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Three Stakes on New Year's Eve and Blushing KD 'Cap on New Year's Day

The 24th running of the $60,000 Woodchopper Stakes for 3-year-olds at about one mile over Fair Grounds’ Stall-Wilson turf course as well as the 47th renewals of the restricted Louisiana Futurity ($112,224 colt and gelding division and $107,125 filly division) bring down the curtain on the 2010 calendar year during Friday’s New Year’s Eve program at Fair Grounds.

The next day, on the first day of Thoroughbred racing in 2011, it’s in with the new at the Crescent City oval when the third running of the $60,000 Blushing K. D. Handicap, for older fillies and mares at about 1 1/16-miles over the Stall-Wilson turf course, highlights Saturday’s New Year’s Day program.

In Friday’s Woodchopper Stakes, Sam-Son Farms’ Red Strike, undefeated in his only two career starts, both over Canadian grass at Woodbine Race Course, has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite when he faces 10 rivals over the New Orleans lawn. The son of Smart Strike is trained by Mark Frostad and will be ridden by Irish-born jockey James Graham for the first time Friday.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Lonesome Street, trained by Mike Maker, to be ridden by Miguel Mena and stakes placed last summer at Saratoga, is the 4-1 second choice in the Woodchopper morning line, while Kindred Thoroughbreds’ Saratoga Yankee, conditioned by Donnie K. Von Hemel with Jesse Campbell in the irons, is pegged as the third choice at 5-1.

Completing the Woodchopper field, with jockeys assigned, is Max Me Out, Jamie Theriot; Upgrade, Robby Albarado; Mountain Justice, Brian Hernandez Jr.; Backtrack, Eddie Martin Jr.; Ice Climber, Richard Eramia; Royal Express, Kirk LeBlanc; April’s Picture, Jose Camejo; and Flight, Rosie Napravnik.

In Friday’s colts and geldings division of the Louisiana Futurity, Coteau Grove Farms’ Toro Bravo, second best in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile but winner of a state-bred stakes at Evangeline last July, is the 5-2 morning line choice, while David Richardson and Walter New’s Fort Hood, third in the local Juvenile, is the 3-1 second choice.

In Friday’s filly division of the Louisiana Futurity, JRita Young Thoroughbreds’ Take Me Home Too, a disappointing eight in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie but a winner of Louisiana Downs’ $50,000 Laurel Line before that, has been pegged at 9-5 in the morning line, with Richard Ringo’s Sweet Ruston, runner-up in the local Lassie, close behind at her projected 2-1 odds.

Team Block’s Never Retreat, advanced as the 2-1 projected favorite in the Blushing K. D. Handicap on New Year’s Day’s Saturday program in New Orleans, finished second beaten a half-length in last year’ first renewal of the grass test for older members of the distaff set.

Later last season, the Smart Strike mare was first under the wire in Fair Grounds’ $60,000 Furl Sail Handicap but was subsequently disqualified and placed second. In her most recent start Never Retreat finished second by a nose in Woodbine’s $100,000 River Memorial Stakes on Oct. 30 but won Kentucky Downs’ $50,000 Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf before that Sept. 11.

James Perron Racing Stable’s Category Seven, fourth beaten a half-length for all of it in the $150,000 Remington Green Stakes in her last start Oct. 10 but a winner of five straight last year, is the 3-1 second choice in the Blushing K. D. morning line.

Never Retreat, Shaun Bridgmohan up, and Category Seven, with Richard Eramia named aboard, share the top impost of 122 pounds in the Blushing K. D. Handicap.

The Blushing K. D. field, with riders and respective weight assignments, is completed by Instant Style, Miguel Mena (116); May One, Jansen Melancon (114); Avie’s Tale, Rosie Napravnik (115); Cave Creeker, Denny Velasquez (109); Single Solution, James Graham (117); High Quail, Jamie Theriot (116); Mizzcan’tbewrong, Jesse Campbell (116); and Vera Belle, Kerwin Clark (108).