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Supporting Stakes Recap: Mission Impazible, Smart Bid, More

The “Impazible” dream came true for Twin Creeks Racing Stable, trainer Todd Pletcher and his assistant Michael Dilger when Mission Impazible proved clearly best by a length and a half in Saturday’s Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap.

A year ago Mission Impazible won the 2010 Louisiana Derby to register his signature victory of the season before being injured in the Kentucky Derby, but this year the future looms a lot brighter for the son of Unbridled’s Song based on the authoritative nature of his length and a half score.

“That other horse (Preston Stable’s Birdrun, who alternated with the winner for the early lead) stayed right on top of me up front, so it made my job a little bit harder,” said winning jockey Garrett Gomez. “Every time I tried to slow it down he slowed it down, too, but about the three-eighths pole my horse found a real comfortable mode and went about his business on his own.”

Pletcher completed the same Louisiana Derby-New Orleans Handicap double three seasons ago with Michael and Doreen Tabor’s Circular Quay, but Mission Impazible had finished second in the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap here Feb. 19 and appeared to have a tougher assignment in his quest for the year-to-year parlay.

“(Mission Impazible) has just been very relaxed all week since he got here,” said Dilger, who traveled to New Orleans on behalf of the Pletcher stable. “I think that was the key.  When we came on that last trip it took him a couple of days to settle in.”

With his New Orleans Handicap score, Mission Impazible increased his career earnings to $798,854 with his third win in nine lifetime starts, ran the nine furlongs in 1:49.02 and returned mutuels of $5, $3.20 and $2.40.

Adele Dilschneider’s Apart, winner of the Grade II Super Derby and Grade III Ack Ack Handicap last fall but third in the Mineshaft five weeks ago, ran a game runner-up race to withstand the late run of Virginia Tarra Trust’s favored Giant Oak by a head.  That rival simply lacked the needed late response.

Apart paid mutuels of $6.20 and $3.60 for the runner-up spot and Giant Oak returned $2.40 for the show position.  Birdrun weakened to fifth after establishing early splits of 24.05 and 48.46.

SMART BID BEST IN MERVIN MUNIZ MEMORIAL HANDICAP – Augustin Stable’s Smart Bid, who missed by a nose in his last start when second in the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, turned up on the more profitable side of the photo finish camera when he captured the $400,000 Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap by a nose on Saturday’s Louisiana Derby Day program.

The Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial, the main event for older horses on Fair Grounds’ Stall-Wilson turf course each season, is named in honor of Fair Grounds revered long-time racing secretary who died in 2003.

“I had a beautiful trip,” said winning rider Edgar Prado, who was aboard the Graham Motion-trained Smart Bid.  “She broke nice and I was in a good spot all the way around.  When I called he was there for me.  He fought real hard when he saw the other horse coming.  I am very proud of the horse.”

Smart Bid got the about mile and an eighth distance over the grass going rated firm in 1:49.97, increased his career earnings to $543,138 with his fourth win in 14 lifetime starts and returned mutuels of $8, $4.40 and $3.

Finishing second on the wrong side of Smart Bid’s nose victory was Millennium Farms and Mike McCarty’s Expansion, who won the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap by a head on Feb. 19 as the designed prep for the Muniz Memorial, and a head behind him in third was Correas Thoroughbreds favored Brazilian-bred Moryba.

Expansion paid $9.40 and $4, and Moryba returned $3.20 in the show spot.

Estrorace’s Workin For Hops made the pace with early fractions of 24.93 and 48.80 while well-rated by leading rider Rosie Napravnik, still had the lead at the furlong grounds and held on gamely to finish fourth, beaten less than a half-length.

MAMBO GALLIANO DANCES HOME IN $150,000 DUNCAN F. KENNER STAKES—Louie Roussel III’s Mambo Galliano, who began the Fair Grounds winter season with a victory in the $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap on opening day, closed out the session with a win in the $150,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes on the season’s penultimate racing program.

After being allowed to settle early by jockey James Graham, the Louie Roussel trainee rallied in the final furlong under strong right-handed urging and got up to be best by three-quarters of a length in the last strides.

Mambo Galliano increased his career earnings to $269,192 with his sixth career win in 18 lifetime starts and toured the six furlongs in 1:09.24.

Gold Mark Farm’s Backtalk finished second, paying $7.20 and $3.40, while a neck to the good of Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s Early Return, who returned $2.10.  The Klein’ Cash Refund made the pace with fractions of 21.70 and 44.56 but weakened to fourth.

UPPERLINE BEST IN BAYOU HANDICAP—Oakcrest Farm et al.’s Upperline, heroine of the $58,000 Allen LaCombe Memorial Handicap last month as well as the Grade III Arlington Oaks last summer, justified her role as the favorite in Saturday’s $100,000 Bayou Handicap for older fillies and mares at about 5 1/2-furlongs over the Stall-Wilson turf course with a four-length tally.

Trained by Mike Stidham and ridden by Fair Grounds leading jockey Rosie Napravnik, the daughter of Maria’s Mon was always well placed, challenged for the lead when set down for the drive and drew off late.

Upperline increased her career earnings to $270,987 with her fifth victory in 11 career starts, toured the distance over the firm going in 1:42.52 and returned mutuels of $4.40, $3 and $2.20.

James Perron Racing Stable’s Category Seven got up in the last strides to gain the place, paying $3.40 and $2.40 while finishing a head to the good of Sam-Son Farm’s Forest Uproar, who returned $2.60 to show.  Robert and Lawana Low’s Born Indy U S A made the pace with fractions of 23.94 and 48.14 before tiring.

Racing resumes Sunday at Fair Grounds with a 13-race closing day program that has a special early 12:10 p.m. first race post time.