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Margolis Stakes Horses in Good Order

Trainer Steve Margolis, whose horses Due Date and Early Return finished first and second, respectively, in the $60,000 Bonapaw Stakes on Santa Super Saturday, reported that both of those Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein-owned 5-year-olds came out of their Bonapaw engagements without problems and will likely return in future Fair Grounds stakes events during the 2010-2011 racing season in New Orleans.

“All of my horses that ran yesterday came back fine,” said Margolis Sunday morning after celebrating over an Italian dinner with Richard Klein Saturday night. “We’ll probably give Due Date a little break and wait to run him back in the ($60,000) Colonel Power (at about 5 ½ furlongs over the Stall-Wilson turf course Feb. 19), but Early Return might come back before that in something like the ($60,000) Gaudin (Memorial at six furlongs on the main track Jan. 22). Of course, we also have Cash Refund (another Klein color bearer who won last year’s Gaudin) getting ready to run, and he might end up in the Gaudin as well.

“I also thought Street Storm ran a good race yesterday,” said Margolis of Right Time Racing’s 2-year-old filly that ran third in Saturday’s $60,000 Letellier Memorial. “She’s fine today and we’ll probably look at the 3-year-old filly series with her.

“Jake Ballis’s horse (the undefeated 2-year-old colt Cheyann Belief) came up with a little problem,” Margolis said. “He worked good the other day but then he wasn’t acting quite right, so we took a look at him and discovered a little chip. That’s why we had to scratch him out of his race yesterday (the $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes). As for Cool Bullet (seventh in the Bonapaw after winning last year’s Sugar Bowl), I thought he’d like the grass better than he ran over it yesterday because he won so easily on synthetic, but it’s back to the drawing board with him.”

Considering the impact the Margolis barn has had on Fair Grounds’ stakes program recently, it’s hard to believe that it was exactly two years ago on Dec. 18 that the trainer saddled his first winner at Fair Grounds when Gold Square’s Lady Chace reached the winner’s circle and posted a $41 win mutuel. Born in New York, the 47-year-old conditioner had spent several winters at Gulfstream before coming here, and also saddled Cajun Beat to win the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita for a $47.60 straight price.

COUNTRY FLAVOR HAS GREG GEIER GRINNING – Trainer Greg Geier was all smiles Sunday morning on the backstretch at Fair Grounds, and with good reason after the way Jim Tafel’s Country Flavor closed strongly to win Saturday’s $60,000 Tenacious Handicap by a neck.

“The horse was sick when we got here from Chicago,” said Geier, “but he’s doing fine now, even after running such a good race yesterday.”

Owner Tafel, a Barrington, Illinois, resident who won the 2008 Kentucky Derby with Street Sense, was equally pleased, according to Geier. “He was tickled to death,” said Geier. “This horse is one of his homebreds – out of one of his mares – so that makes it even better. I think we’ll look at the ($60,000) Louisiana Handicap (Jan. 22) for (Country Flavor’s) next start.”

TRAINER ERIC HEITZMANN ENJOYING FRIDAY’S TRAINING TRIPLE WITH FAMILY – Conditioner Eric Heitzmann enjoyed the first training triple of his career during Friday’s Starlight Racing program, ably assisted by the riding hat trick of jockey Jesse Campbell, and it was accomplished successively. 

Russell Welch’s Mr. Shorty won the third, Eric, Carmel (Eric’s wife) and Mike (Eric’s brother) Heitzmann’s Howiteel scored in the fourth, and Hudson Longhorns’ Roll Me Away took the fifth.

“I feel very lucky, very blessed,” said Heitzmann Sunday. “It’s always especially good when the family wins one. It makes for a good Christmas dinner.”

Heitzmann, who trained in Dubai for four years, met his wife in Dubai. “She was a stewardess for Emirates Airlines,” said Heitzmann. “I met her on one of her flights.”

JOCKEY JOSE CAMEJO CELEBRATES FIRST FAIR GROUNDS WIN – Jockey Jose Camejo, 33, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, has been riding for five years in the United States but visited the winner’s circle at Fair Grounds for the first time in the last race Saturday aboard Joseph Robson’s Watch Pat for trainer Don Roberson.

“It was very exciting, very emotional for me to win my first race at Fair Grounds,” said Camejo on Sunday. “I like Fair Grounds, and I like New Orleans. I like the people and I feel very comfortable here.

“I was leading rider in Mexico in 2002, came to the United States to ride briefly in Florida, but ended up at Turfway Park in 2005 and won my first American race at River Downs that summer,” said Camejo. “I won the same stakes race in 2005 and 2006 at Hoosier aboard a horse named Lack a Rock, and the same stakes in 2007 and 2008 aboard another horse at Turfway Park. I broke my back in Indiana in 2009 but returned to ride at Louisiana Downs last summer.

“I’m very grateful to trainers like Keith Desormeaux, Andy Leggio, Sweet Hodges, Don Roberson and Robert Husak for giving me a chance since I got here,” said Camejo. “I think I can do well here as long as I keep riding for guys like that.”

Camejo’s engagements are being handled by Javier Torres, who served as Fair Grounds’ assistant clerk of scales last season.

GRASSHOPPER BACK WITH NEIL HOWARD AT FAIR GROUNDS – Trainer Neil Howard, off to an excellent start at Fair Grounds this winter, may be able to help keep that momentum going now that W. S. Farish, E. J. Hudson and Inwood Stable’s Grasshopper is back in his barn.

Howard saddled Grasshopper to win Fair Grounds’ Grade III Mineshaft Handicap in 2008, but last year the horse was under the care of conditioner Kiaran McLaughlin.

Now, Grasshopper is housed once again in Howard’s barn at Fair Grounds. The 6-year-old son of Dixie Union breezed a half mile in 49.80 at Fair Grounds a week ago.

“He’s getting ready to go again,” said Howard on Sunday. “He’s just one of those old war horses.”