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Stakes Advance: Ria Antonia Looms Large in Grade III Rachel Alexandra

Ria Antonia Looms Large in Rachel Alexandra

Christopher Dunn and Loooch Racing’sRia Antonia, adjudged winner of Santa Anita’s Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last November 2, can be expected to loom the strong choice when she makes her 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

The Rachel Alexandra, Fair Grounds’ final designed prep for the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks, is one of five stakes – four of them graded – that will be offered on Saturday’s Louisiana Derby Preview Day program presented by Lamarque Ford.

Five of the last nine Fair Grounds Oaks winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on the day before the Kentucky Derby.

Ria Antonia, who was also nominated to Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star against male rivals, will be getting at least one more start against members of her own sex on Saturday before a possible run against the boys in the upcoming $1 million Louisiana Derby March 29.  The massive daughter of Rockport Harbor is trained by Jeremiah Englehart and will be ridden by the Marrero, Louisiana, born and raised Joe Talamo, Fair Grounds’ leading rider during the 2006-2007 when still an apprentice.

Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings’ Streaming, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, may be the one to beat.  The daughter of Smart Strike won Hollywood’s Grade I Hollywood Starlet in the second start of her career and was most recently second by a half-length in Santa Anita’s Grade I Las Virgenes Feb. 1.  Martin Garcia has been named to handle the reins.

Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings’ other filly in the Rachel Alexandra, Got Lucky, is conditioned by Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher and will be ridden by Mike Smith.  The daughter of A. P. Indy was second by a neck in Aqueduct’s Grade II Demoiselle last November while still a maiden and most recently broke her maiden by 5 ¼-lengths at Gulfstream on Jan. 29.

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Untapable, conditioned by 13-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Steve Asmussen, won Churchill’s Grade II Pocahantas last fall and most recently finished third in the Grade I Hollywood Starlet Dec. 7.  Three-time Fair Grounds defending rider champion Rosie Napravnik will be astride.

Connie Apostelos’ Shanon Nicole cannot be discounted.  The daughter of Majestic Warrior began her career on grass but most recently won for the second time in her career but first time on dirt by 4 ½-lengths in a race that was taken off the grass and run on the main track.  Trained by Mike Maker, she will be ridden by seven-time Fair Grounds jockey champion Robby Albarado.

Completing the field for the Rachel Alexandra, with jockeys assigned, is Glockenburg LLC’s Army, Alexander Reznikov aboard; and L. T. B. et al.’s Express Model, James Graham up.