Eying $1 Million, Free Like a Girl Returns to Fair Grounds for Opening Day
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Contact: Kevin Kilroy
Notes Writer/Media Relations
Louisiana Champions Preview Weekend features six stakes
The La-bred deck is stacked in favor of a big weekend for Dallas Stewart
Cross-entered Free Like A Girl’s connection must decide sprint or route
Brittlyn Stables’ familiar faces enter multiple stakes but will walk over from a new barn
New Orleans, La (Nov. 16, 2023) – The table is set for Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ 152nd season, and there’s an extra helping of Louisiana-bred stakes to feast upon one week ahead of the 99th running of Thanksgiving Classic. Three of the nine races carded for opening day on Friday, Nov. 17, are statebred stakes for females: The Doris Hebert, The John Valene, and The Donovan L. Ferguson. With 10 races slated for Saturday, the males will take centerstage in the three feature stakes: The Joseph R. Peluso, The Jacob V. Morreale, and the Larry D. Robideaux. Run in memory of departed members of Fair Grounds racing community, each carries a $75,000 purse and serve as the perfect springboard for Louisiana Champions Day on Dec 9. First post on both Friday and Saturday is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. (all times Central).
Friday’s spotlight will be on Louisiana-bred fillies and mares
Cross-entered in the Doris Hebert Memorial 6-furlong sprint (Race 6) and the 1 mile and 70 yards John Valene Memorial (Race 8), Gerald Bruno Jr., Chasey Pomier, and Jerry Caroom’s Free Like a Girl will look to return to form on Friday. Made the morning line favorite in both, 9-5 in the Hebert and 2-1 in the Valene, the sensational filly trained by Chasey Pomier is winless since taking the Distaff and Louisiana Legends Mademoiselle Sprint in early summer, both at Evangeline Downs. Vicente Del-Cid gets the call to help reverse the three-race slide, which will be his first race aboard the 13-time winner who would surpass $1 million in earnings if she were able to be victorious in whichever stakes her connections settle on.
It would be fitting if Sabra Tuff was able to seize the day in the John Valene. Owned by Valene Farms’ Murray Valene, Sabra Tuff’s first race against fellow statebreds is in a stakes named for Murray’s father, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 100. The daughter of Cross Traffic beat her odds finishing fourth in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), and more recently finished fourth to Randomized in the Alabama (G1). The 3-year-old’s stablemate Accommodate Eva runs in Race 9, the Donovan L. Ferguson, a 5 1/2 furlong sprint for juvenile fillies, and she has followed a similarly ambitious path, entering fresh off a 10th-place finish in the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Post time for Hebert is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. (all times CT) and the Valene will go at 4:15 p.m. followed by the Ferguson at 4:45 p.m. Follow this link for a list of each stakes field: https://www.equibase.com/static/entry/FG111723USA-EQB.html#RACE6
On Saturday, Nov 19 the focus shifts to Louisiana-bred colts and geldings
A field of nine La-bred juvenile males will line up in the starting gates for the Joseph R. Peluso Memorial Stakes, a 5 1/2 furlong sprint across the main track. In a wide-open affair of well-bred but lightly-raced juveniles, the DS Young Futurity winner, Tav Enterprises’ El Dinero, was tabbed as the morning line favorite at 7-2. The son of El Deal traveled wide when finishing third last out in the Louisiana Legacy at Delta Downs in October. Scheduled as Race 5, the Ferguson is the first leg of the 15% takeout $1 Pick 6. Post time is 2:45 p.m.
The confidence of Brittlyn Stable’s Behemah Star might be on the rise as soon as he scans the paddock ahead of the Jacob V. Morreale to find Touchuponastar, his brother by another mother, is not there. That foe has kept him out of the winner’s circle four times in the past year. In the field of nine, there are two others who have proven difficult for the 5-year-old, as Who Took the Money and Mangum both enter to take on Brittlyn Stables’ beloved son of Star Guitar. With two third-place finishes since Brittlyn Stables moved Behemah and the rest of their stars into the care of Shane Wilson, the 4-time winner will reunite with last year’s leading rider Rey Gutierrez, who triumphantly piloted Behemah in the 2022 Star Guitar Stakes. Written at 1 mile 70 yards across the main track, a distance at which Behemah has never finished out of the money, the Morreale will go as Race 7. Post time is scheduled for 3:45 p.m.
The Larry D. Robideaux Memorial promises to be a thriller as 13 statebred, male 3-years-old and up will rip through 6 dirt furlongs trying to assert their supremacy atop the division ahead of Louisiana Champions Day. In last year’s edition the pace boiled over setting up for a late rail run from Brian’s Iron Mike, and though new faces join the cast of familiar characters, the second running of the Robideaux could unfold in a similar fashion.
Cross-entered in the Morreale, Set-Hut’s Mangum gets the lukewarm 4-1 nod by morning line oddsmaker Mike Diliberto. Having carried low weight of 111 pounds in two of his last three stakes victories, if the Jeff Delhomme trainee were to run in the Robideaux, he would travel with 122 pounds and Treylon Albert on his back.
The penultimate affair of the 10-race card, the Robideaux is scheduled for 4:45 p.m. Follow this link for a list of each stakes field: https://www.equibase.com/static/entry/FG111823USA-EQB.html#RACE5
About Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, one of the nation’s oldest racetracks, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, LA, Fair Grounds, which is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN), also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and 16 off-track betting parlors throughout Southeast Louisiana. The 152nd Thoroughbred Racing Season–highlighted by the 111th running of the Louisiana Derby–will run from Nov. 17, 2023 through March 24, 2024. More information is available online at www.fgno.com.