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Derby Day Undercard: Pletcher and Castellano Win Muniz with Blues Street and N.O. 'Cap with Battle Plan

Overbrook Farm’s regally-bred Battle Plan invaded from his South Florida base to score a front-running 1 ½-length victory over General Quarters in his stakes debut, Saturday’s Grade II, $500,000 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Battle Plan ran 1 1/8 miles over a “fast” main track in 1:49.33. Jockey Javier Castellano rode the winner for trainer Todd Pletcher. Assistant trainer Mike Dilger saddled Battle Plan in Pletcher’s absence.

Battle Plan is a 5-year-old son by 2003 former champions Empire Maker, the 2003 Belmont Stakes winner, and Flanders, the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies champ who was euthanized in mid-February following a paddock accident at John Magnier and partners’ Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky.

Battle Plan returned $5.20, $3.40 and $2.60 as the 8-5 favorite in the field of 10 older horses.

Battle Plan, who broke from post 9 in the field of 10, went four-wide early and took command from longshot Big Polk a Dot before he entered the backstretch run. He galloped along on the front through fractions of :23.65, :47.11, 1:11.73 and 1:36.51.

General Quarters, sent postward as the 5-1 fourth betting choice, returned $5.60 and $4. Southern California invader Awesome Gem was another 2 ½ length back in third and paid $4.

Louisiana-bred Star Guitar, Giant Oak, Stones River, Stonehouse, Tone It Down, Hold Me Back and Big Polk a Dot completed the order of finish.

Battle Plan banked $180,000 for the victory, which jumped his earnings to $246,864. It was his fourth win in five starts. Following a bad defeat in his career debut in late 2008, Battle Plan has rattled off four victories in a row. He entered the New Orleans Handicap off a five-length romp in an allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 18.

Blues Street Wins Again, Completes Fair Grounds-Muniz Handicap Double

Anstu Stables Inc.’s South Florida-based Blues Street raided Fair Grounds in New Orleans for the second time this year with a steady rally down the Stall-Wilson turf course to win Saturday’s 18th running of the Grade II, $300,000 Mervin Muniz Handicap by 1 ¾ lengths over longshot Pick Six.

Blues Street, one of three graded stakes wins on the day for trainer Todd Pletcher, ran 1 1/8 miles over “firm” going in 1:50.10 under jockey Javier Castellano.

Blues Street paid $7.60, $4.40 and $3.20 as the mild 5-2 favorite in the field of 10 older horses. Pick Six, a 30-1 outsider, held second and returned $17.80 and $12.20. Transduction Gold, sent off at 68-1, was a neck behind the runner-up in third and paid $18.40.

Blues Street, a 6-year-old gelded son of Street Cry, has rallied to win four consecutive races since mid-November. On Saturday, he settled off the rail in eighth position, well back of the early leader Jet Propulsion, who set fractions of :24.18, :49.09, 1:12.84 and 1:37.41 before fading to fourth. Blues Street circled foes on the turn for home and ran past Pick Six and Transduction Gold in deep stretch to prevail.

Yate’s Black Cat, El Caballo, Feels All Right-IRE, Baletti, My Happiness-ARG and Pickapocket finished behind the top four. Red Alert Day-GB and Stones River were scratched. The latter ran in the New Orleans Handicap and finished sixth.

The $180,000 first-place check pushed Blues Street’s earnings to $487,178. The Kentucky-bred has won eight of his 22 starts for Stuart Subotnick’s Anstu Stables.

In February, Blues Street won the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap by 2 ¼ lengths.

Cash Reward Wins $105,000 Duncan F. Kenner

Crack sprinter Cash Reward put delivered $63,000 to owners Richard, Bert and Elaine Klein following his triumph in Saturday’s 59th running of the $105,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Cash Reward, a 4-year-old gelded son of 1995 Louisiana Derby winner Petionville, ran six furlongs over “fast” dirt in a swift 1:09.13 to beat Kensei by three-quarters of a length. Euroears was another half-length behind in third.

Brian Hernandez Jr. rode the winner for trainer Steve Margolis.

Cash Reward was forwardly placed from the outset in a battle for the early lead with Euroears. He gained the edge around the turn, shook clear from Euroears with a furlong to run and proved to be best.

Cash Reward paid $3.40, $2.20 and $2.10 as the 3-5 betting choice in the compact field of five older horses. It was his fifth victory in six career starts and second stakes win. The Kentucky-bred also won the $75,000 F.W. Gaudin Memorial in January. His career earnings total $213,360.

Cash Reward’s lone defeat was a half-length loss to Grade I-winning sprinter Capt. Candyman Can last spring in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Heavenville Runs Away With Crescent City Derby

Heavenville crushed his eight Louisiana-bred rivals with a runaway 6 ¼-length victory in Saturday’s 38th running of the Crescent City Derby at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

The 3-year-old son of Offlee Wild, owned and bred by Bill and Corinne Heilgbrodt, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.42 under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. Dynapac was second and Pioneering Native finished third.

Heavenville patiently tracked pacesetter Redsugar through the early stages of the race. He made his move for the lead around the final turn, drew even with the leader at the top of the stretch and rolled away from the field down the lane.

Heavenville, conditioned by Steve Asmussen, paid $4.60, $2.80 and $2.20 as the 6-5 favorite. He earned $36,000 to push his career earnings to $217,744. It was his third victory in 12 starts.

Heavenville gave Bridgmohan, Asmussen and the Heiligbrodts their third wins on the card through the seventh of 13 races on the day. Also, the Heiligbrodt’s took a one-win advantage over Michael Moreno’s Southern Equine Stables in the race to be crowned leading owners at the meet, 21 wins to 20. Bridgmohan (75 wins) and Asmussen (66) are the leading jockey and trainer, respectively.

Workin for Hops Wins Grindstone

Odds-on favorite Workin for Hops dominated Saturday’s $60,000 Grindstone Stakes with a five-length romp in the 7 ½-furlong turf race for 3-year-olds.

Brian Hernandez Jr. rode the winner for trainer Mike Stidham and owners Estrorace LLC. He paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10.

Workin for Hops was reserved by Hernandez early on and commenced his winning bid around the final turn. He surged clear after entering the stretch and proved to be much the best. Striking Hight was second and Random Move finished third.

Workin for Hops, a 3-year-old City Zip gelding, has won three of his four starts. The $36,000 first prize padded his bankroll to $85,000.