Preview Day Winners Emerge Unscathed Sunday
Risen Star Stakes winner Discreetly Mine, Mineshaft Handicap hero Stonehouse, Silverbulletday Stakes heroine Jody Slew and Fair Grounds Handicap victor Blues Street all came out of their respective victories in Saturday’s graded stakes in good order and were doing well Sunday morning.
Discreetly Mine and Blues Street, both trained by Todd Pletcher, as well as their stablemate Devil May Care – fifth in the Silverbulletday – will leave Fair Grounds Monday morning on an equine charter returning to their South Florida home base. Expected to accompany them on that flight are Tempted to Tapit and Drosselmeyer, the second and fourth-place finishers in the Risen Star – which serves as the final designed major preview of the upcoming Louisiana Derby March 27.
With its new increased purse of $750,000, the Grade II Louisiana Derby will become the richest Thoroughbred race ever run at the historic Crescent City oval.
Also emerging unscathed from their winning efforts in Saturday’s sprint stakes Saturday were Chamberlain Bridge, winner of the Colonel Power Stakes for the second straight year as well as Double Espresso, heroine of Saturday’s Pan Zareta Stakes.
Rachel Alexandra Schools in the Gate Sunday Morning
Fair Grounds starter Frank Comberrel Jr. reported that Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra visited the starting gate during training hours for the first time this season on Sunday morning.
“She just stood there and didn’t make a move,” said Comberrel. “She was as cool and calm as she could be.
“She’s always like that,” said Comberrel. “All of his (Eclipse Award winning trainer Steve Asmussen’s) horses are always very well schooled.”
Calhoun Has Superior Saturday Here, There and Everywhere
Trainer Bret Calhoun was still in Houston Sunday morning, but his assistant Jill Perry accepted congratulations on behalf of his local stakes winners Jody Slew, owned by William Martin and Dan Morgan, as well as Chamberlain Bridge, owned by Carl Moore Management.
Jody Slew, if she were to come back and win the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks March 26, would become the first horse in Fair Grounds history to sweep the local sophomore filly series after winning the Tiffany Lass Jan. 23 prior to Saturday’s Silverbulletday score. The last four winners of the Fair Grounds Oaks have gone on to win the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, including Rachel Alexandra, who parlayed her Oaks double into Horse of the Year honors later in the season.
Chamberlain Bridge became the first horse to take down winning honors in back-to-back editions of the Colonel Power since Louie Roussel III’s Belek accomplished the feat in 1990 and 1991.
“We (the Calhoun barn) also won two races in Houston last night and another one in Hot Springs yesterday,” said Perry. “As for Dubai Majesty (runner-up by a head in Saturday’s Pan Zareta after finishing second by a nose in Santa Anita’s Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint Jan. 30), she’s lost two tough ones in a row now. However, she came back fine yesterday, and as long as they come back good and we get them to run again – everything’s okay.”
Spanky Considering Stonehouse for New Orleans Handicap
New Orleans native Spanky Broussard, who has based his winter operation at Fair Grounds for more than four decades, reported Sunday morning that his Mineshaft Handicap winner Stonehouse, owned by Richard Rudolph and Michael Vranich, came out of his neck victory Saturday in good order.
“I’m thinking about running him back in the (Grade II) New Orleans Handicap (March 27),” said Broussard when asked about Stonehouse’s next step. “I don’t know if he can get a mile and an eighth, but I think we’ll try. That’s really my only option. I know I’m going to nominate him.”
Owner-trainer Tom McCarthy of Mineshaft runner-up General Quarters indicated Sunday morning that his one-horse stable is bound for the New Orleans Handicap.
“I’ve never had a horse come back as good as he has after such a hard race as he ran yesterday,” said McCarthy, “and I think the mile and an eighth is really going to be his best distance.”
Trainer Neil Pessin, who saddled Virginia Tarra’s Giant Oak to finish third, 1 3/4-lengths behind General Quarters in the Mineshaft Handicap, is also thinking positively about the New Orleans Handicap.
“We got everything we wanted yesterday,” said Pessin Sunday morning. “That race was just a prep for the next one. The two that beat us yesterday won’t beat us next time.”
Incidentally, Giant Oak’s full sister Apple Martini was on Sunday’s work tab timed in 1:03 for five furlongs in advance of Saturday’s Allen LaCombe Memorial Handicap.
Star Guitar Gets Tune-Up
On the Fair Grounds work tab Sunday morning in probable preparation for the New Orleans Handicap was Brittlyn Stable’s Star Guitar, who breezed a half-mile in 51.
In a related footnote, Star Guitar is named in honor of Louisiana bluesman and wetlands conservation advocate Tab Benoit, who has been chosen to receive the Governor’s Award – Conservationist of the Year for 2009 by the Louisiana Wildlife Federation. Benoit, an internationally acclaimed musician, has often used his music to convey the urgent message of Louisiana’s endangered coastline.
El Caballo Gets Sunday Breeze for Upcoming Mervin Muniz Memorial
James Spence’s El Caballo, winner of the Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap here Jan. 23 and second by a nose in last year’s Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap, breezed four furlongs in 53.80 Sunday morning in preparation for this season renewal of the Muniz, to be contested on Louisiana Derby Day March 27.
Bridgmohan’s Saturday Triple Trumps Graham’s Jockey Standings Lead
With a riding triple Saturday, jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, who passed the 2,000 career win milestone earlier this month, also passed James Graham for the lead in the current jockey standings entering Sunday’s program. Bridgmohan had 54 winners entering Sunday’s races as opposed to Graham’s 52 trips to the winner’s circle.
Top Weighted Tizaqueena Probable for Saturday’s Allen LaCombe Memorial Handicap
Darley Stable’s Tizaqueena, assigned the high weight of 123 pounds in Saturday’s Allen LaCombe Memorial Handicap, will probably head the field for that $60,000 turf test, according to stakes coordinator Scott Jones.
Also considered probable at this time for the LaCombe Memorial is Lucas Downs’ Love to Tell (118); Good Tyme Racing and Richard Ringo’s Dancin Perfect (117); Charles Miller’s Final Refrain (117); Ace Thoroughbred’s Hotlantic (115); and Virginia Tarra’s Apple Martini (115).