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Barn Notes: Friday, March 21

IN TODAY'S NOTES: Weights Released for Grade II New Orleans 'Cap; Grade II Mervin Muniz 'Cap Remains Fluid Five Days Before Draw

Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice, hero of last spring’s Belmont Stakes as the final jewel of racing’s 2013 Triple Crown, has been assigned the top impost of 121 pounds for next Saturday’s 90th running of the Grade II New Orleans Handicap on Louisiana Derby Day at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Weights for the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap, Fair Grounds’ showcase race of the season for older horses on the main track, were released Thursday.  The nine-furlong test, along with the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies and the $400,000 Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap for older horses to be contested at about 1 1/8-miles over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, is one of three Grade II races that will accompany the 101st running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby, annually the centerpiece of the winter racing season in the Crescent City.

Three stakes races restricted to accredited Louisiana-breds – the $75,000 Crescent City Derby, the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks and the $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace Stakes will also be run on Fair Grounds’ 2014 Louisiana Derby Day March 29 program.

Palace Malice, a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin trained by five-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Todd Pletcher, finished seventh in last season’s Louisiana Derby and 12th in the 2013 Kentucky Derby before reaching mental maturity.  Following his Belmont Stakes score, however,the Kentucky-bred colt won Saratoga’s Grade II Jim Dandy, was beaten less than a length for the win when fourth in that upstate New York oval’s Grade I Travers and was the runner-up in Belmont’s Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup.

In his lone start this season as a 4-year-old, Palace Malice returned to competition to win South Florida’s Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 8.

Next in the weights for the New Orleans Handicap among those expected to start are Joseph Sutton’s Bradester and WinStar Farm’s Revolutionary, both assigned 117 pounds.

Bradester, trained by Eddie Kenneally, won Fair Grounds’ Grade III Mineshaft Handicap Feb. 22 as the final designed prep for the New Orleans Handicap, while Revolutionary, another Todd Pletcher trainee, won last season’s Louisiana Derby and finished third in the Kentucky Derby before returning this season with a win in an allowance and optional $100,000 claiming event on Jan. 11. He most recently finished seventh in Gulfstream’s Grade I Donn Handicap Feb. 9 after breaking tardily and racing wide.

Fox Hill Farms’ Normandy Invasion, trained by Chad Brown, Jim Tafel’s Fordubai, conditioned by Greg Geier, and Gallant Stable’s Majestic Harbor, trained by Sean McCarthy, are all expected to start in the New Orleans Handicap and are all assigned 115 pounds.

Normandy Invasion, fifth beaten a length and a half for the win in last year’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, bypassed last year’s $1 million Louisiana Derby in favor of a start in Aqueduct’s Grade I Wood Memorial in early April, where he finished second by three-quarters of a length after being bumped just after the start.  A subsequent start in the Kentucky Derby, where he was once again forced to steady, resulted in a fourth-place finish when beaten less than four lengths at the wire.  After being taken out of training following the Run for the Roses, Normandy Invasion returned to competition at Gulfstream Park Feb. 22 and galloped home 7 ¾-lengths in front of his nearest rival.  The New Orleans ‘Cap will be his second start of the season.

Fordubai finished third in the Mineshaft but won Fair Grounds’ $100,000 Louisiana Handicap before that on Jan. 18, while Majestic Harbor was most recently fourth in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Antonio Feb. 8.

Lothenbach Stables’ Mister Marti Gras, conditioned by Neil Pessin and assigned 114 pounds, was ninth in the Mineshaft in his first start of the year but runner-up in the Grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup last fall, while Charles Fipke’s Golden Soul, expected to make his 2014 debut in the New Orleans ‘Cap, gets in lightest of all with 114 pounds despite finishing second in last year’s Kentucky Derby and fourth in last year’s Louisiana Derby.

GRADE II MERVIN MUNIZ MEMORIAL ‘CAP REMAINS FLUID FIVE DAYS BEFORE DRAW —The 22nd running of the Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap over the Stall-Wilson turf course as thepremier grass race of the seasonat Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots remained in an unusually fluid state five days before Wednesday’s draw for all the Louisiana Derby Day races

Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Real Solution, adjudged winner of last summer’s Grade I Arlington Million, Maribel Ruelas’ Potomac River, winner of the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap as the final designed prep for the Muniz Memorial Feb. 22, and Calumet Farm’s Skyring, who finished a nose behind Potomac River in that prep, are the most frequently mentioned probable contestants at this time.