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Kissimmee Kyle Tops Dixie Poker Ace, Older Stars Face Off in Saturday Allowance

Red Oak Stable’s Kissimmee Kyle, a Louisiana-bred owned by Florida-based John Brunetti of Hialeah Park, has been installed as the slight 5-2 choice in Saturday’s 30th renewal of the $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace Stakes, restricted to accredited Louisiana-breds at about one mile over Fair Grounds’ Stall-Wilson turf course.

Trained by Al Stall Jr., who conditioned Brittlyn Stables’ Star Guitar to win this race two years ago, Kissimmee Kyle will be ridden by Richard Eramia, Fair Grounds’ leading rider for the majority of the current season.

In his most recent trip to the post in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf Dec. 11, Kissimmee Kyle was easily second best, could not match the winning Snakebite Kit but will not have to face that rival again this weekend.

Second choice in the Dixie Poker Ace morning line at 3-1 is James Hanna’s Grey Papillon, who recorded a 16 3/4-length win – largest win margin of the Fair Grounds season through the first 28 days – in the $50,000 Louisiana Champions Day Starter Handicap Dec. 11. Tony Richey trains and Miguel Mena rides Grey Papillon, who also captured the $40,000 Louisiana Cup Starter Handicap at Louisiana Downs last May 22.

Capable of providing strong competition in the Dixie Poker Ace is Wachtel Stable, Brous Stable and Jerry D. Lee’s Desert Wheat, winner of the 2006 Louisiana Champions Day Turf, hero of the 2007 Dixie Poker Ace and once again winner of the Turf in 2009. Most recently, the 8-year-old son of Wheaton conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott was fifth in the 2010 Turf last month. Corey Lanerie rides Desert Wheat, third choice in the morning line at 7-2.

Completing the Dixie Poker Ace field is Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s Hallway, winner of last season’s Dixie Poker Ace and this season’s $60,000 Mr. Sulu with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard; Charles Zacney and Edward Johnston’s Wildrally, winner of the 2008 Turf with Rosie Napravnik astride Saturday; Moran Racing Stable’s Classy Deelites, Jamie Theriot up; and Maurice Smith’s Sprightly Star, Kerwin Clark in the irons.

CASH REFUND, BACKTALK, GRASSHOPPER VIE IN SATURDAY’S $53,000 CO-FEATURE – Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s Cash Refund, a veteran of the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs Nov. 6 and winner of Fair Grounds’ $96,000 Duncan Kenner and $73,000 Gaudin Memorial last spring, is pegged at 9-5 as the choice in Saturday’s $53,000 allowance/optional claiming co-feature.

In his most recent trip to the post on Thanksgiving Day at Churchill in his only start since the Breeders’ Cup, Cash Refund, trained by Steve Margolis, finished fifth in what was projected as the Petitionville gelding’s turf debut, but that five-furlong dash was taken off the grass and run over a sloppy main track.

Second choice in Saturday’s co-featured six-furlong sprint at 5-2 is Gold Mark Farm’s Backtalk, conditioned by nine-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Tom Amoss. Backtalk was the winner of Churchill’s Grade III Bashford Manor and Saratoga’s Grade II Sanford as a 2-year-old in 2009, won Delta’s $72,000 Sportsman’s Paradise, was third in Hawthorne’s Grade III Illinois Derby and Fair Grounds’ $60,000 Bonapaw as a 3-year-old last year and will be making his 4-year-old bow Saturday.

The co-feature also highlights the return of William Farish, E. J. Hudson Jr. and Inwood Stable’s Grasshopper, away from the races for 10 months and returning to the barn of red-hot Fair Grounds trainer Neil Howard after a one-year sojourn with Kiaran McGlaughlin in Kentucky and South Florida.

Grasshopper won Fair Grounds’ Grade III Mineshaft Handicap in 2008 and finished second by a neck to Circular Quay in the Grade II New Orleans Handicap later that season. The 7-year-old horse is probably best remembered for his runner-up finish in the 2007 Grade I Travers Stakes after a stirring stretch battle with that year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Street Sense.

Oliver Pierce’s Sweetsouthernmoon, Maynard Chatters’ Southern Style and Kenny Desormeaux’s Dance Caller complete the field.