Home of the Louisiana Derby

Wilkinson, Machen On Track for Louisiana Derby

During training hours Friday morning at Fair Grounds, conditioner Neil Howard reported all systems still “on go” for appearances by the talented sophomore duo of Gaillardia Racing’s Wilkinson and Courtlandt Farms’ Machen in the upcoming 97th renewal of the $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 26.

With its new seven-figure purse, the upcoming Louisiana Derby will be the richest Thoroughbred race ever run in New Orleans, and the Grade III Lecomte winner Wilkinson and Grade II Risen Star fourth-place runner Machen join Risen Star winner Mucho Macho Man, owned by Reeves Thoroughbred and Dream Team One Racing, and Catesby Clay’s Rogue Romance, third in that same test, as a contentious foursome to head the field of probable Louisiana Derby starters.

Wilkinson breezed four furlongs in 51.40 Monday at Fair Grounds, while Machen went that same half-mile distance that same morning in 50.60.

“They were both basically ‘leg stretcher’ breezes,” said Howard Thursday. “I’ve been giving Wilkinson three or four ‘halves’ six days apart since the Lecomte, and Machen’s move Monday was just a maintenance kind of tune-up to see where we are with him since the Risen Star. They are both fairly easy horses to train, and right now all we’re trying to do is see what they need and how stringent we have to be with their training leading up to the Louisiana Derby.

“They will both have fairly simple schedules leading up to the (Louisiana Derby),” said Howard. “At this point in time, there is a remote possibility that I will work them in company with other horses to keep them sharp, but not with each other. They’re both too competitive for me to do that with them.”

HOWARD:  NO FAIR GROUNDS OAKS FOR CHLOE KATE – Courtlandt Farms’ Chloe Kate, who finished fifth in the Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes Feb. 19, will not run back in the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks March 26, trainer Neil Howard indicated Thursday morning.

“She’s doing fine,” said Howard, “and I thought she ran well in the Rachel Alexandra, but I think what I want to do now is back off on her slightly. We may have pushed her a little bit putting her in that last race, so now I think we’ll take her to Kentucky and look for a ‘two-other-than’ race for her next start. I’ve found that most of the time, when you back off on these young horses a little bit, they’ll turn around and reward you for doing that later on.”

CONDITIONER ALVIN SIDER SADDLES TRAINING DOUBLE MONDAY – Trainer Al Sider scored a training double Monday at Fair Grounds, winning the opener with Summergrove Farm’s Alvin and David, and coming back to the winner’s circle to pose with Pete and Barb Horton’s Love Dare after the seventh race.

“We needed a day like that,” said Sider Thursday morning. “It’s been a slow winter for us so far and we’re just trying to ride it out. Horses seem to do it in streaks. That’s just the way this game has always been.”

Summergrove Farm, incidentally, is the nom-de-course of owner David Fennelly, which makes it not too hard to figure out how the horse Alvin and David got his name, but Love Dare is a different story.

“We claimed her out of her first start (Feb. 4),” said Sider, “and we think she’s going to turn out to be a very nice filly for us.”

JOCKEY JAMES GRAHAM SWEEPS MONDAY’S DAILY DOUBLE – Jockey James Graham has swept both ends of Fair Grounds Daily Double an impressive number of times during the current season, and the Irish-born reinsman added another notch to that gun Monday by riding Summergrove Farm’s Alvin and David to victory in the opener for trainer Al Sider and then came back with Carol Frederick’s Bet I’ll B Better in the second race for conditioner Raymond Frederick.

Before Monday’s double, Graham had most recently swept the Daily Double during the Starlight Racing program of Feb. 18.

Incidentally, the fourth and final Starlight Racing program of the Fair Grounds 2010-2011 meeting will be held in two weeks on March 18.