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Magical Moon Heads LaCombe Memorial, Up With the Birds Favored in Black Gold


By Graham Ross, Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Thursday, February 28, 2013) – Columbine Stable’s Magical Moon, third in Keeneland’s Grade I Alcibiades last October, has been installed as the slight 3-1 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $75,000 Allen LaCombe Memorial at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

The Allen LaCombe Memorial, named in honor of Fair Grounds’ late, beloved longtime director of publicity, is one of two stakes slated for Saturday at the Crescent City oval. It is co-featured along with the tradition-rich 55th renewal of the $75,000 Black Gold Stakes, named in honor of the first horse to parlay a win in the Louisiana Derby to one in the Kentucky Derby some weeks later in the spring.

The LaCombe Memorial, restricted to 3-year-old fillies, is scheduled to be run at about 7 1/2 furlongs over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course while the Black Gold, at the same distance on the same surface, is open to all sophomores.

Magical Moon, who broke her maiden with a 10 1/4-length tally at Saratoga last summer, has only made one start this winter at Fair Grounds, finishing second by a half-length in a $50,000 optional claiming race on Feb. 10. A solid performance Saturday could put her into an appearance in the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks March 30, if her connections were amenable to that opportunity.

Using the LaCombe Memorial as an essential prep for a hoped-for follow-up appearance in the Fair Grounds Oaks is Fox Hill Farms’ Smitten,who recently lost a week of training due to a minor issue but has been targeted for the Fair Grounds Oaks for some time. That gray daughter of Tapit is the co-second choice in the LaCombe early line at 7-2.

Also estimated with those 7-2 early odds is Wahoo Stable and Brereton Jones’s Divine Happiness, a Divine Park filly who would have to draw in off the also-eligible list. Divine Happiness broke her maiden by 9 ½ lengths in her career debut Feb. 12.

Riding assignments have Colby Hernandez aboard Magical Moon, Rosie Napravnik astride Smitten and C. J. McMahon on Divine Happiness.

Completing the Black Gold field with respective riders assigned, is Tonight We Dance, Jesse Campbell;Gator Zone, Shaun Bridgmohan; Sunset Time,Leandro Goncalves; Cloudy in Sandiego,Brian Hernandez Jr; Cheetah Pants,John Jacinto; Overheard, James Graham; and To My Valentine, Jose Garcia.

Joining Divine Happiness on the also-eligible list is Estonia, Mark Guidry;Exotic Mischief, Leandro Goncalves with a second call; and Seeking Luck, Richard Eramia.

UP WITH THE BIRDS FLUSHED OUT AS 2-1 FAVORITE IN BLACK GOLD STAKES – Sam-Son Farms’ Up With the Birds, winner of Woodbine’s $250,000 Coronation Futurity in his last start Nov. 10 at the Canadian oval, has been pegged as the 2-1 morning line choice in Saturday’s tradition-rich 55th renewal of the $75,000 Black Gold Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

The Black Gold is named in honor of the first horse to parlay a win in the Louisiana Derby to another in the Kentucky Derby later in the spring. Traditionally, the jockey who wins the Black Gold each winter here runs out to the Fair Grounds infield to place a wreath on Black Gold’s grave.

Before winning the Coronation Futurity, Up With the Birds broke his maiden at Woodbine with a 3 1/2-length win on Sept. 29. The Malcolm Pierce trainee, who has only raced on Polytrack up to this point in his three-race career, will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan.

Capable of providing strong competition for Up With the Birds is Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Animal Style, coming off a win in the inaugural running of the $75,000 Van Berg Stakes on Jan. 26. Previously the entire son of Spanish Steps had broken his maiden with a 1 1/4-length win on Jan. 6 at the local oval.

Trained by Mike Maker, Animal Style will be ridden by two-time defending jockey champion and current leading rider Rosie Napravnik on Saturday.

Completing the Black Gold field, with respective riders assigned, is Shadwell Farm’s Mughaadir, James Graham; Jerry Namy’s Favorite Uncle, Leandro Goncalves; Erich Brehm and Gene Voss’s Whiskey Bravo,Richard Eramia; Fox Hill Farms’ CairoSix, Mark Guidry; and Ice Wine Stable’s Skylander, Jose Garcia.