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Ground Transport a Live Louisiana Derby Longshot

By Graham Ross, Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Wednesday, March 13, 2013) –The rapidly progressing Ground Transport has taken off in recent days as a live longshot for the 100th anniversary edition of the $1 million Louisiana Derby March 30 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

The sophomore son of 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown breezed a bullet four furlongs in 47 flat last Saturday at Fair Grounds on the same morning that Big Chief Racing’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes winnerIve Struck a Nerve travelled that same distance in  48.40 before pulling up lame shortly after his move.

Is Ground Transport viable as a longshot for the upcoming Louisiana Derby?

“We like him,” said trainer Mike Stidham, speaking outside his barn during training hours Wednesday morning at Fair Grounds. “The horse is doing very well right now and that was a very good work for him the other day. We’re pointing for the Louisiana Derby with him.”

The “we” Stidham was speaking of originally included a partnership between Jeffery Yingling, Marty Nixon, Frank Calabrese and Marrette Farrell, but Stidham was quick to update the status of that ownership group on Wednesday. 

“West Point Thoroughbreds just bought into the ownership for a one-quarter interest,” Stidham said. “Originally, we had bought him out of a 2-year-olds in training sale last year at Keeneland.”

There is a lot of upside to Ground Transport, who has made three starts in his career, all at the Crescent City oval.

In his career debut and only start as a 2-year-old on Dec. 22, he was beaten 2 1/4-lengths by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Departing, who remains undefeated after most recently winning the $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes at Sam Houston March 2.

However, in his next start on Jan 19, Ground Transport broke his maiden in handy fashion by a length and a half. Then on Louisiana Derby Preview Day Feb. 23, the Kentucky-bred’s three-length win in the first-level allowance ranks was overshadowed by the four graded stakes run on the same afternoon.

Now, in the Louisiana Derby, Ground Transport will be asked to kick it up a notch once again, facing not only Departing in a rematch but also a highly regarded group of out-of-state invaders. However, longshots have a recent history of upsetting highly regarded invaders at the Crescent City oval and must once again be considered this time.

STIDHAM SAYS CAT LORE, EXTRAVAGANZA BOTH READY FOR $75,000 HAPPY TICKET STAKES – Trainer Mike Stidham confirmed Wednesday morning that the Stone Farm-owned duet of Cat Lore and Extravaganza would both be entered in Saturday’s $75,000 Happy Ticket Stakes for older fillies and mares at about 5 1/2-furlongs over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Cat Lore and Extravaganza are both coming off victories over less than firm turf at Fair Grounds less than a month ago.

RISEN STAR WINNER IVE STRUCK A NERVE HAS SUCCESSFUL SURGERY MONDAY – Big Chief Racing and Paul Braverman’s Ive Struck a Nerve, who won the Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots Feb. 23 at odds of 135-1, underwent successful surgery Monday in Lexington, Kentucky, for a fractured sesamoid suffered following a breeze last Saturday at the local oval.

MARK VALESKI GETS WEDNESAY WORK FOR NEW ORLEANS HANDICAP – Brereton Jones’s Mark Valeski, winner of the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap Feb. 23, breezed a bullet half-mile in47.20 Wednesday morning in preparation for the Grade II New Orleans Handicap on Louisiana Derby Day March 30 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.=

NAPRAVNIK HITS 100-WIN MILESTONE THIS SEASON AT FAIR GROUNDS—With four trips to the winner’s circle last Saturday and four more Sunday, two-time defending jockey champion and current leading rider Rosie Napravnik hit the 100-win milestone for the current season at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Last season Napravnik finished with 111 wins and the year before hit 110. There are 14 racing days left after today.

Here are the top five highest win totals in a FG season since 1960: 181, Randy Romero ('83-'84); 167, Randy Romero ('84-'85); 144, Shane Romero ('87-'88); 141, Eddie Delahoussaye ('77-'78); 137, Ron Ardoin ('93-'94) and Shane Romero ('90-'91). Note that Fair Grounds meets were typically around 100 days through the 1980s and 1990s, as opposed to 84 days in recent years.

BEYCHOK SPECIAL GUEST AT SATURDAY’S FREE SEMINAR –This week's free “No Favorites Allowed” handicapping seminar on Saturday will start at Noon in the Phoenix Room on the third floor. Moderator Jim Mulvihill will be joined by guest handicapper Michael Beychok, a Louisiana native and winner of the 2012 National Handicapping Championship.