow, Rafael Bejarano, 116; Honest Man, Saez, 121; Macho Again, Robby Albarado, 116; Richard's Kid, Rosie Napravnik, 116; Star Guitar, Curt Bourque, 116, and My Pal Charlie, John Velazquez, 119.
Johnanna Louise Glen-Teven's Proudinsky, winner of the Muniz Memorial a year ago, is the 119-pound co-highweight and 3-1 morning-line favorite in his quest to become the first back-to-back winner in the 17-year history of the event, Fair Grounds' premier race for turf horses.
After last year's win in the Muniz, Proudinsky went winless in his next six starts before rebounding in his last out with a three-quarters of a length victory in the Grade II San Gabriel Handicap at Santa Anita on Dec. 28. Saturday's race will mark the 6-year-old debut for the German-bred, who is trained by Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel and will be ridden by Victor Espinoza.
Proudinsky drew the outside post on Monday for the Muniz, contested at about 1 1/8 miles over the Stall-Wilson turf course. Just to Proudinsky's inside will be last year's Muniz runner-up, two-time Grade III Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap winner French Beret.
The Mark Frostad trainee, owned by Sam-Son Farms, nosed out Golden Yank in the Bradley. As French Beret has been in both the Bradley and Fair Grounds Handicap, he is part of a coupled entry with stablemate Windward Islands.
The other co-highweight is the David Vivian-trained Soldier's Dancer, who became a millionaire with his win in the Sunshine Millions Turf last time out at Santa Anita. Soldier's Dancer won three times last year, including the Grade III Miami Mile Handicap at Calder Race Course in October.
The most intriguing entry in the Muniz may be Grade I winner Brass Hat. The 8-year-old gelding, who won the 2006 New Orleans Handicap as part of the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs, has raced only once since last summer. The Buff Bradley trainee drew the rail.
A second millionaire in the field is the David Vivian-trained Soldier's Dancer, who reached seven-figure status with his win in the Sunshine Millions Turf last time out at Santa Anita.
From the rail out with jockeys and weights, the Muniz field includes Brass Hat, Calvin Borel, 113; My Happiness, Shaun Bridgmohan, 115; Golden Yank, Jamie Theriot, 116; Wesley, John Velazquez, 115; Windward Islands, Corey Lanerie, 118; Soldier's Dancer, Rafael Bejarano, 119; Sir Whimsey, Gabriel Saez, 114; Corrupt, Robby Albarado, 118; El Caballo, Julien Leparoux, 114; Nownownow, Edgar Prado, 116; Demarcation, Jesus Castanon, 116; Transduction Gold, Miguel Mena, 116; French Beret, James Graham, 117; Proudinsky, Espinoza, 119.
Also Saturday, the Duncan F. Kenner Stakes for sprinters attracted a field of eight, led by graded stakes winners Kodiak Kowboy and Ikigai.
The Jones-trained Kodiak Kowboy, winner of the Grade II Amsterdam last summer at Saratoga, worked five furlongs in :59 on Monday in preparation for his 4-year-old debut. He will break from the rail in the Kenner, with Ikigai, who captured the Grade III Mr. Prospector in January at Gulfstream Park, just to his outside.
The $125,000 purse for the Duncan Kenner includes $50,000 from Breeders' Cup Ltd.
In the $75,000 Bienville Stakes for filly and mare turf sprinters, the first of the six stakes on Saturday's program, Winchell Thoroughbreds' Classify, winner of the Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial over Fair Grounds' turf course in January, heads a field of 10.
The Bienville leads off a $50,000 guaranteed pool all-stakes Pick 5.
Post time for Saturday's 12-race Louisiana Derby Day program is 12:35 p.m. CDT.
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the nation's third-oldest Thoroughbred racing facility, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN); it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and nine off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. Fair Grounds' 137th Thoroughbred season will run from Nov. 14, 2008, through March 29, 2009, and its inaugural Quarter Horse meet was conducted from Aug. 20-24, 2008. Information about Fair Grounds can be found on the Internet at www.fairgroundsracecourse.com.