• Saturday’s $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks Shaping Up Solid
Departing, still undefeated after three career starts, breezed the four furlongs outside of a workmate in 47.20, finishing one length ahead of his stablemate, and Fair Grounds clocker Mike Diliberto caught Departing galloping out five-eighths in 1:00.20.
“Departing was well in hand,” said Diliberto.
The more experienced Mylute, fifth in last September’s Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity and third in November’s Grade III Delta Jackpot before finishing seventh in Fair Grounds’ Grade II Risen Star last month, breezed the half in 50 flat.
“Mylute’s move was just an easy maintenance work,” said Diliberto. “They weren’t asking him for anything.”
STIDHAM DISCUSSES SATURDAY’S LOUISIANA DERBY RUNNER GROUND TRANSPORT – Trainer Mike Stidham was in California Sunday to celebrate his daughter’s birthday but took time over the phone to assess Marette Farrell et al.’s Ground Transport’s chances in this Saturday’s Grade II Louisiana Derby as the showcase race of the New Orleans racing season at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
“I think the Louisiana Derby is coming up as one of the toughest of all the (Kentucky) Derby preps,” said Stidham, who breezed Ground Transport six furlongs in 1:12.60 Saturday morning with his assistant Hilary Pridham in the irons before leaving for the West Coast.
“I hope (Ground Transport) is going to fit well in there,” Stidham said. “We’ll find out Saturday. His numbers will have to get a little better than they have been but we hope he’s far enough along in his training to keep moving forward. In his last race (jockey) Mark Guidry made him wait a little longer before he made his move. Guidry was schooling him a little bit in that race. Now we just hope he keeps improving.
“Marette Farrell played a big part in our finding this horse,” said Stidham of the Irish-born bloodstock advisor who was also a principle force in the purchase of All In Stable’s Willcox Inn – a contestant in Saturday’s Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap.
Farrell grew up on her father’s farm in Ireland, where he bred the multiple Group I-winning English sprinter Fayr Jag. Her brother pinhooked Paco Boy as a 2-year-old in training and that horse went on to be the 2008 winner of the Group I Queen Anne Stakes during the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting.
While still in school, Marette was a national high jumping champion and later played hockey for Ireland’s National Field Hockey Team. However, her first love remained horses and following a stint with trainer John Hammond’s yard in France she eventually came to the United States.
SATURDAY’S $500,000 FAIR GROUNDS OAKS SHAPING UP SOLID – Five of the last eight $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Oaks and Saturday’s 45th renewal of the feminine equivalent of the Louisiana Derby once again promises that kind of quality.
Repole Stable’s undefeated Unlimited Budget is sure to be the local Oaks favorite based on her 3 3/4-length score in Fair Grounds’ Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes in her debut as a sophomore. Last season, the Todd Pletcher trainee closed out her juvenile campaign with a 1 1/4-length win in Aqueduct’s Grade II Demoiselle.
Holt Racing et al.’s Promise Me More, trained by locally-based Wes Hawley, was second behind Unlimited Budget in the Rachel Alexandra and is set to try again Saturday, as is Susan Knoll’s third-place runner Blue Violet, trained by Larry Jones, who won last year’s Fair Grounds Oaks and Kentucky Oaks with Brereton Jones’s Believe You Can.
Maggi Moss’s So Many Ways, an Anthony Dutrow trainee who won Saratoga’s Grade III Schuylerville and Grade I Spinaway last summer and was the victim of a poor start in her only start as a sophomore, is expected to try and make amends for that defeat in the Fair Grounds Oaks.
As of Sunday, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott was considering sending West Point Thoroughbreds’ Flashy Gray to the Fair Grounds Oaks following her runner-up run in Oaklawn’s Grade III Honeybee on March 9.
Naveed Chowhan’s Seaneen Girl, trained by Bernie Flint and the winner of the Grade II Golden Rod at Churchill last fall, is set to make her 2013 debut in the Fair Grounds Oaks.
Valene Farm’s Ante Up Annie, winner of Fair Grounds $60,000 Sarah Lane’s Oates Stakes and second in Delta’s $75,000 Azalea Stakes at last asking March 7, is expected to return in the Fair Grounds Oaks.
Finally, Dale Ladner’s Sittin At the Bar, winner of Fair Grounds’ $100,000 Louisiana Lassie and $100,000 Louisiana Futurity and fifth in the Honeybee, is still under consideration for the Fair Grounds Oaks.