By Ryan Martin

•              Brisset’s Graded Stakes Winners Positive Spirit, Quip to Make 2019 Debut at Fair Grounds

•              Elsa Makes Sophomore Debut in Shantel Lanerie Memorial Overnight Stakes

•              Havinfunyet Seeks Fourth Win of the Meet on Thursday


When your older half-brother is a Kentucky Derby winner, it’s natural for high expectations to carry over. Positive Spirit ended her 2-year-old campaign on a very promising note, and the first chapter of her sophomore season is about to be written in the Grade II $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes, to be run on Saturday, February 16 – Louisiana Derby Preview Day Presented by Lamarque Ford. 

Owned by Michael Ryan, the half-sister to 2017 Grade I Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands winner Always Dreaming has shown improvement in each of her four starts, the most recent of which was a stunning 10½-length triumph in the Grade II Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct on December 1, where she acquired 10 points on Churchill Downs’ Road To The Kentucky Oaks.

Trainer Rodolphe Brisset began thinking big after her runaway victory in the Demoiselle, which was the daughter of Pioneerof the Nile’s stakes debut and he hopes that the Rachel Alexandra Stakes is the beginning of a highly successful campaign.

“We said after the Demoiselle that we felt like the ultimate goal would be to win a Grade I,” Brisset said. “If we feel like she isn’t ready to go there yet we could wait for the summer races for her at Saratoga. We are looking at the Rachel as the beginning and as of now it’s the spot we’re going to come back in.

Bred in Kentucky by Santa Rosa Partners, Positive Spirit made her career debut at Saratoga last summer where she finished third. She broke her maiden at Churchill Downs on November 8 going a one-turn mile over a fast main track.

“We got some luck when Mr. Ryan decided not sell her and sent her to us,” Brisset said. “We thought she was nice at Saratoga from there she proved to be a nice one. We saw what she did last year.”

Brisset stated that jockey Manny Franco would ship to Fair Grounds to pilot Positive Spirit. Franco guided her to victory in the Demoiselle last time out.

“I was happy with the ride that he gave last time,” Brisset said. “Manny is a nice jockey and a great kid. We’re really happy he’s coming and making the trip to ride her.”

Positive Spirit is out of the Grade III winning In Excess (Ire.) broodmare Above Perfection. In addition to producing Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming she also is the dam of Grade I winner Hot Dixie Chick.

The Rachel Alexandra Stakes is the second of three local preps on the Road To The Kentucky Oaks and awards the Top 4 finishers based off of a 50-20-10-5 scale.

Also representing the Brisset barn next Saturday in the Grade III $150,000 Mineshaft Handicap is Quip, who will make his first start since an eighth-place finish in the Grade I Preakness Stakes behind eventual Triple Crown winner Justify.

The 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor gave Brisset his first graded stakes victory when he took last year’s edition of the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby at 19-1.

“Quip is doing very well,” Brisset said. “We have some nice workouts into him. It could be definitely be the right spot to start his 4-year-old campaign.”

Although Quip has yet to contest over the Fair Grounds main track, he had trained over the New Orleans oval all winter last year.

“It seems that he likes the track,” Brisset said. “He has never raced over it but he did train there all winter last year and doesn’t mind the track at all. I think everything lines up very well. The main thing is to let the horse tell us what he wants to do. We’ll bring him competitive.”

Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing, Quip is out of the Indiana Charlie broodmare Princess Ash who is a half-sister to Grade I-placed Normandy Invasion.


Godolphin’s Grade III winner Elsa will make her much anticipated 2019 debut against five rivals in Saturday’s $60,000 Shantel Lanerie Memorial Overnight Stakes. The daughter of Animal Kingdom she drew the outside in the field of six and has been installed as Mike Diliberto’s 2-1 morning line favorite.

The Michael Stidham trainee was last seen pulling off an 11-1 upset in the Grade III Jimmy Durante Stakes over a firm turf at Del Mar in November. She broke her maiden in her career debut at Laurel Park before a placing against stakes company in Saratoga’s Bolton Landing Stakes where she finished behind the Wesley Ward trained Stillwater Cove and Chelsea Cloisters.

“She’s doing well,” Stidham said. “We gave her a little bit of a breather from her 2-year-old campaign. She’s training well and working well. She’s happy, healthy and ready to go.”

In four career starts, her lone off-the-board effort took place in the Selima Stakes in October over a yielding turf at Laurel Park.

“The forecast was pretty steady with rain up through Friday and now it’s about 10 or 20 percent,” Stidham said. “It looks like we’re going to catch a break.”

Elsa will be guided by jockey Corey Lanerie, whose late wife is the race’s namesake.

Named after one of the main characters from the Disney animated film Frozen, Elsa is out of the Distorted Humor broodmare Abtasaamah who is a half-sister to 2008 Champion Two-Year-Old Midshipman as well as Grade II winner Fast Cookie – the dam of three-time Grade I winner Frosted. All three are out of two-time Grade II winner Fleet Lady who was California’s Champion Three-Year-Old Filly in 1997.

Stidham is also represented by Hinkle Farms’ Cypress Point who broke her maiden over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course in her fourth career start. The daughter of Quality Road will be guided by Mitchell Murrill from post five at 8-1 morning line odds.

“We entered her with the intention of getting some black type,” Stidham said. “One of the owners called up and informed me that the race wasn’t black type, since the rules state that a race has to be on for three years for it to earn the accreditation. So I called up (Fair Grounds Racing Secretary) Scott (Jones) and he checked into it. This actually was a race that had been previously run but under a different name – the (Joseph E.) “Spanky” Broussard. The race was skipped last year and you’re allowed to skip one year for it to still be black type. This is the third year it’s being run so it is eligible.”

Cypress Point is out of the Forestry broodmare Cypress Isle whose dam was three-time Grade II winner and two-time California Champion Smooth Player.

Red Rounder (post one, 5-2, Florent Geroux), Winter Sunset (post two, 3-1, Channing Hill), Naughty Me (post three, 12-1, Rohan Singh) and Liora (post four, 9-2, Ty Kennedy) complete the field.

The Shantel Lanerie Memorial Overnight Stakes is named in honor of the late wife of jockey Corey Lanerie, who passed away following a battle with breast cancer in June 2018. She held several positions at the racetracks while her husband was race riding including serving as a tab writer with the clocker at Lone Star Park, a mutuel clerk at Fair Grounds and a photographer’s assistant at Churchill Downs.


Undefeated in three starts this meet over the Stall-Wilson Turf course, all against optional claiming/starter company, Havinfunyet steps up to face tougher foes in Thursday’ first-level grass allowance for trainer Corale ‘Bunky’ Richards.

Owned by Richards with Cynthia Sharp, the 5-year-old daughter of Paddy O’Prado has won seven of her 10 starts over the local lawn. A victory in Thursday’s eighth race would give her more victories at the Fair Grounds meet than any other horse.

“She’s doing really well, every thing’s fine,” Richards said. “I try to run her in certain spots. This time we wanted to give her a try with a other than race and see how she fares in that. Really would tell what caliber of horse she really is. I’ve got a lot of confidence she’ll make a good run. It might be a little harder for he to beat these horses, but she’s freshened she’s worked well, so she has no excuses.”

Havinfunyet will also be attempting her fifth straight victory. Before her trio of victories at Fair Grounds she ended a streak of runner-up finishes with a win over the turf at Evangeline Downs.

“Over there you got to be up early because it’s a faster turf and a shorter stretch,” Richards said. “But she’s consistent over there. I think the longer stretch suites her better but when we go back over there we’ll be sure to get into the race earlier. Over here I let her do her own thing.”

Last meet, Havinfunyet won four of her five starts, all of which took place over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course. Fellow compteitors in Thursday’s eighth race include three-time winner B’s Ten, stakes-placed Missive and Ruffina – a well-bred second-time starter in the United States.

Havinfunyet will be guided by jockey Chantal Sutherland from post six at 6-1 odds.

The eighth race has a scheduled post time of 3:53 p.m. CT.