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BARN NOTES: February 9, 2016 (Mardi Gras)

  • ·        Californians Laoban and Bistraya Pointing to Risen Star
  • ·        I’m a Chatterbox Records First Work of 2016
  • ·        Northwest Tale and Ready for Chianti Wake Up Stewart Barn
  • ·        Work Tab



According to the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots racing office, two horses are likely to represent California in next Saturday’s featured Grade II $400,000 Veterans Ford Risen Star Stakes for 3-year-olds – the second of three Kentucky Derby preps at the New Orleans oval.

McCormick Racing and Southern Equine Stable’s Laoban may be a maiden, but the son of red-hot sire Uncle Mo has been knocking heads with some tough foes on the West Coast. Trained by Eric Guillot, the Kentucky-bred followed up a seventh on debut in November with a good second to Bob Baffert trainee Let’s Meet In Rio in maiden company at Los Alamitos on Dec. 5. The pair would both go on to finish second and third, with Laoban being the latter, in the Grade III $100,000 Sham Stakes last out on Jan. 9. All three of the dark bay colt’s races have been at two-turn miles.

“I’m going to enter and see what it looks like,” Guillot said. “He’s a nice horse and getting better with each and every race. He’s a 17-hand Uncle Mo and had a horrible trip in the Sham and should have won that race. He got bumped and hung out six-wide and still only lost by two and three-quarter lengths. The (Fair Grounds) long stretch should suit him.”

Guillot confirmed that Miguel Mena will likely ride in the Risen Star.

While LeeAnn Ohanesian’s Bistraya may have only a maiden victory to his credit, he does also carry some impressive class lines and boasts a big number in his most recent effort. In winning a one-mile maiden on Jan. 24 for trainer Ricky Agarie, the son from the first crop of Haynesfield wired the field by 1¼ lengths, earning a 103 Equibase Speed Figure and defeating well-regarded Bob Baffert trainee Hoffenheim in the process. It was more than 10 lengths back to third in the 10-horse field. Earlier in his career, the bay gelding knocked heads with the likes of champion Nyquist, Grade I winner Mor Spirit, Grade III winnerToews On Ice and graded stakes-placedUncle Lino.



Eclipse Award finalist for champion 3-year-old filly of 2015 and Grade I winner I’m a Chatterbox had the first work of her 4-year-old campaign on Monday morning, negotiating three furlongs in a bullet 35.40 under regular jockey Florent Geroux, who guided the daughter of Munnings through the entirety of her 2015 campaign.

According to trainer Larry Jones, the Fletcher and Carolyn Gray homebred has exited her first work in good shape. While the Grade I Apple Blossom at Oaklawn may be a far off goal for the five-time winner of $1.3 million, no immediate plans have been made.

Later on Monday, the Jones barn had an added boost when its well-bred Etruscan showed impressive grit when taking a second-level allowance over a mile under Florent Geroux. A regally bred son of champions Bernardini and Proud Spell, he contested the lead for owner-breeder Brereton C. Jones and held off favorites S’maverlous and The Sandman to win by a neck. The victory was his third in 10 career starts, which includes six in-the-money finishes.



After a slow beginning to the season for the Dallas Stewart barn, the veteran conditioner’s pupils have come alive in a big way in the last week. From the beginning of the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots meet on Nov. 19 until Feb. 6, the Breeders’ Cup-winning and multiple Kentucky Derby-placed trainer had 19 starts without a winner. That changed in the ninth race when Charles Fipke’s muscular sophomore turf filly Ready for Chianti overpowered a field of maidens, finishing up 1 1/16 miles on the Stall-Wilson turf course in 1:47.49 under Marcelino Pedroza.

By Grade I-winning standout turf sire More Than Ready, Ready for Chianti is a homebred produced from the Roman Ruler mare Tuscan Chianti – a half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Dangerous Midge.

After a tough debut in which she was bumped and pinched back – a race that was eventually won by next-out Grade II winner Just Wicked – Ready for Chianti would go on to finish a game fourth in a tough Kentucky Downs maiden to Sapphire Kitten, who would go on to finish fourth, herself, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Moved back to the dirt, the dark bay filly ran into more monsters in the form of subsequent multiple stakes winner Stageplay and graded stakes winner Carina Mia in a 6½-furlong Keeneland allowance. Off four months since, she found Saturday’s conditions to her liking, reveling in her first two-turn start and definitely displaying her pedigree’s turf prowess.

The Stewart stable unleashed another sharp sophomore filly for Fipke on Monday – Lundi Gras – in the form of Northwest Tale. A compact and athletic type who broke her maiden at second asking on Nov. 14 at Churchill Downs going six panels, the daughter of Fipke flagship stallion Tale of Ekati was exiting a lackluster fifth in the Listed $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes on Jan. 16. Finding the cutback to a sprint to her liking, Northwest Tale blew past well-regarded front-running favorite Sapphire Seas to win by two lengths under Brian Hernandez, Jr., and earn a 94 Equibase Speed Figure in the process.

Though Stewart has had only a pair of victories this meet, his horses have been running well. With a record of 23-2-5-6, his 57% in-the-money rate is topped only by Hugh Robertson (74%), Roger Brueggemann (64%), Larry Jones (59%), Tom Amoss (58%) and Al Stall, Jr. (58%) for trainers with 20 or more starts. With luck seeming to turn his way in recent days, it would be no surprise to see that number – along with his strike rate – increase.



Fletcher and Carolyn Gray’s I’m a Chatterbox, last seen finishing eighth in the Grade I $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Distaff to cap a season in which she earned $1,256,000, had her first work of the season for trainer Larry Jones, negotiating three furlongs in a bullet 35.40 on Monday.

Coup de Grace returned to the work tab for the first time since finishing fourth – disqualified to fifth – in the Listed $75,000 Louisiana Stakes, working five furlongs in 1:02.40 for trainer Larry Jones and Fox Hill Farms on Monday.

William and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s multiple stakes winner and seven-time victor Cinco Charlie worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Monday for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Mike G. Rutherford’s homebred multiple stakes winner Stageplay worked toward a start in the Grade II $200,000 TwinSpires.com Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Feb. 20 with a six-furlong move in 1:12.20 for trainer Steve Asmussen on Monday.

Cobra Farm and Gary Vandeweghe’s stakes-winning Fila Primera worked a half-mile in 50.20 for trainer Mike Stidham.

Cottonwood Stables’ Midnight On Oconee worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 for trainer Larry Jones. Second last out in the Listed $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes behind Stageplay on Jan. 16, she will start next in the Grade II $200,000 TwinSpires.com Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Feb. 20.

Graded stakes-placed Harlan Punch, a disappointing fourth of four last out in a tough first-level allowance against fellow sophomores on Jan. 31, worked a half-mile in 48.80 for trainer Tom Amoss and owner Rosemont Farm.

J. R. Racing Stable’s multiple stakes winner Brooklynsway, last seen finishing fifth in the $125,000 La Prevoyante at Woodbine on Sept. 26, worked a second consecutive bullet in five furlongs on Tuesday. The three-time Canadian stakes winner worked a half-mile last week in a bullet 48.20.

Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm’s Gun Runner, expected to start next in the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 20, worked six furlongs in a strong 1:12.20 for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Stonestreet Stables’ Royal Obsession worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 for trainer Steve Asmussen. The $1,000,000 purchase is undefeated in two starts, including a first-level allowance/optional claiming event at Fair Gorunds going a mile last out on Jan. 23. She is possible for the Grade II $200,000 TwinSpires.com Rachel Alexandra Stakes next out.

Promising and undefeated Cash Back, a half-sister to multiple stakes winners including fellow female turf sprinting phenom Good Deed, worked a half-mile on Monday in 49.60.

-Michael Adolphson | Media Specialist, Senior Writer