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Preview Day Showcases Six Strong Stakes
Jack Hammer’s Ron the Greek, 3-1 morning line favorite for Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, breezed a half-mile in 49.60 on Mardi Gras morning with regular rider James Graham in the irons, and also on the Tuesday tab was Risen Star entrant Mountain Justice, owned by Blu Shu Stables, who accomplished the same distance in 50.40 in his final tune-up for Saturday’s centerpiece event.
However, this weekend’s $300,000 Risen Star, the last designed prep leading up to the $750,000 Grade II Louisiana Derby March 27, is only one of six stakes showcased on Saturday’s expanded Louisiana Derby Preview Day program, with a total of 13 races and an earlier-than-usual first post time of 12:10 p.m. CST.
Saturday’s Mineshaft Handicap Previews Upcoming New Orleans Handicap
As interesting as Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes is the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap, where Vinery Stable and Fox Hill Farm’s Friesan Fire, hero of last year’s Louisiana Derby and this year’s Louisiana Handicap Jan. 23, is expected to match strides once again with General Quarters, owned and trained by Tom McCarthy, who was runner-up in the Louisiana Handicap. General Quarters won the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes last spring. Friesan Fire, who will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan Saturday as the 7-5 morning line choice, and General Quarters, who will have Robby Albarado in the irons and is tabbed as the early 2-1 second choice, are both veterans of last year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Silverbulletday Stakes Serves as Saturday’s Prep for Fair Grounds Oaks
No 3-year-old filly has ever swept all three legs of Fair Grounds’ series for sophomore members of the distaff set, but after winning the Tiffany Lass Stakes here Jan. 23, Martin Racing Stable and Dan Morgan’s Jody Slew is the filly who could be the first to complete that troika this year. However, the early favorite set to challenge Jody Slew – who has been dismissed as the 6-1 fourth choice in the morning line – is the 8-5 morning line choice Devil May Care, owned by Glencrest Farm and trained by Todd Pletcher, who won last year’s Grade I Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park.
Fair Grounds Handicap Favorite Giant Oak Also Entered in Mineshaft
Virginia Tarra’s Giant Oak, the 3-1 morning line favorite for Saturday’s Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap at about nine furlongs over the Stall-Wilson turf course here, is cross-entered in Saturday’s Grade III Mineshaft Handicap over the main track, where he is also 3-1 in the morning line but the third choice behind Friesan Fire and General Quarters in that morning line. However, throughout his career, Giant Oak, a son of Giant’s Causeway, has enjoyed success over both surfaces, winning the grassy Arlington Classic last spring and beaten only two lengths for the win in the Grade II American Derby over that same Chicago lawn; while on the main track at Churchill Downs he was beaten only a neck when second in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club in the fall of 2008 and only a half-length when runner-up in the Grade II Clark Handicap last fall. Should Giant Oak scratch out of the Fair Grounds Handicap in favor of the Mineshaft, William Don Bennett and Carl Bowling’s Acting Zippy, winner of Sam Houston’s Grade III John B. Connally Turf Cup over the Texas turf Jan. 30, may be the one to beat.
Female Sprinters Meet Saturday in 44th Running of Pan Zareta Stakes
Martin Racing Stable’s Dubai Majesty, winner of Churchill’s Grade III Winning Colors Stakes last year and second in the last two renewals of the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint, has been installed as the 8-5 choice in Saturday’s $60,000 Pan Zareta Stakes, but Peter Redekop’s Four Gifts, second in last year’s Silverbulletday and winner of last spring’s Grade III Eight Belles Stakes on Kentucky Derby Day, is the 3-1 second choice and certainly worthy of strong consideration.
Chamberlain Bridge Seeks to Defend Title in Saturday’s 22nd Renewal of Colonel Power Stakes
Carl Moore Management’s Chamberlain Bridge, hero of last year’s Colonel Power Stakes – a grass dash at about five and a half furlongs over the Stall-Wilson turf course – would become only the second horse in Fair Grounds history to win back-to-back renewals of the sprint should he visit the winner’s circle on Saturday. Louie Roussel III’s Belek was the first to accomplish that feat when he won the 1991 running after also annexing the sprint in 1990.
Rachel Alexandra Reunited With Injured Exercise Rider Terry Tuesday Morning
Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra galloped briefly over the Fair Grounds oval Tuesday morning with her regular exercise rider Dominic Terry in the irons once again.
On Monday, less than an hour after galloping Rachel Alexandra, Terry was unseated after working a different filly for Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen and taken to University Hospital complaining of neck and wrist pain, but was released in time to be reunited with the Horse of the Year on Mardi Gras morning.
Rachel Alexandra is being trained up to her first start this season in the inaugural running of the $200,000 New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds March 13.