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Stakes Advance: Mervin H. Muniz

Michael Dubb, Sheep Pond Partners and Bethlehem Stables’ Chad Brown-trained Slumber, a multiple graded stakes-placed son of Cacique, headlines Saturday’s Grade II $300,000 Mervin H. Muniz, Jr. Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Scheduled to be run at 1 1/8 miles on the Stall-Wilson turf course, the Muniz is the eighth race on a 14-race card and is the first leg of an All Stakes Pick Four wager that also includes the Fair Grounds Oaks, the New Orleans Handicap and the Louisiana Derby.

Exiting a sleepy effort going 1½ miles in the Grade III W. L. McKnight Handicap in December, Slumber woke up last out in the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap at Gulfstream Park when missing by a nose at the Muniz’s nine-furlong trip to Mshawish, who will run Saturday in the Group I $6,000,000 Dubai Turf at Meydan. Alan Garcia will partner with the four-time winner for the first time from post two.

Among the many capable challengers is Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Coalport, a homebred son of Kitten’s Joy seeking his fourth consecutive win. Grade III-placed in his second career start in the Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland in 2011, Coalport captured his first graded stakes event last out when proving a commanding 3¼-length winner of the Grade III John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes at Sam Houston. Trained by Mike Maker, the reliable nine-time winner will be ridden again by Miguel Mena from the outside post seven.

John Wentworth’s Chocolate Ride, a course and distance winner in February’s Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap, will attempt to continue his upward trajectory after successfully making the jump into graded stakes company last out. Trained by Brad Cox, the son of Candy Ride was claimed for $40,000 four starts prior to his Fair Grounds Handicap tally and will be ridden from the rail by Louisiana native Joe Talamo.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out Let’s Go Stable’s Divine Oath, a three-time Grade III winner, from his Florida base. Last seen finishing fifth behind Eclipse Award winner Main Sequence in Gulfstream Park’s Grade II Mac Diarmida, the son of Broken Vow has company lines that include multiple Breeders’ Cup winners and Group I Cox Plate winner Adelaide. Florent Geroux has the mount from post four.

The remainder of the Muniz field is comprised of Two Dimes Stables’ track record-setter Paroled (Brian Hernandez, Jr., post three), Gary and Mary West’s Grade III-placed Highball (James Graham, post five), and Maribel Ruelas’ multiple Grade III winner Potomac River (Juan Vargas, post six).