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Louisiana Derby Preview Day Feb. 7 Firming Up

Headlines for Monday, January 26, 2009

  • Louisiana Derby Preview Day Feb. 7 Firming Up
  • Trainer Pennino Celebrates 89th Birthday Sunday by Saddling Horse
  • Delhomme Sends Out Upset Winner Saturday at Fair Grounds
  • Sibille Ends Win Drought, And So Does Horse
  • Schedule Changes For Super Bowl Weekend
  • Hernandez Jr., Castanon Score Weekend Riding Triples


Louisiana Derby Preview Day Feb. 7 Firming Up

NEW ORLEANS, La. - Grade III Lecomte Stakes winner Friesan Fire and third-place finisher Au Moon head the list of 3-year-olds under consideration for the $200,000 Grade III Risen Star Stakes Feb. 7 at Fair Grounds.

The Risen Star, the final major local prep for the Grade II $600,000 Louisiana Derby on March 14, is one of six stakes - four of them Grade III events - on Louisiana Derby Preview Day.

Nominations for all six stakes on Preview Day closed Saturday.

Likely to join Friesan Fire and Au Moon in the Risen Star at this time are Indygo Mountain, sixth in the Lecomte; It Happened Again, winner of Delta's Triple Sec Stakes Jan. 16; Code of Honour, third in the Triple Sec; Summer's Empire, who captured Hawthorne's Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity Dec. 13; Theregoesjojo, a handy winner in allowance company at Gulfstream Jan. 10; and Giant Oak, second in Churchill's Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last Nov.  29.

Giant Oak, trained by Chris Block, breezed a bullet six furlongs in 1:14 at Fair Grounds Jan. 24, working in company with Brothers Nicholas, an older horse who was fourth in the Grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup last year.

"We got what we wanted," said Block following the move.  "We broke off a couple of lengths behind and hooked up with the other horse at the head of the lane."

Among the 3-year-old fillies under consideration for the Grade III Silverbulletday Stakes, the final local prep for the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks five weeks later, are Just Jenda, winner of Fair Grounds' Tiffany Lass Stakes Jan. 10; Four Gifts, third in the Tiffany Lass; Evita Argentina, second in Santa Anita's Grade II Santa Ynez Jan. 17; War Echo, third in Churchill's Grade II Golden Rod last Nov. 29; War Tigress, heroine of Churchill's Caressing Handicap on that same day; and Southern Yankee, winner of Delta's Genesis Stakes Jan. 16.

Among those likely to face 2008 winner Grasshopper in the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap on Feb. 7 are Good and Lucky, Secret Getaway and Honest Man, first three finishers in the Louisiana Handicap Jan. 10.

Among those likely to face French Beret - winner of the last two renewals of the Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap - in the upcoming Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap Feb. 7, are the aforementioned Brothers Nicholas; Corrupt, third in the Grade III Arlington Handicap last July 12; Demarcation, winner of Churchill's Grade III River City Handicap Nov. 22; Jimmy Simms, winner of Fair Grounds' Woodchopper Stakes Dec. 20, Sidcup, beaten a head by French Beret in an allowance race locally Dec. 19; and Windward Islands, fifth in the Bradley.


Trainer Pennino Celebrates 89th Birthday Sunday by Saddling Horse at Fair Grounds

Trainer Joe Pennino, who has six horses under his care at the present time, celebrated his 89th birthday Sunday at Fair Grounds by saddling his son Frank's Louisiana-bred mare Lil Initiative.

Pennino, who took out his trainer's license in 1941 and talks of galloping Thoroughbreds through unpaved New Orleans streets in his youth, has been a jockey, jockey's agent, owner and trainer during his career.  He saddled three winners last year from 31 starters, and although Lil Initiative finished seventh Sunday, Pennino has saddled one third-place runner at the current session.


Delhomme Sends Out Upset Winner Saturday at Fair Grounds

No doubt, Jake Delhomme's first preference on Saturday would have been final preparations with his Carolina Panthers teammates before boarding a plane to head to Super Bowl XLIII.

But his Panthers were beaten 33-13 in the NFC divisional playoffs by the eventual conference champion Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago.

Saturday at Fair Grounds, Delhomme was on hand for a pretty good consolation prize - a win by 56-1 longshot Training Room in a Louisiana-bred maiden claiming race.

Training Room, running in the colors of Delhomme's Set-Hut LLC and trained by Jake's father Jerry, took the lead at the top of the stretch and drew clear inside the sixteenth pole.  Track announcer John G. Dooley treated Training Room like Steve Smith running clear of defenders after a long pass from the former Louisiana-Lafayette and Saints quarterback:  "He's at the 50...at the 30...Training Room scores!"

It was the Delhomme stable's second win of the meet, both coming this month.  On Jan. 3, Ruby's Best Boy won a maiden claimer for state-breds.

Last year, Jake Delhomme spent very little of the off-season in Louisiana as the Breaux Bridge native went through rehabilitation on his throwing elbow following Tommy John surgery.

 "It's good to be back and nice to be home," Delhomme said.


Sibille Ends Win Drought, And So Does Horse

Louisiana native and former jockey Ray Sibille, who rode more than 4,000 winners during his riding career, saddled his first winner of the Fair Grounds meet on Monday when Ideseeyouinhouston captured the third race.

It was Sibille's first win from 19 starters at the meet. The first win was even tougher to come by for Ideseeyouinhouston, who finally broke his maiden in the 29th start of his career.


Schedule Changes for Super Bowl Weekend

Fair Grounds is adjusting its racing schedule for Super Bowl weekend.  Saturday's program will feature and 11-race card, headlined by the $60,000 Black Gold Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf, while Sunday will feature a nine-race card, to ensure an earlier finish to give both live and simulcast customers the chance to catch the big game.

First post both days remains 12:30 p.m. CST.


Hernandez Jr., Castanon Score Weekend Riding Triples

With a riding triple Saturday, jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. moved into a tie with Robby Albarado for third place in the local jockey standings.

Both Hernandez and Albarado rode a winner apiece Sunday to remain on even terms - each with 38 wins entering Monday's Fair Grounds program.

Hernandez had a chance to move past Albarado during Monday's card. Albarado is in Miami for Monday night's Eclipse Awards, where he is a finalist for champion jockey for the second straight year.

Leading rider James Graham was at the 43-win mark entering Monday's program, while current runner-up and defending champion Jamie Theriot was at the 40-win mark.

 Veteran reinsman Jesus Castanon scored a "hat trick" Friday to move into a tie with Patrick Valenzuela for 10th in the standings with 17 wins apiece entering the race day Monday.