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Wednesday Notes: Two Strikes Hittable for Homers in Grade III Colonel Bradley

Nine players will take the field for Saturday’s Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap over Fair Grounds’ Stall-Wilson turf course, and one of them, Pin Oak Stable’s Strike Again, is the projected 7-2 second choice in the morning line.

The Col. Bradley is one of two graded races among six stakes slated for Saturday’s expanded 13-race Road to the Derby Kickoff Day Presented by Hotel Monteleone, and the other Grade III affair – the 66th renewal of the $100,000 Lecomte Stakes – is the first of a three-race series for sophomores that concludes with the $1 million Grade II Louisiana Derby March 26.

However, getting back to Saturday’s major turf test, it should be noted that Strike Again defeated the Col. Bradley 5-2 favorite Gran Estreno, owned by Feel The Thunder Stable, by three-quarters of a length in their only encounter here earlier this season in the $60,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap Dec. 4, and that fact has Strike Again’s trainer Malcolm Forbes hoping his 5-year-old son of Dixie Union can, ah, strike again.

“I hope (Strike Again) runs as well as he did last time,” said Pierce Wednesday morning of his Pin Oak color bearer who will be ridden once again by jockey Miguel Mena, aboard for the Diliberto score. “He has been doing very well since that last race. We gave him his final breeze last Saturday (a half in 48.60) and that went well. I believe Mrs. Abercombie (Pin Oak matron) will be coming in for this race so I hope he runs as well as he did last time for her sake.

“I am afraid of Mark Frostad’s horse among all the other good horses in there,” said Pierce, speaking of Sam-Son Farm’s Red Strike, who was undefeated in two turf starts at Woodbine last summer while Pierce was also based at the Canadian oval. “He looked like he was going to become an outstanding grass horse last summer, and he might still be undefeated if he hadn’t stumbled to his nose leaving the gate in his only start down here (the $60,000 Woodchopper Stakes Dec. 31.) Also, when (Red Strike) finished third in that race down here, the race had been scheduled for the grass but was taken off and run on a sloppy main track. Maybe Mark’s horse just doesn’t like the slop.”

Red Strike is 8-1 in the morning line for Saturday’s Col. Bradley, and the horse will be ridden once again by James Graham, aboard for the Diliberto, who assured that the bad stumble leaving the gate cost him that win.

Cudney Stables and John Gunther’s Midnight Mischief, third choice at 9-2 in the morning line for the Col. Bradley, is conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and arrived from Mott’s Payson Park headquarters in South Florida on Jan. 9.

“He’s an easy horse to ride,” said Mott’s Fair Grounds-based assistant Mike Kaetzel, who was aboard for Midnight Mischief’s local half-mile move in 48 flat on Jan. 15. “I was very happy with his breeze, and he’s been training good since he got here. We wouldn’t run him if Saturday’s race came off the grass, but as long as it stays on, how the turf course is rated won’t matter to him.”

ECLIPSE AWARD TRAINERS AL STALL JR., BRET CALHOUN BACK IN BIG EASY – New Orleans native son Al Stall Jr. and fellow trainer Bret Calhoun, an adopted son of the Crescent City, were both back at their local barns Wednesday morning following appearances at the 40th annual Eclipse Awards in Miami Beach, Florida, Monday evening.

Stall, who trained Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Blame to defeat Horse of the Year Zenyatta in 2010’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, was grateful for Blame’s Eclipse Award as champion of the older male division.

“We were happy to be there,” Stall said of his South Florida sojourn. “We were happy to win the championship as older horse. We won just about everything we wanted with Blame last year. Everything is fine and now we’re moving on.”

Calhoun, Texas-born but now a New Orleans resident with a home immediately adjacent to Fair Grounds, saddled Martin Racing Stable and Dan Morgan’s Dubai Majesty to win the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint last November (as well as Carl Moore’s Chamberlain Bridge in the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint) and was at the Awards ceremony to watch his mare Dubai Majesty be honored as Eclipse Award champion female sprinter.

“It was an amazing thing to have trained a champion like her,” said Calhoun, “especially one that had such modest beginnings. It was a huge honor. I don’t know that I’ll ever get to train another champion again, but I’d like to think of it as a possibility that I can hope for.”

Stall and Calhoun were both honored with proclamations from New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu at the beginning of the Fair Grounds season recognizing their wins in last year’s Breeders’ Cup.