The three horses from the West Coast came in together on an equine charter Wednesday, and nine more that have been based in South Florida all winter arrived early Thursday afternoon.
Also in from the West Coast for trainer Doug O’Neill was Mark Gorman, Neil Haymes and Sterling Stable’s Thirtyfirststreet, a contestant for Sunday’s Grade II New Orleans Handicap who won the $200,000 Lone Star Derby last year, as well as Kenney and Vielle Gardner’s Willywonker, who won Santa Anita’s Grade I Frank E. Kilroe at last asking and will be running in Sunday’s Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap over the local Stall-Wilson turf. Groom Saras Rivera with the O’Neill duo reported all was well Friday.
NINE ARRIVE THURSDAY AT FAIR GROUNDS FROM SOUTH FLORIDA – A Todd Pletcher-trained sextet, a Graham Motion-conditioned pair and last year’s Louisiana Derby winner – the Kelly Breen-trained Pants On Fire – were all reported in good order Friday morning by their connections after completing their journey from South Florida without incident.
Longtime Todd Pletcher assistant Michael Dilger came on the plane with Pletcher’s group, which included Win-Star Farm’s Grade II Louisiana Derby runner Windsurfer and $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks contestant Disposablepleasure, the heroine of Aqueduct’s Grade II Demoiselle last fall who is owned by Glencrest Farm.
Also among the Pletcher invaders was Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s Mission Impazible, who will be attempting to defend his championship from last season’s $400,000 New Orleans Handicap. Mission Impazible also won the Louisiana Derby two years ago.
Wertheimer et Frere’s Slow Pace will represent Pletcher in Sunday’s $400,000 Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap after winning the $79,300 Prix de Surenes at France’s Maisons-Lafitte Race Course last year.
In Sunday’s $150,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes Pletcher has two contestents – E. Paul Robsham Stables’ Soaring Stocks, winner of Gulfstream’s $150,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint this year – and that same ownership’s Travelin Man, winner of Gulfstream’s Grade II Swale Stakes last year.
Trainer Graham Motion, who saddled Team Valor International’s Animal Kingdom to win last year’s Kentucky Derby, has sent two runners to Fair Grounds for Sunday’s races on Louisiana Derby Day. They are Augustin Stable’s Smart Bid, who will be attempting to defend his championship from last season’s Muniz Memorial ’Cap, as well as Dianne Cotter’s Toby’s Corner, winner of last year’s Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
Motion assistants Lisa Conway, Jody Petty, and Porfino Fernandez all accompanied the Motion pair while that conditioner is in Dubai this weekend.
George and Lori Hall’s Pants On Fire, who will contest Sunday’s New Orleans Handicap after winning last season’s Louisiana Derby, was standing serenely in his stall Friday morning and is conditioned by last year’s Belmont Stakes-winning trainer Kelly Breen, who was on the grounds earlier Friday during training hours.
GRADED STAKES MONEY ON THE LINE – The $1 million purse for Sunday’s Kentucky Derby and the $500,000 purse for Saturday’s Fair Grounds Oaks will contribute significantly to the graded earnings that determine preference for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks. Both Fair Grounds races carry guaranteed purses with no added money. The purse breakdown for the Louisiana Derby: First (60%), $600,000; Second (20%), $200,000; Third (10%), $100,000; Fourth (4%), $40,000; Fifth (2%), $20,000; and Sixth through Ninth (1%), $10,000. Purse breakdown for the Fair Grounds Oaks: First (60%), $600,000; Second (20%), $200,000; Third (10%), $100,000; Fourth (4%), $40,000; Fifth (2%), $20,000; and Sixth (1%), $10,000.