Home of the Louisiana Derby

BARN NOTES: January 10, 2016

  • ·        Mena Full of Momentum
  • ·        Despite Post, Destin Deserves Deference
  • ·        Stageplay Ready for Act One of Sophomore Campaign
  • ·        Stakes Horses Inundate Work Tab



Miguel Mena did not let a slow start to the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots 2015-16 meet stifle his focus. The clever and eternally confident 29-year-old native of Lima, Peru, was not exactly starving for victories in the first few weeks, but in comparison to the stellar start to the previous season in which he took an early lead in the standings and ultimately finished in a tie for second at meet’s end – while also winning the meet’s marquee race, the Grade II $750,000 Louisiana Derby – it was not the desired kickoff to his New Orleans tenure. Still, the blunt-yet-buoyant Mena keeps everything in perspective.

“Business has been good, but we definitely have more riders and that makes it hard because it’s more spread out,” Mena said. “Last year I was riding more for different trainers like Joe Sharp when he was pretty hot and that got me going in the lead early. This year it’s getting better and I still have people like Sharp, Wes Hawley, Al Stall and Bret Calhoun and other trainers who have stayed as good supporters. We’ve started picking up.”

In the last 15 race cards prior to Sunday, Jan 10, no Fair Grounds jockey has had more multi-win days. His five doubles have catapulted him from 10th-place in the first week of the meet to fourth-place behind Colby Hernandez, Florent Geroux and Richard Eramia. He now sports a 16% strike rate on the meet and is quickly approaching his 1,600th victory in a career that has seen him face a multitude of injuries – yet still bounce back as good as ever.

“The summer was slow because I was out two months with a broken collarbone,” he explained. “I came back in the middle of Keeneland and then went to Churchill and then got to Fair Grounds to be here early.”

Mena is represented locally, once again, by Richie Price. Unlike in other years, where the two would part ways after the Fair Grounds meet, Price will stay with Mena and venture to Kentucky this spring.

“We get along very well,” Mena said. “I just let him do his job and I take it one day at a time. You can’t think about it too much it because it’s too much stress. He will get me workers in the mornings and if I ride or see something I really like, I let him know, but mostly we both do our jobs and try to win races.”

Being Peruvian, Mena had plenty of jockeys to look up to as he has honed his craft. Top riders Edgar Prado, Jorge Chavez, Alan Garcia, Rafael Bejarano and Jose Valdivia, Jr., all hail from his home country.

“I definitely looked up to Edgar Prado because he’s my countryman and is one of the best riders ever,” Mena said. “His patience is great and he is very good on the grass. I try to be more patient every time I ride and that is key (at Fair Grounds). I like to save ground and feel comfortable on the rail, which can bother other riders, but you always have to be aware of what’s around you and be patient with your horse.

“I try to improve with every single ride and get better in every kind of race – dirt and turf, short and long,” he continued. “You can’t convince every big barn or trainer to ride you, but you hope they notice and eventually give you a chance. All the riders are friends out there, but it’s a competition and once the gates open, you want to win.”

Mena especially looks forward to reuniting with Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s International Star in Saturday’s $75,000 Louisiana Stakes. As a team, the pair is a perfect 3-for-3 in graded stakes, including the aforementioned Louisiana Derby and a sweep of New Orleans’ triad of major Kentucky Derby preps in 2015.



Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Todd Pletcher-trained Destin will ship in from south Florida for next week’s Grade III $200,000 TwinSpires.com Lecomte Stakes and is giving his connections signals that he could be one to watch as he develops. A $400,000 Keeneland September 2014-purchased son of Giant’s Causeway out of Grade I-winning mare Dream of Summer, Destin enters with just two races under his belt, drew the 13-hole and will wear blinkers for the first time for trainer Todd Pletcher.

“We were very pleased with his first effort,” said Randy Gullatt, racing manager for Twin Creeks. “In his second effort he seemed to be looking around more than he was running, so we decided to put blinkers on him and his last two works have been very good with them. We were leaning toward scratching with the 13-hole, but we want to see how he’ll perform at the Fair Grounds.”

In his victorious debut on Oct. 11 at Belmont Park, the gray colt earned a 79 Beyer Speed Figure while running the seven furlongs in 1:23.40. The full-brother to Grade I winner and classic-placed Creative Cause returned more than two months later at Gulfstream Park going a mile against winners and finished a game second, beaten 1¼ lengths.

“He’s always been a quirky kind of horse and is his own man,” Gullatt said. “Some days he wants to run and some days he wants to goof off. Hopefully the 13 doesn’t kill us too badly. That’s really my only worry.

“(High-priced sale purchases) don’t always work out, but I’ve been doing this a long time and we’ve been fortunate enough to have some nice ones,” he concluded. “Hopefully we get to see something special on Saturday. I think we’ll see a better horse.”


Mike G. Rutherford’s Stageplay concluded her preparation for Saturday’s Listed $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes with a five-furlong move in 1:02.40 for trainer Steve Asmussen. The good-looking gray filly drew the outside post eight in the first major stakes for sophomore fillies at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots and is showing signs that she deserves her 8-5 morning-line favoritism.

In three starts, the homebred impressively took a Keeneland debut at 6½ furlongs on Oct. 10 – earning an 88 Beyer Speed Figure – returned three weeks later to take the $84,000 Rags To Riches Stakes at Churchill Downs going a mile and then finished a respectable runner up in the Grade II $200,000 Golden Rod at that same course over a sloppy and sealed course on Nov. 28. Sunday’s move followed an eye-catching work a week prior in tandem with stablemate Royal Obsession, where the duo completed five panels in 1:01.20 for co-bullets of 85. Florent Geroux, who will ride her for the first time in a race in the Silverbulletday, was aboard for the Jan. 3 move.

“She’s been very impressive ever since she came in and is very good right now,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “I feel confident running her. The eight(-hole) shouldn’t be a problem, as she’s very handy.”

A daughter of Curlin, whom Asmussen trained to two Horse of the Year titles at ages three and four, Stageplay is a half-sister to Mylute, who was a smart second in the Grade II $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby, third in the Grade I $1,500,000 Preakness Stakes and game fifth in the Grade I $2,000,000 Kentucky Derby in 2013. She is also a half-sister to swift Grade III winner She Digs Me.

“I feel very good about her future with how much she’s shown already,” Asmussen said. “(Curlin offspring) seem to get better as they get older, like he did.”



Recent Grade III winner Forever Unbridled worked five furlongs in a strong 1:01.40 for breeder-owner Charles Fipke and trainer Dallas Stewart.

Stonestreet Stables’ high-profile sophomore filly Royal Obsession worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Lothenbach Stables’ multiple stakes winner Eden Prairie worked a half-mile in 51.60 for trainer Neil Pessin.

West Point Thoroughbreds’ Commanding Curve, who was last seen finishing seventh in the Grade I $600,000 Woodward on Sept. 5 at Saratoga, worked five furlongs in 1:02 flat for trainer Dallas Stewart.

Workers entered in the following Jan. 16 stakes put in drills:

Grade III $200,000 TwinSpires.com Lecomte Stakes

-         Dolphus, 4f in 50.80 for Dede McGehee and trainer Joe Sharp

-         Mending Fences, 4f in 49.60 for Dennis Foster and trainer/co-owner Danny Pish

-         Noble Thought, 4f in 49.40 for Pin Oak Stud and trainer Mike Stidham

-         Battle Tap, 5f in 1:02.40 for Winchell Thoroughbreds and trainer Steve Asmussen

-         Indygo Breeze, 5f in 1:03.60 for owner-trainer John Haran

-         Tom’s Ready, 5f in 1:03 flat for GMB Racing and trainer Dallas Stewart

-         Tarpon Bay Road, 5f in 1:02.40 for Tom R. Walters and trainer James Baker


Grade III $125,000 Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap

-         Blarp, 4f in 49.60 for Robert Persons & Earl Conrad Sanderson, Jr., and trainer Joe Sharp

-         Chocolate Ride, 4f in 48.60 for Wenthworth Brochu and trainer Brad Cox

-         Flashlight, 5f in 1:02.20 for Michael Hui and trainer Mike Maker

-         Pumpkin Rumble, 5f in 1:03.80 for Al & Bill Ulwelling and trainer Gary Scherer

-         Potomac River, five furlongs in 1:04.60 for Maribel Ruelas and trainer Jeff Engler


Listed $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes

-         Banner Waving, 6f in 1:18.60 for William S. Farish and trainer Neil Howard

-         More Than Most, 4f in 49.40 for Douglas Scharbauer and trainer Bret Calhoun

-         Stageplay, 5f in 1:02.40 for Mike G. Rutherford and trainer Steve Asmussen


$75,000 Louisiana Stakes

-         Freestyler, 4f in 51.60 for Carl R. Moore Management & Brad Grady and trainer Joe Sharp

-         Majestic Harbor, 5f in 1:00.80 (bullet of 82) for Gallant Stable and trainer Paul McGee

-         Ride on Curlin, 5f in 1:02.80 for Daniel Dougherty and trainer Billy Gowan


$60,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial

-         Magnificent Margo, 3f in 37.60 for Jeff Drown and trainer Joe Sharp

-         Fila Primera, 4f in 50 flat for Cobra Farm & Gary Vandeweghe and trainer Mike Stidham

-         Treaty Oak, 4f in 49.20 for Columbine Stable and trainer Al Stall, Jr.

-         Zeven, 4f in 51.10 for Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Joe Sharp

-         Zubi Zubi Zu, 4f in 48.80 for Christine & Phil Hatfield and trainer Mike Stidham

-         Cash Control, 5f in 1:02 flat for Richard & Bertram Klein and trainer Brad Cox


-Michael Adolphson | Media Specialist, Senior Writer