Home of the Louisiana Derby

Barn Notes: March 22


*Stanford Likely for Louisiana Derby
*Lukas Drops Blinkers, Expects Big Effort from Mr. Z
*All Systems Go for Keen Ice
*Mystery Train Arrives for New Orleans Handicap
*Indycott Probable for New Orleans Handicap
*Call Me George Works, Headed to New Orleans Handicap
*Danette Probable for Fair Grounds Oaks



According to racing officials, Stanford is likely to represent the powerful stable of three-time Louisiana Derby winner Todd Pletcher in the 102nd running of Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ marquee event next Saturday, Mar. 28. 

At 1 1/8 miles, the Grade II $750,000 event will be the second time in a row that the $550,000 Barretts March 2014 grad has raced at said distance.  Last out, the bay WinStar Farm-bred colt stepped up from six-furlong allowance company and was second under the wire to stablemate and Florida Derby-bound Materiality in the $60,000 Islamorada Stakes by 5¾ lengths.  He was later disqualified to sixth for veering out sharply when turning into the backstretch.

Stanford, owned by a partnership of Stonestreet Farm and the principals of the international powerhouse Coolmore (Magnier, Tabor and Smith), put in his final work for the Louisiana Derby on Saturday morning.  At Palm Beach Downs, the two-time winner worked a bullet half-mile in :48 flat – best of 30 moves at the distance.


Zayat Stables’ Mr. Z invades New Orleans for Saturday’s Grade II $750,000 Louisiana Derby and the consistent 10-time starter will lose the blinkers in the process.  Racing his previous five races with said equipment – including four graded stakes placings – the son of Malibu Moon will shed them for Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ marquee event.  Kent Desormeaux is expected to be in the saddle.

“I think he’ll be more relaxed this time,” trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.  “I took the blinkers off for this one and he’s been training without them and that’s helped.  He will probably still be forwardly placed.

“We’re coming in on Wednesday and that’ll give him a couple days to school in the paddock and the usual,” Lukas continued.  “We’re looking forward to being there.  We’re going to work him on Tuesday before we leave Oaklawn.  Just a little maintenance work.”

Last out, in the Grade III $300,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 22, the chestnut $135,000 Fasig-Tipton October 2013 purchase was a game third over the sloppy and sealed going.  Said effort was the 10th in a career that has been impressive in its consistency, while earning $544,726. 

Out of a half-sister to multi-national champion and Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Chief Bearhart, he has lived up to his impressive pedigree with six graded stakes placings, including two Grade I events.  Mr. Z’s best performance was arguably his third-place effort – beaten a head – in the Grade I $500,000 Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 20 behind one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby, Dortmund.  Said race was contested over Los Alamitos’ extended thoroughbred course, which has a daunting home stretch (1,350 feet) comparable to that of Fair Grounds (1,346 feet).

“I think he’ll do fine at the Fair Grounds,” Lukas said.  “He’s probably the most seasoned horse in the field and he deserves to get one of these sooner or later.  There’s one in his future, that’s for sure.”


According to trainer Dale Romans, Donegal Racing’s Keen Ice has exited his final work well and will be at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots this week to take on his fellow sophomores in the Grade II $750,000 Louisiana Derby.  On Friday morning, the stretch-running Glencrest Farm-bred charge worked five furlongs in 1:02 flat at Gulfstream Park – good for ninth-best of 25 moves at the distance.

Last out, the son of Curlin out of a half-sister to talented Grade I-placed miler Coal Play was third by less than three lengths to International Star in the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes at the New Orleans oval on Feb. 21.  Leading local rider James Graham, who was aboard for the first time that day, is once again expected to ride.


Jed Cohen’s two-time Group I-winning Argentina-bred Mystery Train has arrived for his second tilt at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for trainer Darrell Vienna.  Expected to be entered in the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap, the son of Not For Sale returned to form after three failed American attempts when a game second after setting a strong pace in the Grade III $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap on Feb. 21 – the local prep for the New Orleans. 

The first major arrival for what is expected to be a graded stakes-heavy Saturday card spattered with ship-ins from California, Florida and Kentucky, Mystery Train got in from his Santa Anita base late Friday and took up residence in the barn of Mike Stidham, as he did prior to his Mineshaft effort.  The dark bay eight-time victor is scheduled to work over the Fair Grounds main track on Monday morning at 8:45 a.m., according to Vienna.

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ leading owner Maggi Moss will try to end the meet on a high note on Saturday, Mar. 28, as she has listed recent acquisition Indycott as probable for the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap.  Claimed two races back by trainer Tom Amoss for the multiple title-holding owner, the 5-year-old gelded son of A. P. Indy did not gather any moss for Moss, as he rolled back two weeks later to win a second-level allowance by an easy 1¾ lengths at the New Orleans oval.

“We’re leaning toward running,” Moss said.  “It’s up to Tom.  He’s bred to be a good horse and is a nice, big animal.  We’ll do what’s right by the horse.”

Out of multiple stakes-placed Seeking the Gold mare Seeking the Heart, Indycott is a genetic three-quarter brother to stallion Olmodavor, who was second in the 2003 New Orleans Handicap within a career that earned him two graded stakes victories and $706,540 in purses.  Indycott worked an easy half-mile at Fair Grounds in :50.40 on Sunday morning. 


Clint Joiner, Matthew Bond and Jim Curry’s graded stakes-placed Call Me George will step up once again to the Grade II level when he starts on Saturday, Mar. 28, for trainer Grant Forster in the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap.  Last out, in his 5-year-old debut, the dark bay charge was a game third in the same conditioned allowance heat that is expected to produce fellow New Orleans starter Afford (winner).

“We’re planning to run,” Forster said.   “He just worked an easy five-eighths (Sunday morning) in 1:04 and change.  He’s not a great workhorse.  I expect a big run from him on Saturday.  He was a work or two short for his last race, but with those types of allowance races, you have to run when you can.  I think he’s pretty close to where he was last fall.  We gave him a little break and he’s a horse I think will get better and be at his best in his 5-year-old season.  Hopefully he’ll be rolling at the end.”

Call Me George has progressed nicely since being claimed by Forster for $62,500 at Churchill Downs last May.  In seven starts for the conditioner, he has one win and three thirds, including a charging effort in the Grade II $250,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup, beaten 2¾ lengths by fellow New Orleans probable Red Rifle to close out his 4-year-old season on Nov. 29.       


Trainer Keith Desormeaux may not have been able to make it to the Louisiana Derby with his stable star Texas Red, but that may not stop him from taking a big race on Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ premier day.  The Louisiana native plans to run Don’t Tell My Wife Stable’s maiden Danette in the Grade II $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks on the undercard. 

Like Texas Red, Danette ran a huge race at the 2014 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park.  Unfortunately, while Texas Red swooped around the Juvenile field to victory with his effort, the daughter of Curlin was stuck on the rail hoping to get through and eventually losing the Grade I $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies by a frustrating 1½ lengths under Kent Desormeaux.

Still a maiden despite being Grade I-placed and earning $132,776 in nine starts, the Kentucky-bred is expected to ship in on Tuesday from her Santa Anita base.  She worked an excellent five furlongs :59.20 on Saturday morning at said track – good for sixth-best of 102 works.