By Ryan Martin

•              Serengeti Empress Pleases Amoss in Wednesday Morning Breeze

•              Eurton Could Send Giant Expectations, Core Beliefs for Grade II New Orleans ‘Cap

•              Fifth Season Stakes at Oaklawn Park a Possibility for Exclamation Point

•              Casse Sends Two ‘Similar’ Fillies for Allen ‘Black Cat’ LaCombe

•              Fair Grounds To Race On Wednesdays for the Remainder of the Meet


At this stage, trainer Tom Amoss knows what to expect when watching dual Grade II winner Serengeti Empress train in the mornings so he was not the least bit surprised to see how much effort she put into her Wednesday morning breeze, which was her first work since an effortless win in the Grade II Rachel Alexandra Stakes. 

Owned by Joel Politi, the3-year-old daughter of Alternation worked a half-mile in :49.00 over a fast main track at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Wednesday morning and will target the Grade II $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks Presented by on March 23.

“I saw out of her what I have seen before which a very mature filly that’s into what she’s doing,” Amoss said. “I’m pleased with where we are with her and I don’t think we’ll need a lot work coming into the next race.”

Serengeti Empress opened many eyes when strolling home to victory by 19½ lengths in the Grade II Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs last September, which came after a 13½-length win in the Ellis Park Debutante. All three of her stakes victories were won in wire-to-wire fashion.

“I’m very confident in her abilities and always have been,” Amoss said. “I don’t think it’s any secret that she’s such a good horse and I’m very proud of what she’s accomplished. At some point we’ll find out if she can rate, I don’t know if that’s the next race or not but we’ll play it the way the race comes up. She’ll have to show she is ratable.”

Also working for Amoss on Wednesday morning was G M B Racing’s Lone Sailor who was sixth as the lukewarm favorite in the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap. The son of Majestic Warrior went five furlongs in 1:00.60 and his next start is yet to be determined. Amoss said that while the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap is a possibility, it would likely depend on how much speeds draws into the race.

“I thought Lone Sailor’s work was really, really good,” Amoss said. “Whether we run in the New Orleans Handicap or not remains to be seen but we’re considering it and when it comes time to hit the races, we want to know how much speed is in there. It will depend on how much speed.”

Roiland, third-place finisher behind War of Will in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford, worked a half-mile in :48.20 on Wednesday morning. The James and Mary Durlacher-owned son of Successful Appeal is possible for the Grade II $1 million Louisiana Derby but, like Lone Sailor, his situation will depend on pace as well.

Roiland earned 10 points with a third-place finish in the Risen Star. Amoss stated that if he does not run back in the Louisiana Derby, then the Grade II $1 million Toyota Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland on April 6 or the Grade I $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 13 would likely be his next start. Like the Louisiana Derby, both races offer points on the Road To The Kentucky Derby according to a 100-40-20-10 scale.


Trainer Peter Eurton is considering the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap on February 23 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots as a next start for graded stakes winners Giant Expectations and Core Beliefs.

Both horses are scheduled to breeze on Sunday morning at Los Alamitos Race Course in Southern California.

“There’s a chance that one might run and there’s a chance both might run,” Eurton said. “It depends on how they work on Sunday and that’s pretty much the whole kitten caboodle. The ($350,000 Essex Handicap) at Oaklawn Park (on March 16) could be of interest but we’ll just have to see. I’ll talk with the owners and decide who’s going where.”

Winner of last year’s Grade III Ohio Derby at Thistledown, Core Beliefs is owned by Gary Broad and has not raced since a fifth-place finish in the Grade I Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing on September 22. Owned by Exline Border Racing, Gatto Racing and Garrett Zubok, Giant Expectations has recorded one start this year when running third in the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita on February 2.


Following a victory against a third level allowance field on Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday program, Exclamation Point will likely see stakes action at Oaklawn Park next out according to co-owner Staton Flurry.

A half-brother to 2017 Champion Two-Year-Old Classic Empire, the Brad Cox-trained son of Concord Point defeated a nice group of older horses on Tuesday, including the likes of two-time Fair Grounds allowance winner Cases Story and Grade I-placed Tenfold. Exclamation Point could target the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes on April 14 at Oaklawn Park next out, according to Flurry. 

“We’ll talk to Brad,” Flurry said following Tuesday’s victory. “Oaklawn added back the Fifth Season the day after the Arkansas Derby so we might run there as a prep for the ($250,000) Oaklawn Mile (on May 3) or (Grade III $200,000 Steve Sexton) Mile (at Lone Star Park), but it’s not set in stone.”

Tuesday’s win was Exclamation Point’s first start since a distance fourth in a third level allowance race over a sloppy going at Oaklawn Park, which was his only defeat and first start since a victory over the main track at Keeneland last April.

“He needed his last race and the track conditions were terrible that day,” Flurry said. “It was sloppy and he got banged around for of five times around the first turn going down the backstretch. (Jockey) Joe Bravo put him in a good spot to get him to the finish line and not get hurt.”

Bred in Kentucky, Exclamation Point is owned by Flurry in partnership with breeders Brandi and Steve Nicholson, Exclamation Point is out of the Cat Thief broodmare Sambuca Classica. All five of her foals of racing age are winners. He was bred in Kentucky by co-owners Steve and Brandi Nicholson.


The trainer-owner combo of Mark Casse and John Oxley will be represented by a pair of sophomore fillies in Saturday’s $75,000 Allen ‘Black Cat’ LaCombe Memorial Stakes and according to Casse’s assistant David Carroll, both of them are quite alike when it comes to their training.

Fortunate Girl (post four, Miguel Mena, 4-1) and Beautiful Ballad (post six, Adam Beschizza, 6-1) will also both be seeking their first stakes victories in Saturday’s mile-and-a-sixteenth event over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course. The former of the two was a close second in Gulfstream

Park’s Wait a While Stakes three starts back after breaking her maiden over the local turf course on November 16.

“She broke her maiden here impressively, ran two nice races at Gulfstream,” Carroll said. “She’s back with us now. We’re very happy with her. We knew she handles the turf here well, I think both fillies have a big chance.”

Unbeaten in both of her starts on grass, Beautiful Ballad displayed a notable turnaround in form when switching surfaces. After two distant efforts over the main track, the daughter of MacLean’s Music broke her maiden at third asking in her turf debut over a yielding Stall-Wilson Turf Course in January before defeating winners over the Fair Grounds turf last out on February 14.

“Both fillies are very similar,” Carroll said. “When it comes to the way they go about their business and breezing wise they seem to be the same. Beautiful Ballad has really stepped her game up since we put her on the turf and added blinkers. She’s doing very well. Hopefully she’ll continue to improve. It looks like a good spot to get some black type.”

Bred in Kentucky by Grousemont Farm, Fortunate Girl was a $200,000 purchase from the Fasig-Tipton July Yearling Sale in 2017, where she was consigned by Stuart Morris. She is by Hard Spun and is out of the A.P. Indy broodmare A.P. Mink.

Beautiful Ballad also was bought from the Fasig-Tipton July Yearling Sale in 2017 where she was acquired from Gainesway’s consignment barn for $260,000. She was bred in Kentucky by Cuevas-Montenegro Thoroughbreds and is out of the Rock Hard Ten broodmare Inner Groove.


With just two-plus weeks remaining in the 2018-2019 Thoroughbred racing season at Fair Grounds Racecourse & Slots, let’s take a look at the remaining schedule, which includes two Wednesdays and a couple of post time changes of note. All times are Central.  

Saturday, March 9: First post 12:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 10: First post 12:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 13: First post 12:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 14: First post 12:30 p.m.

Friday, March 15 (Starlight Racing): First post 5:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 16: First post 12:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 17: First post 12:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 20: First post 12:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 21: First post 12:30

Friday, March 22: First post 12:30

Saturday, March 23 (Louisiana Derby Day): First post 11:00 a.m.

Sunday, March 24 (Closing Day): First post 12:30 p.m.