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Louisiana Derby Contender Machen Breezes in :48 with Prado Aboard

Jockey Edgar Prado, who rode Lael Stable’s legendary Barbaro to victory in the 2006 Kentucky Derby and was named North America’s Eclipse Award-winning jockey that season, flew up from South Florida to New Orleans Sunday night to work Courtland Farm’s Machen for trainer Neil Howard Monday morning in advance of Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby.

The Peruvian-born Prado, of course, will be returning to Fair Grounds on Saturday morning to ride Machen in the 98th Louisiana Derby, always the centerpiece race of the local season and an event which will become the richest race ever run in New Orleans with Saturday’s renewal. Machen is the 7-2 second choice in the morning line for this weekend’s Grade II Louisiana Derby.

“He’s a very nice horse,” said Prado, who was aboard Machen for the first time in Monday’s half-mile move that was clocked in :48. “He’s a very athletic horse and he galloped out real nice for me (five furlongs in 1:02.20). It’s always good to get on a horse before you ride him in a race to learn any little thing you can about   the horse, like if he tries to duck in or get out on you, but I had no problems with this horse.

“It’s always nice to come to New Orleans to ride in the Louisiana Derby because it’s the biggest race there is down here,” Prado said. “It’s been especially nice for me, because I was lucky to win it with (Edmund Gann’s) Peace Rules in 2003. I’d love to win it again for Neil and Mr. (Courtlandt owner Donald) Adam. I rode (Courtlandt’s) Adriano for Mr. Adam and won the (Grade II) Lane’s End at Turfway with that horse.”

WILKINSON WORKS FOR LOUISIANA DERBY EARLIER MONDAY MORNING – Trainer Neil Howard breezed Gaillardia Racing’s Wilkinson a half-mile Monday morning shortly after the track opened for training in advance of Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby.

Wilkinson, who won the Grade III Lecomte Stakes here Jan. 22 as the first leg of Fair Grounds’ three-race series for sophomores, breezed the four furlongs in 48.20 and galloped out five in 1:01.20 with exercise rider Dane Noel aboard while working in company with Dogwood Stable’s Mine Train.

A son of 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid, Wilkinson, who broke his maiden here on Dec. 10 in his last start as a 2-year-old, is the 8-1 fourth choice in the morning line for the Grade II Louisiana Derby.

“I’m pleased with both of them and the way they are coming up to the (Louisiana Derby),” said Howard later in the morning, speaking after Wilkinson and Courtlandt Farm’s Machen also worked after the track’s mid-morning renovation. “They both went nice and both worked about the same. We didn’t want to ship them anywhere. It’s nice to be able to stay in your own backyard and when they made this race a mile and an eighth last year they did me a big favor.

“Machen is a nice, laid back kind of horse and nothing seems to bother him,” said  Howard, “but Wilkinson – I think he likes to lay awake at night thinking, ‘What can I do tomorrow to mess things up for myself?’ 

“You have to train these horses physically hard, but you also have to train them mentally to be prepared to get knocked around in a race,” Howard said, “so I’m glad Edgar Prado was able to be here to help us with Machen this morning. Believe me when I say these horses know when they have a jock on their back. Edgar seemed to be pleased, and I think Machen got a lot out of his last race (a fourth-place finish in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes here on Feb. 19). He hadn’t really been battle-tested until that race, so I think he got the benefit of two or three races worth of experience all wrapped up into one.”

Other Louisiana Derby candidates going a half-mile on the work tab Monday morning at Fair Grounds included Gallant Stable’s Majestic Harbor (50.80), Team Block’s Mavericking (48.60) and Thomas Amenta and Tom Amenta II’s Liondrive (48.80).

Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Populist Politics, entered in the Louisiana Derby as well as Friday’s $75,000 Crescent City Derby, went five furlongs in 1:00.20.

INGLORIOUS WORKS FOR SATURDAY’S $500,000 FAIR GROUNDS OAKS AS FAVORITE – Donver Stable’s Inglorious, the 3-1 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks after finishing second in the Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes here Feb. 19, breezed a half-mile in :49 Monday morning at Fair Grounds.

“We got everything we wanted,” said trainer Josie Carroll moments after the morning move. “She was spot-on today. 

“I don’t think the outside post (in the Oaks) will hurt her at all,” said Carroll. “With all the speed in the race to the inside of her, it should let her get over (to the inside) fairly quickly.”

The other candidate for the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks on the work tab Monday morning was Kirk Robison’s Tapit Dancer who went four furlongs in 50.60 after finishing sixth in the Rachel Alexandra.

PICK 6, POST TIME CHANGES SATURDAY—Saturday’s Pick 6 Wager will be on races 5-10, ending with the Louisiana Derby – the first time this season it has not encompassed the last six races of the day, and also on Saturday and Sunday there will be a special early post time of 12:10 p.m.

[Images from Monday of Louisiana Derby Week at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots by photographer Alexander Barkoff. Click the images to the right to enlarge.]