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Thursday Notes: Mucho Macho Man Relaxing in Big Easy Leading Up to Saturday's Grade II Risen Star Stakes

Trainer Kathy Ritvo was all smiles Thursday while being chauffeured around the Fair Grounds backstretch in a golf cart shortly after her Risen Star runner Mucho Macho Man, owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team One Racing, had completed his first local gallop earlier in the morning.

Prior to Mucho Macho Man and Ritvo’s arrival by plane Wednesday, Ritvo had expressed some concern earlier in the week about taking the horse away from his winter headquarters at Gulfstream, where he had finished a solid fourth in the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes Jan. 30 despite being bumped hard early in the running.

“We would have preferred to stay home (in South Florida) for his next race,” said Ritvo at that time, “but this race here fit our schedule and (Mucho Macho Man) has to learn to ship, too.”

Thursday morning Ritvo gave a progress report.

 “He shipped very well,” she said. “Everybody here has done a great job helping us get settled in, and we’re very happy. We took him to the paddock to school today and he was very relaxed.”

Mucho Macho Man will race without blinkers for the first time in his career when he goes to the post in the Risen Star, and he also breezed without blinkers in a five-furlong move at Gulfstream in 1:04.20 at Gulfstream Feb. 12.

“The idea was to see how he went with the blinkers off and it seemed to go well,” Ritvo said of the Gulfstream move. “We’re trying to get him to concentrate a little more – to focus on what he’s supposed to do.”

Ritvo, 41, is herself a fascinating story.  Born into a well-established New England-based racing family, she originally took out her trainer’s license at the age of 18, but she also underwent a 17-hour heart transplant operation in November of 2008, six months after being diagnosed with a severe deterioration of the heart muscle.

RISEN STAR STAKES’ DECISIVE MOMENT ARRIVED MONDAY NIGHT – Just for Fun Stable’s Decisive Moment, winner of the $250,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs Jan. 14 in his lone start as a 3-year-old, arrived by van Monday evening at Fair Grounds from his home base at Calder Race Course in South Florida and was in fine fettle Thursday morning according to trainer Juan Arias.

“He’s an excellent shipper,” Arias said of Decisive Moment, who has now journeyed from South Florida to Louisiana three times in his career. Prior to his win in the Jean Lafitte, Decisive Moment finished second in the Grade III Delta Jackpot last November, a month after finishing third in the In Reality division of the Florida Stallion Stakes.

“We let him rest Tuesday after his van ride,” said Arias, and yesterday (Wednesday) we let him gallop a mile and a half around the track and then took him to the gate for schooling.

“I’ve been to Louisiana three times now, but this is my first trip to New Orleans,” said Arias, a former jockey who is a native of Panama. “Last night we went down to the French Quarter and got to experience some of the pre-Mardi Gras happy feeling.”

In the Risen Star, Decisive Moment will be ridden once again by Cajun-born jockey Kerwin “Boo Boo” Clark, who began riding Thoroughbreds at recognized meetings in 1975 and is credited with more than 2,600 wins in his career. Clark continues to be amazed at how much Decisive Moment has improved between his 2-year-old and 3-year-old seasons.

Now 51, Clark has ridden extensively on the Chicago and Louisiana circuits and also spent two years riding in Saudi Arabia, but has never ridden in a Kentucky Derby.

“Wouldn’t that be great, after all these years, to have my first Kentucky Derby mount at 51-years-old?” Clark said recently.

“I’d love to help someone like Boo Boo finally get his first Derby mount,” Arias said Thursday. “He’s done a great job riding this horse for us.”

UNDEFEATED INGLORIOUS READY FOR RACHEL ALEXANDRA STAKES – Donver Stable’s Inglorious, who broke her maiden in the first start of her career in Woodbine’s $150,000 Fanfreluche Stakes last Oct. 24, kept her undefeated record intact at two-for-two by capturing Canada’s $150,000 Ontario Lassie Stakes by 5 3/4-lengths Dec. 4.

On Saturday, the Josie Carroll trainee will try to take the next step by giving a good performance in Fair Grounds’ Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes, designed as the final prep race for the upcoming Grade II Fair Grounds Oak March 26.

“Everything is good so far,” said Carroll Thursday morning during training hours. “She’ll be in against some really good fillies like Kathmanblu and Bouquet Booth, but our objective is to find out where she fits with fillies like those. We thought about going in that earlier race here (the Silverbulletday Stakes as the first leg of the local sophomore series), but she’s already been two turns and we don’t need to hit every race. It’s a long year.”

Donver Stable is the nom-de-course of Donna and Vern Dubinsky, who raced Careless Jewel to win Delaware Park’s Grade II Delaware Oaks and Saratoga’s Grade I Alabama Stakes in 2009.  They run a Canadian-based trucking company that delivers pipes to the oil fields in Alberta.

HANDICAPPING SEMINAR IN PHOENIX ROOM 11 A.M. SATURDAY – A free handicapping seminar for Fair Grounds guests will be held in Fair Grounds’ Phoenix Room on the third floor of the grandstand beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Jennie Rees, the longtime multiple-Eclipse Award-winning racing writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal, and Brian Pochman, a Daily Racing Form handicapper, will be featured guests at the seminar.

REMINDER: SPECIAL POST TIMES IN EFFECT FRIDAY, SATURDAY AT FG – Fair Grounds guests and fans of the New Orleans oval’s simulcast signal are reminded that special post times will be in effect Friday and Saturday this week.

On Friday, the third Starlight Racing Program of the 2010-2011 Fair Grounds meeting will be held, with the first race of the nine-race evening program beginning at 5 p.m.

On Saturday, an expanded 12-race Louisiana Derby Preview Day program featuring six stakes races headed by the Grade II Risen Star Stakes will have a special early first-race post time of 12:10 p.m.

$125,000 GUARANTEED ALL GRADED STAKES PICK 4 OFFERED SATURDAY – Fair Grounds Race Course will offer an All-Graded Stakes Pick 4 on Saturday with a guaranteed pool of $125,000.

The all graded stakes Pick 4 will begin on Race 7 with the Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, continue with the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap for older horses on the main track, continue further with the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap for older horses over the Stall-Wilson turf course and then conclude with the Grade II Risen Star Stakes for 3-year-olds. That race serves as the final prep for the $1 Million Grade II Louisiana Derby five weeks later on March 26.