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Countdown to Louisiana Derby Preview Day

Headlines for Friday, January 30, 2009

  • Countdown Continues To Louisiana Derby Preview Day
  • Fair Grounds Flavor Simmers Over Monday's Eclipse Awards Dinner
  • Zimmerman Hopeful for Fair Grounds Return
  • Albarado, Asmussen Reward Fans with Longshot Payoffs Thursday
  • Super Bowl Weekend Schedule Changes at Fair Grounds


Countdown Continues To Louisiana Derby Preview Day

NEW ORLEANS, La. - Trainer Larry Jones is currently holding three aces on his latest Triple Crown run, and it should be remembered that his horses have finished second in the last two runnings of the Kentucky Derby.

Two of this year's aces are showing - on track for next Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, the highlight of Louisiana Derby Preview Day. The third one, however, is suddenly something of a wild card as of Friday morning concerning his next trip to the post.

"Friesan Fire (a 1 1/2-length winner of the Grade III Lecomte here Jan. 10) and It Happened Again (who won the Triple Sec Stakes at Delta Downs Jan. 16) are both on schedule for the Risen Star," said Jones Friday morning.  "Both are doing well and both should get their final works Monday morning, assuming the track conditions fit.  Both horses have talent, but both are still learning the game.  It's up to them which one wants to become a major player and step up to the plate.  I'm looking for an improvement in their numbers in this race coming up.

"As for Old Fashioned (winner of Aqueduct's Grade II Remsen last fall who was penciled in for Oaklawn's Grade III Southwest Feb. 16), we're up in the air on what's next for him unless we can resolve some things with Oaklawn," Jones said.  "As of the moment, neither Old Fashioned nor Proud Spell (Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old filly last year) will be leaving for Oaklawn, and I'm not sure what we'll do, but we have to do something fast.  I know that both Gulfstream and Tampa would love to have them.  We'll see what happens."

"As for Just Jenda (heroine of this year's Tiffany Lass), she's right on schedule for the (Grade III) Silverbulletday (also part of Preview Day)," Jones added.  "She's supposed to get her final breeze Monday as well.  We've got a whole bunch going out that morning."

At the other end of the Fair Grounds barn area, trainer Bret Calhoun discussed his double-barreled Clarence Scharbauer Jr.-owned entry of Triple Crown hopefuls, one of which is on track for the Risen Star.

"Indygo Mountain worked great (Thursday)," Calhoun said of his Risen Star-bound colt who breezed five-eighths in a minute flat.  "We got just what we were looking for.  We're going to throw that last race (sixth in the Lecomte) out.  Nothing went right for us with this horse for about a month, but we're back on track with him now.

"As for Silver City," Calhoun added.  "His work yesterday (four furlongs in 47.80) was awesome.  What was impressive was the way he galloped out.  He'll go back to Oaklawn for the Southwest."

Tim Brown and Phil Gahm's Au Moon, who finished third in the Lecomte following six-week layoff, will breeze Sunday or Monday in preparation for the Risen Star, according to trainer David Carroll.

"We'll see how this race sets up for him," said Carroll.  "Hopefully, there will be a little pace in the race and we'll get him a little tighter. We're working on trying to get him to relax a little bit.  Physically, he's fine, but mentally we're still trying to get him to grow up a little bit."


Fair Grounds Flavor Simmers Over Monday's Eclipse Awards Dinner

Stonestreet Stable's Curlin, who was based at Fair Grounds last winter prior to his successful trip to the United Arab Emirates and a win in the 2008 Grade I Dubai World Cup, was named North America's Horse of the Year for the second year in a row during Eclipse Award ceremonies held in South Florida Monday night.

            Curlin, who last fall passed Cigar at the top of the all-time earnings list, also became the first horse since Cigar (1995-96) to capture Horse of the Year honors two straight seasons.

            Also in the spotlight was Fair Grounds-based conditioner Steve Asmussen, who was named Eclipse Award-winning trainer for the first time in his career. Asmussen led the nation in earnings and shattered his own single-season record by saddling 622 winners in 2008.

            The connections of two fillies who hooked up twice at Fair Grounds last winter each walked away with Eclipse Awards.

            Brereton Jones' Proud Spell, who used her victory in the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks as a springboard to victory in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks later last spring and subsequent wins in the Grade II Delaware Oaks and Grade I Alabama later last summer, was named champion 3-year-old filly.

            Top female sprinter honors went to Indian Blessing, who won the Silverbulletday last year, defeating Proud Spell, before those two reversed their respective finishes in the Fair Grounds Oaks.


Zimmerman Hopeful for Fair Grounds Return

            Jockey Ramsey Zimmerman, who suffered a broken collarbone during training hours earlier this month, had shoulder surgery Monday morning but is hopeful of a return to the saddle at Fair Grounds before the current season ends on March 29.

            "Hopefully, if everything goes right, I'll be out another month and then be able to get back to riding," said Zimmerman Thursday afternoon.  "They put a plate in my collarbone.  At first, right after the operation, the pain was excruciating, but it's not so bad now.  It just goes with the territory.  I'm planning on staying around New Orleans while I recuperate."


Albarado, Asmussen Reward Fans with Longshot Payoffs Thursday

            Two veterans who have combined for 13 Fair Grounds titles produced some high mutuel prices on Thursday.

            Veteran Louisiana-born jockey Robby Albarado, a six-time riding champion at Fair Grounds, rewarded his faithful followers with a $39.40 win payoff in Thursday's second race when Tricia Mudd's Kahuna Nine won by a neck for trainer Jessie Zenon.

            Five races later, Eclipse-Award winning trainer Steve Asmussen, who claimed his seventh Fair Grounds training title last season, saddled Bardasian Stable's Noble Bandit to win by a neck with Brian Hernandez Jr. in the irons.  That sophomore filly paid a $37.80 straight price.


Super Bowl Weekend Schedule Changes at Fair Grounds

Racing fans are reminded that Fair Grounds is adjusting its racing schedule this Super Bowl weekend.  Saturday's program will feature an 11-race card, headlined by the $60,000 Black Gold Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf.  

Sunday will feature a nine-race card to ensure an earlier finish and give both live and simulcast customers the chance to catch the big game.  However, first post both days remains at 12:30 p.m. CST.