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Telling Traveling Friday for Saturday's Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap

Alex and JoAnn Lieblong’s Telling, winner of Saratoga’s Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational the last two summers, was traveling Friday when Metzi Hobby, wife of trainer Steve Hobby but also groom, companion and chauffeur for the 7-year-old grass specialist, was reached somewhere around Lafayette, Louisiana, on the journey from Hot Springs, Arkansas to New Orleans.

Telling, an entire son of A.P. Indy out of a Deputy Minister mare, will be a contestant in Saturday’s Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap over the Stall-Wilson turf course as the designed prep for the upcoming Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap on Louisiana Derby Day March 26, the top grass test of the Crescent City Thoroughbred season.

Horse and driver had left Hot Springs about 5 a.m. after Steve Hobby had trained him Thursday over the track   at Oaklawn, Metzi Hobby said. After Telling’s last published breeze – a half-mile in 49.40 on Monday – what exactly did the horse do Thursday?

“I don’t really know,” Mrs. Hobby admitted. “Steve trained him. I was cleaning his stall at the time, but the horse looked fine when Steve brought him back to the barn and he is doing fine today.”

Owner Alex Lieblong, who keeps his private plane on the grounds of his Conway, Arkansas, farm, often gasses up the plane and flies to wherever Telling is running. He won’t be flying into New Orleans for Saturday’s test but was quick to assess the owner-trainer relationship.

“We’re definitely a family operation,” Lieblong said, “and it’s hard to separate Metzi from that horse. She just loves him and she’ll saddle him Saturday.

“We all hope he runs well,” said Lieblong, “but I’m not making this trip because I saw him train yesterday and we’ve got several other horses working up here at Oaklawn tomorrow. I enjoy watching them work as much as I do watching them run, and I’ve also found over the years that they don’t disappoint you as much when they’re just working. If he runs well tomorrow, I’ll try to make the trip next time.”

Trainer Steve Hobby can be just as self-effacing as the rest of Telling’s extended family. When Telling won the 2009 Sword Dancer, Hobby was asked by the upstate New York media how the decision was made to run a horse based in Chicago in the Sword Dancer.

“It was the owner’s decision to run the horse up here,” Hobby later related, when speaking of his Saratoga interview after the Sword Dancer. “I was thinking of running him in the (Arlington’s Grade III) Stars and Stripes Handicap. Then they asked me how I got the Saratoga-based jockey I used to ride him that day and I had to tell them that the owner did that, too. Finally, I didn’t want to dumb myself down too much, so I added: ‘But I did a real good job getting him ready!’”

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will fly to New Orleans to ride Telling on Saturday in the Fair Grounds ’Cap.

DUBIOUS MISS CAN’T BE DISMISSED IN FAIR GROUNDS HANDICAP – David Holloway’s Dubious Miss exists in an altered state and has a name with feminine connotations, but the 7-year-old gelding may have found his true identity by running over Fair Grounds’ Stall-Wilson turf course.

He’s made 23 lifetime starts, but only three over the green, and two of those have been seconds over the local lawn – one in last year’s Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap and one in this year’s Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap Jan. 22.

“That’s why we’re putting him back on it,” said trainer Paul McGee during training hours Friday morning, speaking in advance of Saturday’s renewal of the Fair Grounds Handicap. “He just seems to love the grass course here – the dirt not so much. I don’t know why.

“But he’s doing good right now,” McGee said.  “He had a nice blow out Wednesday (three furlongs in 37.20) so we’re hoping he runs well over it again.”

Veteran reinsman Corey Lanerie, aboard Dubious Miss in the Col. Bradley, will be in the irons once again.

LANERIE HAS A TRIPLE THURSDAY; CAMPBELL RIDES A BOOKEND DOUBLE – Jockey Corey Lanerie, who rode his 3,000th career winner at Fair Grounds earlier this season, has moved into sole possession of third place in the Fair Grounds jockey standings by riding a hat trick on Thursday’s program.

Lanerie won the second half of Thursday’s Daily Double aboard Mr. and Mrs. David Randal’s Deputy Gone Wild for trainer Mike Maker, returned to the winner’s circle after the seventh on Michael Laurato’s Severe Weather for conditioner Sturges Ducoing, and came right back after the eighth on the Randal’s Dixie’s Cat Can Do, again for Maker.

Jockey Jesse Campbell bookended the Thursday program with a riding double, taking the opener on Russell Welch’s Mr. Shorty for trainer Eric Heitzmann and the finale on Pete Reiman’s True Pride for conditioner Martin Rosado.

REMINDER:  SPECIAL 12:10 P. M. FIRST POST TIME SATURDAY – Fair Grounds guests and fans of the New Orleans oval’s simulcast signal are reminded that on Saturday there will be a special early first race post time of 12:10 p.m. to accommodate the program.12-race Louisiana Derby Preview Day.

POLZIN AT FAIR GROUNDS SEEKING ARLINGTON STALL APPLICATIONS – Arlington Park director of racing and racing secretary Chris Polzin will be at Fair Grounds through Saturday’s races seeking stall applications for the upcoming 86-day Arlington Park season which begins May 6 and runs through September 25.