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Ron the Greek Readies for Risen Star

As the winner of Fair Grounds’ Grade III Lecomte Stakes two weeks ago, Jack Hammer’s Ron the Greek is the only 3-year-old who could join Friesan Fire as the second consecutive horse to sweep the New Orleans oval’s sophomore series during the current millennium.

Trained by Tom Amoss, Ron the Greek went to the track Wednesday to prepare for the upcoming Grade II Risen Star Stakes Feb. 20 as the middle leg of the Crescent City series. The final leg, of course, is the showcased Grade II Louisiana Derby March 27, which with its new purse of $750,000 will become the richest race ever run at Fair Grounds – the nation’s third oldest Thoroughbred race course.

Ron the Greek breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40 in the midweek move, and on Friday Amoss allowed that his Lecomte winner has proven to be an easy horse to train.

“We worked him five-eighths alongside another horse just to keep him focused,” said Amoss.

However, Amoss – a New Orleans native and the only conditioner in Fair Grounds history to win the local training title nine times – also has another prominent 3-year-old in his barn that was one of nation’s most precocious juveniles last year.

After breaking his maiden at first asking last summer in Louisville, Gold Mark Farm’s Backtalk went on to capture Churchill’s Grade III Bashford Manor July 3 and then Saratoga’s Grade II Sanford July 30 before finishing fourth in the Grade I Hopeful at the upstate New York oval. Then, when racing over Polytrack for the first time in Keeneland’s Grade I Breeders Futurity he ran eighth in the final start of his 2-year-old campaign.

According to Amoss, Backtalk will be given a “serious” work Saturday morning to help him get reacquainted with the Fair Grounds race track, and after he accomplishes that move future plans for the Smarty Jones colt will become more focused.

Debbie Diliberto to Wear Buddy D.’s Saints Jersey Sunday at Super Bowl XLIV
Trainer Amoss was originally scheduled to wear the late local media legend Buddy Diliberto’s Saints jersey to the Super Bowl this Sunday in Miami, but when Debbie Diliberto – Buddy’s daughter – came up with a ticket to the game, Buddy D.’s jersey was “repossessed” by the family.

“I have no problem at all with that,” said Amoss of the jersey that was given to the elder Diliberto when he was inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame some time ago. “If anybody should wear that jersey, it should be someone from that family. They deserve to wear it a lot more than I do.”

Stay Put Staying Put for Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds
Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s highly regarded sophomore Stay Put, who came from far back to win a $50,000 allowance optional claiming race at Fair Grounds in his last start Jan. 3, breezed five furlongs in 1:01 Monday morning at the local oval in preparation for the Grade II Risen Star Stakes on Louisiana Derby Preview Day Feb. 20 in New Orleans.

“He worked good,” said trainer Steve Margolis when asked to assess Stay Put’s move Friday morning outside his barn. “He started good and picked it up. We’ll probably give him another work next Thursday.”

Another Margolis-trained sophomore – Sugar Bowl Stakes winner Cool Bullet – owned by Winmore LLC and lately joined in partnership with Arkansas-based owners Robert and Lawana Low, is probably headed for Oaklawn’s Grade III Southwest Stakes Feb. 15, Margolis indicated.  

“Those people like to run at Oaklawn and the short stretch of that mile run up there should fit him quite well,” the trainer said of Cool Bullet, who lacked the needed late response and finished fourth in the Grade III Lecomte at last asking Jan. 23.

Margolis also announced that Liquidity, sixth in the 2006 Grade II Louisiana Derby, subsequently fourth in that year’s Grade I Santa Anita Derby and far back in the Kentucky Derby later that spring, has recently arrived at his Fair Grounds barn.

Liquidity was originally retired and scheduled for stud duty in Louisiana following a fifth-place finish in Hollywood Park’s Grade I Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap last June, but that career has now been postponed – at least for this season.

Rachel Alexandra Gallops Again Friday at Fair Grounds
Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra had another “nice and easy” gallop around the Fair Grounds race track Friday morning, reported Fair Grounds clocker Billy Pettingill.

“She went out a little earlier than usual – around 6:20 a.m. when the track was still sealed,” said Pettingill. “She was very quiet – very composed all the way around.”