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Barn Notes: Thursday, February 5

@AdolphsonRacing


IN TODAY'S NOTES:
*NORMANDY INVASION RETURNS TO TRAINING
*POSITIVE SIDE NEAR SEASONAL DEBUT
*FOUR GRADED STAKES WINNERS IN SALTY SATURDAY ALLOWANCE
*DIVINE DAWN RETURNS SUNDAY IN POSSIBLE LACOMBE PREP


                                          
NORMANDY INVASION RETURNS TO TRAINING


Fox Hill Farm’s Normandy Invasion has returned to training under the tutelage of the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ second-leading trainer Larry Jones at his New Orleans oval shedrow.  Arriving Jan. 29, the son of Tapit who was previously trained by Chad Brown has settled well into his new surroundings and has recovered well from fracturing a right sesamoid last October. 

“If Normandy Invasion can hold up and (Dr. Larry) Bramlage (who performed the surgery and oversaw the rehabilitation of the 5-year-old horse) thinks he has a good chance, he could have a very good year,” said Fox Hill Farm principal Rick Porter.  “He is probably as good or better than any horse I’ve ever had other than (2011 Horse of the Year and Champion Older Filly or Mare) Havre de Grace.  If he can stay sound, he’s going to make a lot of noise.”

While under the supervision of Brown, the Kentucky-bred bay ran nine times for a record of 2-3-0 and earnings of $504,390, including a driving second to Verrazano in the Grade I $1,000,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in April 2013, a good fourth in the Grade I $2,000,000 Kentucky Derby after taking a brief lead in early stretch and a track record-setting mile win at Gulfstream Park in his 4-year-old debut in Feb. 2014 – all in succession.  As a juvenile, he first made his presence known with a sharp 9¼-length maiden win over a mile at Aqueduct, followed by a heartbreaking nose loss to Overanalyze in the Grade II $250,000 Remsen Stakes.

Normandy Invasion has twice started at Fair Grounds.  He finished fifth in the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes in Feb. 2013 and second behind Eclipse Award finalist for Champion Older Horse Palice Malice in last year’s Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap – both as the public’s wagering favorite. 


POSITIVE SIDE NEARS SEASONAL DEBUT

Team Forster 131’s Positive Side has been training well toward his 7-year-old seasonal debut for conditioner Grant Forster at his Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots winter base.  The son of Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Johar has become a different animal since finding his niche has a turf sprinter, including four stakes-placings – two of those in graded events.  In his lone Fair Grounds try, he was a driving second to Gantry in the $60,000 Col. Power Stakes last March. 

“He’s doing really well,” Forster said.  “We gave him a little break down in Florida at the farm and he’s done great since. There should hopefully be a three-other-than allowance going five and a half on the grass on the 26th (of February) that we will point for.”

Last year, the gelded chestnut was without a victory, but finished a close second in the Grade III $100,000 Shakertown Stakes at Keeneland and third in the Grade III $150,000 Turf Sprint Stakes at Churchill Downs immediately following his aforementioned Col. Power performance.  He would also go on to finish a good second to Arlington International Racecourse  specialist Saint Leon in the Listed $75,000 Arlington Sprint in July. 

Positive Side’s 2014 form was substantiated in the Grade I $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint when two horses who beat him – the Wesley Ward-trained duo of No Nay Never and Undrafted – finished second and third in a tight photo-finish for the win in that championship event.  The Kentucky-bred was last seen finishing a disappointing eighth in the Grade III $150,000 Woodford Stakes at Keeneland behind No Nay Never.

“He’s always run so well at Keeneland, but came out of the (Woodford) last fall with a little tweak in his back that explains his race,” Forster said.  “(The Shakertown) is our goal after we get a race in him here.”



FOUR GRADED STAKES WINNERS IN SALTY SATURDAY ALLOWANCE

Saturday’s featured allowance at a mile on the grass for older horses has produced a solid field of 13 – with two main track only entrants – including four graded stakes winners.  Despite the aforementioned quartet, the 4-1 morning line favorite is Al and Bill Ulwelling’s Gary Scherer-trained Beyond Compare. 

Unlike his graded stakes-winning competition who need to return to form, Beyond Compare is sharp in three local starts this Fair Grounds season, including two victories.  The son of Tapit exits a second at this level Jan. 9 to the improving Dallas Stewart trainee Knights Nation and gets the return call from Francisco Torres from the three-hole. 

Directly to his inside and with every right to improve is Team Valor International’s Infinite Magic.  A graded stakes winner at three in the Grade III $200,000 American Derby at Arlington International Racecourse, the Wayne Catalano trainee outran his 25-1 odds to finish a game fourth in the Grade III $100,000 Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap on Jan. 17 behind String King – despite the ‘good’ ground being slightly softer than he would prefer.  That being said, the son of More Than Ready prefers rock-hard ground that he may not receive two days after Wednesday rain forced Thursday’s card off the turf.  Marcelino Pedroza picks up the ride on the 8-1 morning line shot.

Fellow Catalano trainee Solitary Ranger has been burning up the track in the mornings as he looks to make his 4-year-old debut, including a bullet half-mile move in a swift :47 flat on Monday.  The son of U S Ranger won the Grade III $150,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity over Arlington’s Polytrack surface in Sept. 2013 and owns a win in his lone Fair Grounds start – going wire-to-wire in a mile turf race in Jan. 2014.  Last seen finishing a dull eighth in the $67,000 Straight Line Stakes on Arlington Million Day, the 10-1 morning line shot and two-time stakes winner will look to return to form after finishing out of the money in four of his last five.  Willie Martinez picks up the ride from post five. 

Maggi Moss’ 7-year-old multiple graded stakes winner Grand Contender was assigned a morning line of 9-2 and post seven under meet-leading rider James Graham for meet-leading conditioner Tom Amoss.  The earner of over $617,110 has never raced on the grass and is presumably entered in case the race comes off the turf, just as he was in the $50,000 Diliberto Memorial in Dec. – a race he easily won wire-to-wire in the slop.

Perhaps the most intriguing member of the field is Richard L. Duchossois’ General Election.  A two-time graded stakes winner on the lawn, the son of Harlan’s Holiday was purchased for $450,000 at Keeneland’s November sale in 2013, but has only raced twice since – finishing off the board in both events.  Trained by Neil Pessin, he has not been seen since finishing sixth – beaten less than three lengths – in a conditioned allowance on July 11 at Arlington.  Florent Geroux gets the return call on the four-time winner in 12 starts from post 10.  He has been assigned 12-1 morning-line odds. 

The remainder of the field is flush with quality, including minor stakes winner Alamo Heights, graded stakes-placed stalwarts Adios Nardo and All Stormy, multiple stakes-placed Shining Copper and quality allowance charges Paroled and Geothermal.  Cougar Ridge and Afford were entered for the main track only.


DIVINE DAWN RETURNS SUNDAY IN POSSIBLE LACOMBE PREP

Tommy Ligon and Michael Pressley’s promising Larry Jones-trained sophomore filly Divine Dawn returns on Sunday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in a conditioned allowance that looks very much like a prep for the $60,000 Allen Lacombe Memorial on Mar. 7 over the same 7½ grassy furlongs. 

Fresh out of a fifth-place finish in a salty renewal of the Listed $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes behind stablemate I’m a Chatterbox, the daughter of Divine Park (and granddaughter of turf-loving Arlington Million winner Chester House) will return to the surface over which she impressively won a Dec. 11 allowance over Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ next-out winner Bossy. 

A winner of two of her three lifetime starts, Divine Dawn’s main competition could come from her own barn in the form of fellow Jones trainee White Clover.  By Exchange Rate, the Calumet Farm-owned filly has every right to enjoy turf in what will be her initial attempt over the surface.  She exits a good second to highly regarded Al Stall, Jr. trainee Harbour Island in a six-furlong main track allowance on just 15 days’ rest and was a super-impressive 5¼-length winner of her maiden going 5½ furlongs on the main track on Dec. 28.

Dede McGehee’s Eufaula is one of two entrants from the potent barn of Joe Sharp.  Third in the same Dec. 11 allowance as Divine Dawn, the daughter of Mutakddim defeated males just 11 days prior in a claiming event over a grassy mile.  Though Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch’s Sharp trainee Tachiello has a lone victory over a sealed sloppy surface to her credit, she could loom a danger and – being a daughter of Colonel John – be tough on the turf.

Impressive Fair Grounds turf maiden winners Flor de La Luna, Mizz Money and Save Our Oceans must garner respect based on their sharp last-out performances.  Guessed Right and Queen’s Ready round out the field of nine.