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Sugar Bowl Headlines Santa Super Saturday at FG

NEW ORLEANS, La. (December 18, 2008) - Christmas comes early at Fair Grounds this weekend with Santa Super Saturday, which includes five $60,000 stakes races as part of its expanded 11-race program.

Heading the Santa Super Saturday program is the 58th running of the Sugar Bowl Stakes for 2-year-olds at six furlongs - a sprint that has attracted a dozen Louisiana Derby hopefuls.

The Sugar Bowl projects as a wide-open race. Heiligbrodt Racing Stable's Merkel, unraced since finishing fourth in the Grade II Kentucky Stakes on Kentucky Oaks Day, is the lukewarm 9-2 favorite.

The son of Forest Wildcat is trained by Steve Asmussen and will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan.  The duo captured last year's Sugar Bowl with Sok Sok, which was one of six wins on the card for the tandem. The six-win day for Asmussen set a Fair Grounds record while Bridgmohan tied seven other jockeys for the most wins on a single Fair Grounds card.

The remainder of the stakes schedule for Saturday include the 50th running of the Letellier Memorial for 2-year-old fillies, also at six furlongs; the 22nd running of the Woodchopper Stakes for 3-year-olds at about one mile over the Stall-Wilson turf course; the 16th edition of the Esplanade Stakes for fillies and mares at 5 1/2 furlongs; and the third running of the Bonapaw Stakes for older horses at about 5 1/2 furlongs on turf.

Larry Richardson's She's Extreme is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in a field of six for the Letellier Memorial. Miguel Mena gets the call from trainer Greg Foley.

In the Bonapaw, Carl Moore Management LLC's Chamberlain Bridge, winner of the Woodford at Keeneland in October, is the 2-1 morning-line choice with Jamie Theriot up for trainer Bret Calhoun. Asmussen and Bridgmohan team up in the Bonapaw with 7-2 early second choice Storm Treasure, who two starts ago was third in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.

Richard Hill and John Kuehl's Secret Gypsy is the early 3-1 pick in the Esplanade. Six-time Fair Grounds leading rider Robby Albarado is aboard for trainer Ronny Werner.

The Woodchopper features owner-trainer Cody Autrey's Myboycharlie, who won an allowance at Fair Grounds on Dec. 5 in only his second U.S. start, and West Point Thorougbreds' Macho Again, winner of the Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga this summer. Myboycharlie is a slight 5-2 choice on the morning line with Theriot up, with Macho Again at 3-1 and Louisiana native Kent Desormeaux aboard.

The stakes quintet Saturday will be run as the fifth through ninth races and are combined to make an All-Stakes Pick 5 offered as a 50-cent wager.

First post on Saturday is 12:30 p.m. CST.

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the nation's third-oldest Thoroughbred racing facility, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN); it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and nine off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. Fair Grounds' 137th Thoroughbred season will run from Nov. 14, 2008, through March 29, 2009, and its inaugural Quarter Horse meet was conducted from Aug. 20-24, 2008. Information about Fair Grounds can be found on the Internet at www.fairgroundsracecourse.com.