Home of the Louisiana Derby

Theriot Wins Four on Friday

Three years ago, Louisiana-born jockey Jamie Theriot rode most of the races on a cold, overcast November day at Churchill Downs, got into his car at the end of the day and drove all night to ride the opening day card at Fair Grounds.

It proved to be worth the rush. Theriot arrived in time for the first race of the New Orleans season, won that race with authority and then came back in the second to complete a sweep of the Daily Double. Basically, he kept his momentum going throughout the winter and ended up earning the first Fair Grounds riding title of his career when the local session ended in late March.

Could this be a déjà vu winter for Theriot? On Friday, second day of the 2010-2011 Fair Grounds season, the blonde native of Breaux Bridge won four races, beginning with the opener aboard Whispering Oaks Farm’s Joe Hollywood for two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen, the fifth on Carl Moore Management’s Power Surge for Bret Calhoun, the featured $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes with Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s Hallway, again for Asmussen, and the finale astride John Devieilh and Keith and Earl Hernandez’ Tiger Rock for Frank Leggio. Is a second Fair Grounds riding title in his future this winter?

“Every meet we go for that,” Theriot said Saturday morning in the track kitchen after working six horses earlier in the day. “I’m certainly riding for the right kind of outfits to be able to do that. Shaun Bridgmohan will ride the majority of Steve Asmussen’s horses once he gets down here from Churchill, but I’ll get to ride a few of them for him during the season. I will ride a lot of horses for Bret Calhoun and a lot for Tom Amoss, so I should do all right.

“This has turned out to be a very good year for me,” Theriot said. “I won two Breeders’ Cup races for Bret (the Grade I Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on Martin Racing Stable and Dan Morgan’s Dubai Majesty and the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Carl Moore Management’s Chamberlain Bridge) and that was a big thrill. It’s a great feeling to be able to ride in races like that, and I really don’t think the reality of winning two Breeders’ Cup races has sunk in yet. My home is in Louisville now and to win those races in front of the home crowd was extra special

“Of course, most of the year I rode in Kentucky, but during the summer it seemed that I was going out of town a lot to ride in stakes all over the country and winning them. I won races in Saratoga, at Delaware Park, at Philadelphia Park and Mountaineer – pretty much everywhere I went.

“I’ve been riding almost 15 years now, and every year seems to be getting better and better,” the 31-year-old Theriot said. “I’ve still got some goals I want to accomplish – like win the Kentucky Derby and at least one of the other Triple Crown races. If I can do that I could call my career complete. I may be able to ride another 12 to 15 years before I call it quits, and beyond that, of course, I hope to stay healthy and safe.”

CLARK HANDICAP WINNER GIANT OAK TO BE POINTED TO NEW ORLEANS HANDICAP – Fair Grounds trainer Neil Pessin was all smiles on the local backstretch Saturday morning following Giant Oak’s adjudged victory in Friday’s Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs, and why shouldn’t he be? Pessin trains the Virginia Tarra-owned Giant Oak during the winter months at Fair Grounds.

“We had to get put up to win it,” said Pessin of Giant Oak, who finished second by a head under the wire, “but we’ll take it. A win is a win.

“Giant Oak will be going to Ocala for about 45 days,” said Pessin. “Then he’s scheduled to be sent down here where he will be pointed toward the (Grade II) New Orleans Handicap.”

The 4-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway finished fifth in last season’s New Orleans Handicap and was third in last season’s Grade III Mineshaft Handicap.

SUPER DERBY WINNER APART ALSO NEW ORLEANS HANDICAP-BOUND – Adele  Dilschneider’s Apart, who won three straight stakes including the Grade II Super Derby at Louisiana Downs and the Grade III Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs before finishing seventh in the roughly-run Clark Handicap, will also be coming to Fair Grounds and be pointed toward the New Orleans Handicap, trainer Al Stall Jr. indicated Saturday morning when interviewed by Churchill’s Jill Byrne on her paddock show.

New Orleans native Stall, the Fair Grounds’ leading trainer three different seasons, is in the midst of his own career year after saddling Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Blame to win the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic and possible Horse of the Year honors.

Stall also humorously recalled his own youth in New Orleans for Byrne during the interview.

“Whenever I got suspended, I was happy,” said Stall, who would make use of the time by going right to Fair Grounds to watch the races.  “Finally, they figured out that what they really had to do was making me sit on a bench in the hallway for six hours.”

JOCKEY RICHARD ERAMIA RIDES HAT TRICK FRIDAY – Jockey Richard Eramia, who finished 11th in the Fair Grounds standings in his first year riding locally last season, rode three winners Friday to remind local observers of his talent.

Eramia, who led the Louisiana Downs standings for much of last summer before finishing second in the final tally, won Friday’s third aboard Don Eberts’ Pretty Squall for trainer Morris Nicks, the seventh on Agave Racing Stable’s Going to the Sun for conditioner Michelle Lovell and came right back to take the eighth on Richard Ringo’s Sweet Ruston for trainer Mike Burgess.