The fourth running of the Diliberto – named in honor of the late local newspaper, television and radio personality – is scheduled at about 1 1/16-miles over the Stall-Wilson turf course.
Independent George, an altered son of Cozzene who finished eighth in a grass race at Tampa Dec. 12, won the $75,000 Sussex Handicap at Delaware Park in 2008 when trained by Graham Motion and then ran fourth, beaten only two lengths for all of it, in Monmouth’s Grade I United Nations later that summer. Jockey John Jacinto is slated for the saddle.
Capable of providing strong competition for the entry is Don Benge’s Wise River, second in last year’s Diliberto Handicap and fourth beaten a half-length for all it in Fair Grounds’ Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley last January. The 6-year-old Kentucky-bred will be ridden by Jamie Theriot and has been established as the 4-1 second choice in the morning line.
The Dilberto field, from the rail out with weights and jockeys, consists of Wise River, 121, Jamie Theriot; Swains News, 116, Jose Riquelme; Pick Six, 120, Shane Sellers; Baltimore Bob, 120, Brian Hernandez Jr.; Southern Anthem, 116, Corey Lanerie; Princeville Condo, 118, Francisco Torres; Independent George, 113, John Jacinto; Evolutionist, 116, James Graham; Get Rich Quick, 119, Shaun Bridgmohan; Demarcation, 122, Pat Valenzuela; and Crested, 117, Miguel Mena.
Sound the Alarm for General Quarters
Last spring’s Grade I Blue Grass Stakes winner General Quarters, the Triple Crown veteran whose 76-year-old owner-trainer Tom McCarthy captured the public’s imagination with his one-horse stable, returns to competition for the first time since the Preakness when he heads a field of seven in Saturday’s co-feature at Fair Grounds – an allowance optional claiming test that offers a purse of $62,500.
General Quarters, who had a chip taken out of his right knee after the Preakness, breezed a bullet three-quarters in 1:12.80 on Dec. 10 at Fair Grounds in preparation for Saturday’s return to competition.
“Fair Grounds has kind of a sandy track and he just loves it here,” said McCarthy Monday morning during training hours. “Also, your program for 4-year-olds is a lot better than Tampa’s, where I took him last season. He won the (Grade III) Sam F. Davis and finished fifth in the (Grade III) Tampa Bay Derby down there before I took him back to Kentucky.
“I’m taking it one race at a time,” said McCarthy, “but if he runs as well as I expect him to Saturday the Louisiana Handicap (Jan. 23) and the (Grade III) Mineshaft Handicap (Feb. 20) are both possible, but I really brought him down here for the (Grade II) New Orleans Handicap (Mar. 27).
“I’m hoping Saturday’s race will serve as a confidence builder for him after those races in the (Kentucky) Derby and Preakness,” McCarthy concluded.
Reminder: Fair Grounds Adds Super Hi-5 Wager Saturday
Fair Grounds fans are reminded that they might want to try their handicapping skills on the new Super Hi-5 wager that will be offered for the first time this Saturday.
The Super Hi-5 requires bettors to select the top five finishers in the designated race in exact order, and will be offered on the last race of every card for the rest of the season.
If no one correctly picks the first five finishers in order on the same ticket on the last race of the day, there will be a carryover pool forwarded to the final race of the next racing day.
The Super Hi-5 is a $1 wager and will replace the Superfecta previously offered on that race.
Fair Grounds’ racing office is committed to offering the largest fields possible in the finale each day, an effort that will also appeal to players of the Pick 4 and Pick 6 wagers that end with the last race.