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Proudinsky, ‘Macho’ Win On Louisiana Derby Day Undercard

NEW ORLEANS, LA (March 14, 2009) – The key word of the undercard on Louisiana Derby Day presented by Budweiser Saturday at Fair Grounds may well have been “again.”

Again, as in Proudinsky becoming the first repeat winner of the $500,000 Grade II Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap with a dramatic victory in a three-horse photo finish.

Again, as in Macho Again, who rallied in the stretch to capture the $500,000 Grade II New Orleans Handicap.

Proudinsky, with Victor Espinoza aboard for Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, was close throughout the about 1 1/8-mile race despite breaking from the outside in the 14-horse field.

El Caballo took the field through early fractions of 24.47 seconds for the quarter-mile and 49.70 for the half and was trying to hold on for the gate-to-wire win, but Proudinsky and Nownownow, who rallied from ninth place in the early going, made it a photo with three horses noses apart at the wire.

 “I thought I had a great shot,” Espinoza said. “I was a little concerned with the post position, but I thought if I could save ground, I would have the best horse.”

Proudinsky, now owned by Johanna Louise Glen-Teven, became an equine millioinare with the win, his sixth in 18 lifetime starts. More than half of Proudinsky’s $1.09 million in career earnings have come in two visits to New Orleans. He covered the nine furlongs in 1:50.94 over a Stall-Wilson turf course rated good.

Proudinsky paid $8.80, $5.80 and $4. El Caballo was second in the photo and returned $11.80 and $9, while Nownownow paid $5.80 to show.

Soldier’s Dancer, the 2.20-1 favorite, was last in the early going but closed to finish fourth, three-quarters of a length behind Nownownow.

In the New Orleans Handicap, West Point Thoroughbreds’ Macho Again rallied from ninth place in the final three furlongs to overtake longtime leader Secret Getaway in the final yards.

With Robby Albarado up for trainer Dallas Stewart, Macho Again took the outside path over the sloppy going in the stretch. The win came on the 10th anniversary of trainer Dallas Stewart’s biggest Fair Grounds win, in the 1999 Louisiana Derby with Kimberlite Pipe.

“Today was just another big win for him as we get his 4-year-old season going,” Stewart said. It’s a long year. We’ll take our time with him. He a nice horse. He’s won at Saratoga.”

Like Proudinsky, Macho Again moved his career bankroll above $1 million with Saturday’s win, which was his fifth in 16 career starts. He covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.21.

Macho Again paid $23.80, $10 and $7. Secret Getaway, who took the field through fast early fractions of 23.10 and 46.76, held on for second and paid $10 and 6.40. It’s a Bird finished third and returned $5 to show.

Favored Honest Man finished eighth in the field of 11.

In the $75,000 Bienville Stakes, which opened Saturday’s six-stakes sequence, Jay Em Ess Stable’s Coy Cat ($11) overtook Lady Chace in the stretch for her first stakes win.

Coy Cat, who won for the third time in four starts at the meet, was ridden by Robby Albarado for trainer Paul McGee. She covered the about 5 1/2 furlongs over the turf in 1:04.37.

In the final stakes race of the day, the $125,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes for sprinters, Savorthetime Stables’ Sok Sok overtook Garifine in the final yards for his third career Fair Grounds stakes win.

Sok Sok ($8.60), ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan for trainer Steve Asmussen, won the Thanksgiving Handicap earlier this meet and the 2007 Sugar Bowl Stakes as a 2-year-old. He covered the six furlongs of the Kenner in 1:09.79.

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the nation’s third-oldest Thoroughbred racing facility, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN); it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and nine off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. Fair Grounds’ 137th Thoroughbred season will run from Nov. 14, 2008, through March 29, 2009, and its inaugural Quarter Horse meet was conducted from Aug. 20-24, 2008. Information about Fair Grounds can be found on the Internet at www.fairgroundsracecourse.com.