After winning Saturday’s $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes for 3-year-old fillies with Brereton Jones’s Believe You Can earlier in the afternoon, Jones saddled Mr. Bowling to win the Lecomte, first leg of Fair Grounds’ three-race series for sophomores with designs on a Triple Crown campaign later this spring.
This winter’s Risen Star Stakes will be run on Feb. 25 as part of Fair Grounds’ Louisiana Derby Preview Day program. The 99th running of the $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby will be contested on April 1, closing day of the Crescent City oval’s 2011-2012 84-day session.
“To be honest, we thought (Mr. Bowling) was just starting to get good,” Jones during the Lecomte winner’s circle ceremonies. “He’s maturing at the right time. He really showed an affinity for this track when we got down here. I can tell he liked it better than anywhere we’ve been to this point. He pretty well got himself ready. Having Believe You Can, they’ve been work mates. They got each other ready and it paid off.”
Winning rider Robby Albarado, a seven-time jockey champion at Fair Grounds in past seasons, made his move aboard Mr. Bowling in upper stretch, gaining a one-length lead at the furlong grounds and then holding the colt together late with strong urging.
“I figured if I could get him clear turning for home, and give him a chance to run home he would,” Albarado said. “When that horse (Z Dager) ran to him late, he gave me some second effort.”
Favored Z Dager, never far back, launched his bid in the final furlong to gain the runner-up spot by a half-length from Jerry Namy’s Shared Property. Z Dager paid $4.80 and $3.60, and Shared Property returned $3.80.
THISKYHASNOLIMIT WIRES THE FIELD IN LOUISIANA HANDICAP – Cathy & Bob Zollars and Mark Wagner’s Thiskyhasnolimit took advantage of an uncontested lead and finished strongly to win the $100,000 Louisiana Handicap by one length over Jim Tafel’s Fast Alex. For older horses at 1 1/16 miles, the Louisiana starts a three-race series that will also include the Feb. 25 Grade III, $125,000 Mineshaft and the April 1 Grade II, $400,000 New Orleans Handicap.
Jockey Shane Sellers, aboard the 5-year-old son of Sky Mesa for the first time, jumped to an early lead and breezed through uncontested early fractions of 24.70, 48.71 and 1:13.28. The moderate fractions left Thiskyhasnolimit with something left for the stretch, powering home to a final time of 1:43.67.
“He is a very good looking animal,” Sellers said. “You can tell, he made $700,000, so he was cut out to be a good horse.”
Making his first start since July, the winner bettered his career record to 6-4-1 in 19 starts while increasing his career earnings to $767,828.
“He’s put in some tremendous work and just thought this was a good spot for him,” said Steve Asmussen, wining trainer in this race for the fourth time. “Shane gave him a great trip. I think he was pretty fortunate that the deal didn’t have much pace in it and it went his way, but it’s a great spot for him to come back in.”
Thiskyhasnolimit paid $12.20, $6.40 and $3.80. Fast Alex paid $4.60 and $3.20, while Bourque Goldstein Thoroughbreds’ favored Alma d’Oro was three-quarters of a length back in third, returning $3.20.
INSPIRED WINS $75,000 PAN ZARETA STAKES IN FRONT-RUNNING STYLE – Taking advantage of his filly’s outside post position on the grass, jockey John Velazquez used that placement to guide Peter Blum Thoroughbreds’ Inspired to a front-running length and a half win in Saturday’s $75,000 Pan Zareta Stakes for fillies and mares at about 5 1/2 furlongs over a Fair Grounds Stall-Wilson turf course that was rated “good” throughout the afternoon.
“I was on the outside and I wanted to keep her off the rail anyway,” said Velazquez immediately after the grass dash. “I’d been watching the races all day and I figured that might be the best place to be. I knew she was going to be on the lead, so it worked out great.”
Inspired took command just after the start and made the pace staying outside her rivals, getting early fractions of 22.11 and 45.33 before accomplishing the final time in 1:03.47. The daughter of Unbridled’s Song paid $32.80, $10.20 and $8.60 and increased her career earnings to $184,385 with her fourth win in 14 lifetime starts.
“The last time she ran, Johnny came back and said ‘Man, she doesn’t like it (being rated),’” trainer Allen Iwinski said. “He had said to just let her run free and not take hold of her and it turns out that was the right thing to do.”
Ike and Dawn Thrash’s favored Wild About Marie got up to finish a clear second, paying $4 and $3.40 while a length and a quarter in front of Prime Equestrian’s Flash Mash, who returned $4.40 in the third position.
The Pan Zareta was marred by the break down of Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable’s Rapport, who had to be put down immediately after the race.
Racing resumes Sunday at Fair Grounds with a nine-race program beginning at 12:40 p.m.