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Noble's Promise, Piscitelli, Dublin, Backtalk Among La. Derby Early Bird Noms

New Year’s Day in New Orleans means more than cabbage and black-eyed peas. It also marks the official birthday of all registered Thoroughbred racehorses, including the newly turned 3-year-olds eligible for the Grade II, $750,000 Louisiana Derby on March 27 and, ultimately, the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 1.

Fifty-seven promising 3-year-olds comprise the Early Bird nominations for the Louisiana Derby, which closed December 14. Among them are a number of impressive winners from the first two months of Fair Grounds’ 138th Thoroughbred Racing Season Presented by Miller Lite, such as Bravo Whiskey, a sharp debut winner on Dec. 14 for trainer Neil Howard; Miles Heir, an effortless maiden special weight winner on Dec. 5 for Steve Asmussen; Stay Put, a game maiden special weight winner in the slop on Dec. 7 for Steve Margolis; and Wow Wow Wow, winner of the meet’s first two-turn maiden special weight on dirt for foals of 2007 on Nov. 28, trained by D. Wayne Lukas.

Several notable stakes competitors from around the country who have yet to appear at Fair Grounds are thinking ahead to the last Saturday in March, including Keeneland’s Grade I Breeders’ Futurity winner Noble’s Promise, who went on to finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for trainer Ken McPeek; Piscitelli, fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for Richard Sacco; Saratoga’s Grade I Hopeful winner Dublin, currently breezing at Oaklawn Park for Lukas; Saratoga’s Grade II Sanford winner Backtalk, trained by Tom Amoss; Churchill Downs’ Grade III Iroquois winner Thiskyhasnolimit, trained by Asmussen; Hollywood Park’s Willard Proctor Memorial winner Classical Slew, who ran into Lookin at Lucky last time out in the Grade II Best Pal at Del Mar for Doug O’Neill; Delaware Park’s Dover Stakes winner Citrus Kid, last seen finishing third in the Grade II Remsen for John Terranova; Hollywood Park’s Grade III (Turf) Generous winner Who’s Up, trained by Kathy Walsh; and Louisiana Downs’ Sunday Silence winner William’s Kitten, last seen finishing second in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November for Michael Maker.

Additional standout winners on the list include Activity Report, veteran of multiple graded stakes for Lukas; Maximus Ruler, who broke his maiden in a first-level allowance at Churchill Downs last month for Clark Hanna; Boltronic, first under the wire at Churchill Downs in November for Asmussen; Carrington Village, a debut winner at Churchill for McPeek; Daddy Forty Nine, winner of four in a row for the Last Mango Stable (New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, vice president of communications Greg Bensel and other prominent NFL personalities), trained by Amoss; Giant’s Tomb and Hotep, maiden special weight winners at Woodbine for Mark Frostad; and Petecarol, purchased out of a winning effort in an $80,000 maiden claiming race at Keeneland by Sacco.

Asmussen leads trainers with 18 noms
Fair Grounds-based conditioners dominated the Early Bird noms. Asmussen, North America’s top trainer in 2009, leads all horsemen with 18 horses nominated from his powerful stable. Lukas, who has a string in New Orleans for the first time in many years this season, has five, and Amoss, an eight-time leading trainer here, has three. Among those not stabled at Fair Grounds this season, McPeek and Terranova have the most noms with three apiece.

Sunday’s eighth includes debut of Delong Road, by Storm Cat out of millionaire Tates Creek
Sunday’s eighth race, a six-furlong maiden special weight for 3-year-olds, includes a Louisiana Derby nominee in Berberis, a Nelson Bunker Hunt homebred by Southern Image making his debut for Asmussen. He’ll be joined by other promising first-time starters, such as Delong Road, by Storm Cat out of millionaire Tates Creek, for Lukas; What’s New, a Dixie Union colt trained by Margolis; Twilight Bay, a Purge colt trained by Neil Howard; and Numen Lumen, a Smart Strike colt trained by Greg Foley.

More on Louisiana Derby Noms
A nomination to the Louisiana Derby also serves as a nomination to the first two races in the Road to the Derby series, the Grade II, $300,000 Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 20 and the Grade III, $100,000 Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 23.

Any horse that starts in both the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby and finishes among the top three in either race will have its $25,000 starting fee waived for the Kentucky Derby.

This season’s Louisiana Derby has been lengthened to 1 1/8 miles and is positioned five weeks out from the May 1 Kentucky Derby.

Final nominations to the Louisiana Derby will be accepted until March 13, 2010, for $750, with additional fess of $3,700 to pass the entry box and $3,700 to start. Supplemental nominations will be accepted at the time of entry, including entry and starting fees, for $25,000.