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Smart Surprise Gives Albarado 100th Stakes Win at Fair Grounds

NEW ORLEANS, La (February 14, 2009) - Hill ‘n' Dale Equine Holdings Inc.'s Smart Surprise drew off late to win the $60,000 Chou Croute Handicap Saturday by 6 1/4 lengths, giving jockey Robby Albarado his 100th career stakes victory at Fair Grounds.

However, the competitive Albarado was conservative in his enjoyment of the feat.

"I still have never won a Fair Grounds Oaks," said Albarado, who has 1,261 wins and six riding titles in his career at Fair Grounds. "but this filly (Smart Surprise) ran well today and I wasn't surprised by that.  She's been training very well."

Smart Surprise, trained by Josie Carroll, increased her career earnings to $239,294 with her fourth win in 15 lifetime starts. She accomplished the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:44.84 and paid $6.80, $3.60 and $2.80.

"She's just an honest filly who tries hard every time," said Carroll.

Favored Rolling Sea finished second, returning $2.80 and $2.10, and She's Indy Money paid $3.20 to show, 2 3/4 lengths farther back.  Symphony of Psalm set the early fractions of 24.67 and 48.57 before tiring to finish sixth.

Albarado's winning ride in the previous race Saturday, aboard Stonestreet Stables' Captain Cherokee in a $44,000 first-level allowance for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, could also be significant because Captain Cherokee may prove worthy of consideration for next month's $600,000 Grade II Louisiana Derby.

Captain Cherokee, conditioned by Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen, proved clearly best over Fair Grounds' sloppy going Saturday, finishing 2 3/4-lengths in front of highly regarded Northern Prince, who was 2 1/4 lengths to the good of Montecore.

"The colt ran a nice race," Albarado said.  "He was kept wide both turns and it was his first time over a sloppy track, but he handled himself real well.  Those were some nice horses he ran against, but I thought he did very well."

Captain Cherokee paid $4.80 and increased his earnings to $63,972 with his second straight local score.

Stonestreet, Asmussen and Albarado also teamed the last two years with 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year Curlin, the first North American-based horse to earn $10 million.

Racing resumes Sunday at Fair Grounds with a 10-race program beginning at 12:30 p.m.

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.