Home of the Louisiana Derby

Barn Notes: Friday, February 3

·        I’m a Chatterbox Half-Brother Zinger Makes Stakes Debut Saturday

·        It’s Your Nickel Points to Risen Star, Louisiana Derby

·        Excitations Exciting for Stall

·        Tom’s Ready Highlights Work Tab



Carolyn and Fletcher Gray’s homebred colt Zinger has big shoes to fill, but the game gray son of promising young stud The Factor has shown flashes of his half-sister and multiple Grade I winner I’m a Chatterbox’s gameness. The Larry Jones trainee will have a chance to add some black-type to his resume on Saturday afternoon at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots when he goes to post in the $50,000 Keith Gee Memorial over a mile on the Stall-Wilson turf course. 

“He’s improved each time he’s raced and he’s starting to figure it out,” Carolyn Gray said. “He wasn’t too different from ‘Chatterbox in that he was kind and fine as a young horse at the farm. Maybe with being a colt, he needed more time and it took him a little bit longer to agree to the plan. Her first stakes win was early in her 3-year-old year, too, and we think he has the talent. He should like the distance and should even like going longer, like (I’m a Chatterbox) does. I think Larry agrees and we feel like he has a big shot because he doesn’t seem to get tired.” 

Zinger has raced four times in his career, with improving speed figures in each effort — in two-turn turf events. After an eighth on debut at Keeneland on Oct. 13, he lost two heartbreaking Fair Grounds maiden events by a head, each, before graduating last out by a determined nose. A victory by Zinger would help heal the wound of I’m a Chatterbox’s runner-up loss last week in the Grade III $400,000 Houston Ladies in which the former Eclipse Award finalist was pinched back to last at the start before rallying gamely wide and ultimately flattening out to hold second. 

“They get their determination from their mother (the Lost Soldier mare Chit Chatter),” Gray continued. “She is a really calm mare to be around and not pushy, but she definitely wants her way and is very smart. She’s not going to be bossed around and when her mind is made up, she’s very forward. I’m a Chatterbox is as tough as they come, but once she knew she couldn’t catch the winner, she took care of herself and that’s part of her intelligence. She has the desire, but she knows what she’s capable of and she isn’t going to hurt herself. We really are hoping Zinger is like that, too.”

Zinger, 10-1 on the morning line, drew post five in the nine-horse field and has the return services of Gabriel Saez, who has been aboard for all four starts. 


Trainer Kenny McPeek, who owns a Belmont Stakes win and has placed in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, knows a good prospect for the Triple Crown trail when he sees them and such is what he views in his lightly raced It’s Your Nickel. An athletic son of hot young sire Dialed In, the two-time winner was awarded victory last week when his stablemate Senior Investment was disqualified from first to last for interference with fellow sophomore Bobby the Brain on the far turn. Falling a neck short at the wire, the adjudged victor was game and forwardly placed under jockey James Graham throughout the mile contest, despite a five-month layoff. 

“We have nominated him to the (Grade II $400,000) Risen Star (on Feb. 25),” McPeek said. “I’m not sure that’s where we’ll run. We may just wait for the (Grade II $1,000,000) Louisiana Derby (on Apr. 1). We think he’s that kind of horse. He came together real quick for this race. He was working so well. Any horse that breaks his maiden at Saratoga is a nice horse, obviously. I was shocked they didn’t get a lot of respect on the board.” 

Sent to post at nearly 6-1, It’s Your Nickel — who is owned by the partnership of Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, Scott Akman and Nehoc Stables — was running for the first time since impressively taking a two-turn turf maiden at The Spa on Aug. 28. He debuted at Belmont Park with a third in a six-furlong main track heat. 

It’s Your Nickel is out of Bold American, a daughter of prolific broodmare sire Quiet American. He comes from a Juddmonte Farms family and is a half-brother to 14-time winner and $413,760 earner New Yawker, as well as Grade I-placed filly Valiant Passion. McPeek purchased him for $100,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Kentucky 2015 Select Yearling Sale. 

McPeek confirmed that Senior Investment, who is owned by Fern Circle Stable, would take advantage of the condition his disqualification saved. The long-striding son of Discreetly Mine has crossed the finish line first in both of his local tries after failing to win his first three starts last summer and fall. 

“We’ll stick with the ‘a-other-than’ with him,” McPeek said. “There’s one coming back toward the end of the month. We also have Pat on the Back for that race. Our 3-year-olds are doing well right now. It’s a good problem to have.”


Fair Grounds Racing Club’s Excitations ran to expectations on Thursday afternoon as the good-looking son of Into Mischief graduated with style for trainer Al Stall, Jr. The win was a popular one, as the winner’s enclosure was filled with jovial stakeholders who purchased a membership for $500 each, with all purse earnings going to charity. The promising colt exited his stalk-and-pounce effort well, according to the New Orleans native. 

“This morning he looked good and yesterday he cooled out well,” Stall said. “We’ll check him out closer 48 hours after, like we usually do. 

“We wanted to school him a little behind those horses like he did in the race and that was hard to do with as sharp as he broke,” he continued. “His next race would be two turns, so hopefully we can get an allowance to go in early March. He has a lot of stamina in his pedigree. It makes sense after two sprints and the way he turned off and turned on during the race. He’s an exciting horse.”


Last seen in the Grade I $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in which he finished a respectable fifth, G M B Racing’s Tom’s Ready had his second work in as many weeks when working a half-mile in an easy 50.60 for trainer Dallas Stewart. In 2016, the son of More Than Ready was in the exacta in half his eight starts, including victories in the Grade II Woody Stephens Stakes and Grade III Ack Ack Stakes. His younger stablemate, Saint’s Fan — a Stewart homebred — worked five furlongs in 1:02 flat. 

L and N Racing’s Kentucky Derby prospect Lookin At Lee tightened the screws with a sharp 1:01 flat move for five furlongs, good for third-best of 53. The Steve Asmussen trainee is unraced since finishing fourth in the Grade I $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. 

Larry and Cindy Jones and Fox Hill Farms’ Jenda’s Agenda — recently bought into by the latter — worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 for trainer Larry Jones. 

Recent $75,000 Louisiana Stakes winner Hawaakom worked a half-mile in 50.20 for owner-trainer Wes Hawley. 

Gary and Mary West’s well-regarded Malibu Sunset continued his comeback trail for trainer Wayne Catalano, working a half-mile in 48.80. Catalano also sent out a good-looking filly in Peachtree Stable-bred Tiger Eyes, who worked six furlongs in 1:13.20 with good energy. She is set to debut soon.