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Stakes Advance: Black Gold Stakes

Ten talented sophomores have drawn into what appears to be a slick renewal of the $60,000 Black Gold Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots this Saturday, Feb. 28.  Led by graded stakes winner Lucky Player from the powerful Steve Asmussen stable, the 58th running is scheduled to be contested over 7½ grassy furlongs for sophomores and could possibly provide added fuel to what looks to be an already solid cast assembling for the Grade II $750,000 Louisiana Derby on Mar. 28.

            Jerry Durant’s Lucky Player won the Grade III $100,000 Iroquois Stakes on Sept. 6 at Churchill Downs, but has yet to show the same spark since in four subsequent off-the-board finishes, including an eighth-place finish in last year’s Grade I $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.  The son of Lookin At Lucky kicked off his 3-year-old season with another uninspiring eighth in the Listed $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 19.  Lucky Player will make his turf debut in the Black Gold and is slated to carry Robby Albarado from the outside post 10.

            Another Black Gold entrant making his turf debut and with plenty of stakes back-class is Holmark Stables IV’s Bourbon Cowboy.  By turf miler Cowboy Cal, the Richie Scherer trainee comes into this event with a win in a rained-off 5½ furlong sprint on Jan. 23.  Prior to that, the bay colt was second in the $50,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes, in addition to game showings in two other stakes as a juvenile.  Proven versatile on both dirt and synthetic so far in his career, the Kentucky-bred will attempt to add a third surface to his resume when he breaks from the six-post under Miguel Mena. 

            Two horses with proven turf prowess who must be respected as they search for their first stakes wins are Rigney Racing’s Phil Bauer-trained Another Lemon Drop and Get Away Farm’s Mike Maker-trained Two Step Temper.  The former, a sleek dark bay son of Lemon Drop Kid, was under consideration for the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes last Saturday after his fourth-place finish in the Grade II $200,000 Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 17, but chose this race instead.  A winner over the main course on Dec. 19 and a turf winner to break his maiden at Keeneland on Oct. 24, the versatile Another Lemon Drop could return to the dirt for the Louisiana Derby with a good performance here.  James Graham rides for the first time from post nine.

            Two Step Temper, by Two Step Salsa, returns to what seems to be his preferred trip after finishing a distant second to The Great War last out in the $75,000 96Rock Stakes at Turfway Park over 6½ Polytrack furlongs.  In his three previous races, including a victory over the Black Gold’s distance at Gulfstream Park West in his Nov. 8 debut, the Florida-bred ran solely in two-turn turf races – including a  troubled eighth-place finish in the $75,000 Pulpit Stakes over that same course three weeks later.  Francisco Torres picks up the mount and breaks from the rail.

            The remainder of the Black Gold Stakes field is completed by Dekabrist (Antioco Murgia, post two), Tuba (Jose Riquelme, post three), Reality (Roberto Morales, post four), Fly Friendly Sky (Florent Geroux, post five), Fusaichi Flame (Kerwin Clark, post seven) and Bagration (Chris Rosier, post eight).