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Patena Makes Return, IEAH Makes Debut at FG Saturday

Headlines for Wednesday, March 11, 2009

  • Patena Makes Return, IEAH Makes Debut at FG Saturday
  • Stewart Readies Macho Again, Remembers 1999
  • California Shippers Arrive; Florida Horses Arrive Thursday

 Patena Makes Return, IEAH Makes Debut at FG Saturday

NEW ORLEANS, La. - When Fair Grounds fans last saw Patena, he was a fast-closing second in the short stretch of the one-mile, $100,000 Grade III Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 10.

That day, jockey Robby Albarado adorned the lime green and black silks of the Sikura family.

On Saturday, when Patena makes his first start since the Lecomte, Albarado will be back aboard, but this time in the red, white and blue colors of IEAH Stables, which purchased a majority interest in the son of Seeking the Gold in late January.

If those silks look familiar, they should. Jockey Kent Desormeaux wore them aboard last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Big Brown.

As for now, Patena appears to be IEAH's best shot to become the first repeat winners on the first Saturday in May since Meadow Stable won in 1972-73 with Riva Ridge and Secretariat.

"We saw a top pedigree," IEAH president Michael Iavarone said Tuesday from his office in Garden City, N.Y., of the purchase. "(Patena) wanted to go a lot further than a mile. Stretching him out, he's just going to get better.

"He's got a real shot to find himself in the starting gate (for the Kentucky Derby), but he has to show up right away."

Meaning, this Saturday.

"I've never been to New Orleans," Iavarone said. However, Patena has.

Also sporting the IEAH colors on Saturday's Louisiana Derby Day presented by Budweiser will be Wishful Tomcat in the $500,000 Grade II New Orleans Handicap.

Stewart Readies Macho Again, Remembers 1999

Saturday will mark 10 years ago to the day that Dallas Stewart, only two years removed from going on his own as a trainer after working for Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas for more than a decade, pulled a 21-1 upset in the Louisiana Derby with Kimberlite Pipe.

"It was a big win, no doubt," Stewart said Wednesday morning just after training hours, as he sifted through the rewards of a dark-day fishing trip to Cut Off, La.

Kimberlite Pipe went on to finish sixth in the Kentucky Derby that year, beaten less than three lengths by his mentor, Lukas, who trained 31-1 shot Charismatic.

Stewart has made it once more since to the Kentucky Derby, with Dollar Bill in 2001.

"That's the thing," Stewart said. "Once you don't have (that Derby hopeful), you miss it."

Stewart has gone through a tough winter in New Orleans after dealing with a three-week quarantine of his barn as a result of equine herpes virus, but a good performance by Macho Again in Saturday's New Orleans Handicap would enable Stewart to end his meet on a high note.

"He's doing well," Stewart said of Macho Again, who won the Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga last summer. "He just got tired the last time he ran (a seventh-place finish in the Sunshine Millions Classic Jan. 24 at Gulfstream Park). He's trained really well since then."

California Shippers Arrive; Florida Horses Coming Thursday

Over the next 36 hours, the nearly two dozen horses invading Fair Grounds from both coasts and points in between are arriving in New Orleans.

The Tex Sutton charter bringing in a half-dozen Louisiana Derby Day starters from California landed Wednesday morning at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, and the horses arrived on Fair Grounds' backstretch about noon.

That same charter is headed to Florida to bring the Sunshine State contingent to New Orleans on Thursday morning.

Also due to arrive Wednesday by van from Arkansas was Fair Grounds Oaks morning-line favorite Rachel Alexandra.