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BARN NOTES: January 7, 2016

  • ·        I’m a Chatterbox, Runhappy Among Eclipse Finalists
  • ·        Twirl Girl Gets Her Turf Chance
  • ·        Bourgeois Barn Quietly Burgeoning
  • ·        Sharp May Have Two for Bradley
  • ·        Work Tab



Fletcher and Carolyn Gray’s Larry Jones-trained I’m a Chatterbox (above) and James McIngvale’s Laura Wohlers-trained Runhappy, as well as meet-leading owners in purses-earned Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey are among the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots 2014-15 meet alums to be named Eclipse Award finalists. The Eclipse Award ceremony will be held on Jan. 16 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

I’m a Chatterbox, the co-Horse of the Meet and champion 3-year-old filly finalist, swept all three of her Fair Grounds starts in grand style for her connections, encompassing the trio of top sophomore filly stakes, capped by the Grade II $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks. She also would go on to win the Grade I $1,000,000 Cotillion at Parx, while finishing second in the Grade I $600,000 Alabama Stakes, getting demoted to runner-up from first in the Grade I $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks and rallying for third in the Grade I $1,000,000 Kentucky Oaks. All in all, she was the leading U.S.-based sophomore filly in earnings ($1,256,000 from a record of 8-4-2-1) and was the lone filly of her generation to have defeated all of the remaining Grade I-winning (two-turn, main track) 3-year-old fillies during the season.

Runhappy made his seasonal and sophomore debut in the Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 17, finishing a lackluster ninth of 11 after setting the early pace in what was his first start against winners after taking his debut three weeks prior at Turfway Park. The son of Super Saver won the remaining six races of the season – including the Grade I $500,000 King’s Bishop at Saratoga, Grade I $1,500,000 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland and Grade I $300,000 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita. His accomplishments have likely secured him the title as champion sprinter, while also garnering him nominations for top 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year, which are both expected to be awarded to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey are on the ballots for both champion breeder and owner and enjoyed a profitable 2014-15 Fair Grounds meet, including leading all owners for the second consecutive year in purses-earned. Powered by International Star’s sweep of all three sophomore graded stakes – topped by a second-consecutive victory in the Grade II $750,000 Louisiana Derby for the Ramseys – the Nicholasville, Kentucky-based owners more than doubled their rivals with $1,051,250 in meet earnings. From 34 starters, they won seven races, while hitting the board an impressive 65% of the time.

Also on the ballot for champion owner is Midwest Thoroughbreds, which won four races from 27 starts at the 2014-15 meet as part of its expansive operation, while hitting the board 56% of the time. Midwest has increased its presence at the 2015-16 meet, including stabling champion turf horse finalist The Pizza Man at the New Orleans oval among trainer Roger Brueggemann’s first locally based winter string.



If mother nature, El Niño and the racing gods deign it to remain on the Stall-Wilson turf course, Friday’s sixth race at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots offers a complex and intriguing field of sophomore fillies in first-level allowance/optional claiming company at one mile. One trainer who is keen to find out what his pupil can do on the grass is Joe Sharp, who conditions Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch’s Twirl Girl. By multi-surface specialist Twirling Candy out of a mare by turf-friendly sire Harlan’s Holiday, it would not be a surprise to see the stakes-placed dark bay filly relish the new footing.

“I thought about running her in the (Listed $150,000) Silverbulletday (Stakes on Jan. 16), but I’m running (Friday) instead,” Sharp said. “She’s been good to us and never been worse than second and with her pedigree and action, I’ve been itching to get her on the grass. This time of year everyone wants a 3-year-old dirt filly, but I want to see her on the grass and the timing is right. There’s always the option of going back and making money on the dirt.”

Last out, Twirl Girl made her first start around two turns when second to Hugh Robertson’s possible Silverbulletday favorite Lovable Lyss in a Fair Grounds mile and 70-yard main track allowance. One race prior, she was a game second in the $100,000 Smart Halo Stakes at Laurel Park going six furlongs. Overall, the $14,500 bargain Fasig-Tipton purchase has earned nearly $70,000 with a record of 4-1-3-0.

Also entered in the allowance and expected to supported at the windows is Claiborne Farm’s homebred Arch filly Lope, from the barn of Al Stall, Jr. The dark bay filly was an unlucky third last out to Thad Ackel’s stakes-bound Lou on Dec. 6 when unable to find racing room in upper stretch.

Four stakes alums – including TNT Thoroughbreds’ last-out restricted stakes winner Silver Lode and Charles Bradley Douglas’ stakes-placed Easter Ellie – spice up what could be a meaningful trial, while William S. Farish’s sharp dirt maiden winner Banner Waving is entered as a main-track-only competitor. Sharp has also entered turf maiden winner Merry Memories, who was the less-heralded of two when winning her debut at this trip on Nov. 27 at 7-1.



During the course of the 2014-15 Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots meet, veteran conditioner Keith Bourgeois was winless from 10 races, while garnering a single on-the-board finish – earning $12,295. This year, after quietly setting up shop in Barn 2 at the New Orleans oval – in lieu of an entire string based at Delta Downs – the native of Church Point, Louisiana already has 10 wins and nearly $170,000 in earnings.

Seven weeks into a 19-week meet, the candid yet cordial trainer who won his first race on Oct. 22, 1986 at Jefferson Downs, is tied for fifth in wins, while striking at a stellar 29%. His victories include a victory in the $50,000 Louisiana Champions Day Starter Stakes with Hardy Racing Stables’ stalwart Watch My Smoke (above).

“This summer we got stuck with some bad horses and bad luck, so I said ‘I’m going to go to Fair Grounds’ and I knew it could change my luck if I came,” Bourgeois said. “Sometimes you just have to switch out horses and make a change. So, I called (racing secretary) Jason (Boulet) said I needed some stalls and then claimed a few in Kentucky at Keeneland before the meet.

“I just try to claim horses a lot, as most of my clientele is claiming people, and basically try to run back and win in the same spot or better,” he continued. “What I look for is a horse with back-class. Like Watch My Smoke – he’s a horse who still wants to run, especially after he got a year vacation because of legal paperwork. They might not be as good as they once were, but they have a lot of run left in them. We just try to get the right horses and make those horses happy and once you do that they can get that form back.”

Claiming and improving horses the old-fashioned way is nothing new to Bourgeois. More than a decade ago, he claimed a physically appealing son of Saint Ballado named Drill Hall for $15,000 at Delta Downs and went on to win multiple stakes. Other pupils of note are multiple stakes winner Oak Hall, a graded stakes-performing earner of $635,067, and the talented duo of Folsom Belle and Poison Princess, two daughters of Malagra who won each division of a split Louisiana Futurity for fillies in 1994.

“Drill Hall was a very talented horse and might have been the best I’ve had,” Bourgeois reflected. “I claimed him for just $15,000 and he cost a million dollars as a yearling when Taylor Made sold him. He didn’t pan out for them, but when I got him he won a couple stakes and broke a couple track records.”

Bourgeois hopes to continue shake things up in all the right ways after the Fair Grounds meet. The 53-year-old plans to revamp his operation and run two divisions this spring and summer, including one in Kentucky.

“The plan is to keep a string at Evangeline (Downs) here and then also send one up to Kentucky,” he said. “My son is 22 now and that helps a lot, as well, with having a couple strings. I really like the idea of being up there and I think we can compete.”



Trainer Joe Sharp has confirmed that he is considering two well-bred and recently claimed geldings – Robert Persons and Earl Sanderson’s Blarp and Carl Moore Management and Brad Grady’s Freestyler – for the Grade III $125,000 Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap on Jan. 16.

“I breezed (Freestyler on Sunday morning) myself and he went well and he could run on either the dirt or the turf,” Sharp said. “Blarp is probable for (the Bradley) and is doing very well right now.”

Claimed three starts back for $62,500, Freestyler – a gelded son of Street Cry out of a full-sister to Canadian Triple Crown winner and Eclipse Award champion 3-year-old filly Dance Smartly –was a game second last out in the $60,000 Tenacious Stakes going a mile and 70 yards on the main track. Winless in two grass attempts, the 6-year-old 10-time winner from 27 starts was third last year in the Grade II $200,000 Monmouth Cup going 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. His other option on Jan. 16 is the $75,000 Louisiana Stakes at the same distance, which is expected to draw his Tenacious conqueror, William S. Farish’s Eagle.

Blarp, a good-looking 5-year-old son of War Front, exits a three-quarter-length defeat in the $60,000 Diliberto Memorial on Dec. 19. Stepping up from a first-level allowance victory, the bay gelding has displayed steady improvement since being claimed by Sharp at Saratoga in August for $35,000.



Speedway Stable’s 2013 Canadian champion Leigh Court, unraced since finishing last in her defense of the Grade II $250,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 3, returned to the local work tab for trainer Mike Stidham, working a half-mile in 49.80.

Charles C. Smith’s homebred fan favorite String King put in his final major work prior to his defense of the Grade III $125,000 Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap on Jan. 16, working half-mile in 49.60.

Grade I winner Majestic Harbor – graded stakes-placed in his last three starts at distances ranging from 1¼ miles to 1¾ miles – worked five furlongs in 1:04 flat for trainer Paul McGee and owner Gallant Stable.

Listed $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes possibles Midnight On Oconee and More Than Most each put in moves on Monday morning for their connections. Cottwonwood Stable’s local allowance winner and last-out fourth in Remington Park’s $100,000 Trapeze Stakes Midnight On Oconee worked a bullet half-mile in 48 flat for trainer Larry Jones. Douglas Scharbauer’s More Than Most, a winner last out of Retama Park’s Listed $75,000 La Senorita Stakes, worked six furlongs in 1:14.60 for Bret Calhoun.

William S. Farish’s homebred Eagle, who is likely to go favored in next weekend’s $75,000 Louisiana Stakes, worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 for trainer Neil Howard on Monday morning.

Gayle Benson’s Mo Tom, third last out in the Grade II $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club and a possible for next Saturday’s Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes, worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.20 on Monday morning for trainer Tom Amoss.

Control Stake, winner last out of the $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap on Nov. 26, returned to the tab for the first time in four weeks for trainer Tom Amoss and owner Maggi Moss, working a half-mile in 49 flat.

Three-time stakes winner Jessica’s Star returned to the tab for the first time since June for trainer Mike Stidham and owner Mark Breen, working three furlongs in 36.80 on Thursday morning.


-Michael Adolphson | Media Specialist, Senior Writer