Heading that list of invaders is Let’s Go Stable’s El Padrino, whose connections are attracted by the $300,000 purse of the Grade II Risen Star Stakes, the final designed local prep for the $1 million Louisiana Derby to be run April 1.
Also penciled in to make the journey from South Florida to New Orleans from the Pletcher barn is Bourque Goldstein Thoroughbreds’ Alma d’Oro, who came to Fair Grounds for the $100,000 Louisiana Handicap on Jan. 21 and is expected to return to New Orleans for the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap Feb. 25. The Mineshaft serves as the final local prep for the Grade II New Orleans Handicap, also contested on Louisiana Derby Day as the closing day of Fair Grounds’ 2011-2012 season.
On Louisiana Derby Preview Day, in addition to the Risen Star, the Rachel Alexandra and the Mineshaft, the Feb. 25 banner afternoon offers the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap over the Stall-Wilson turf course as the designed prep race for the Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial on April 1 over that same local lawn.
Two other stakes set for the Feb. 25 program are the $75,000 Colonel Power Stakes, a grass dash for older sprinters to be run at about 5 1/2-furlongs over the Stall-Wilson turf course and the $60,000 Gentilly Stakes for Louisiana-bred grass-favoring sophomores at about one mile over that same lawn.
El Padrino was originally scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in the Lecomte Stakes Jan. 21 but was withdrawn in favor of a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Jan. 29 which he won by two lengths despite being in tight quarters on the far turn. That South Florida outing came after a two-month layoff since the chestnut son of Pulpit out of a Giant’s Causeway mare finished third in Aqueduct’s Grade II Remsen Nov. 26, beaten less than a length for the win. The colt broke his maiden by 12 3 /4-lengths last Oct. 29 at Belmont
Disposablepleasure will be making her 3-year-old bow in the Rachel Alexandra. The gray daughter of 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo out of a With Approval mare has not started since a courageous nose victory in Aqueduct’s Grade II Demoiselle Stakes Nov. 26. In that nine-furlong outing she stumbled badly leaving the gate and trailed the field until midway down the backstretch when she began picking up rivals while racing along the rail. Turning for home, she challenged for command but was precariously blocked behind rivals until a small hole between rivals opened for her. Without hesitation she went through the narrow opening, gained the advantage in the late stages and then fought off a belated challenge at the wire. In her previous outing Oct. 6 at Belmont Park she had broken her maiden by 11 lengths in gate-to-wire fashion.
Alma d’Oro is somewhat familiar to Fair Grounds racing fans based on his third-place finish in the Louisiana Handicap, when he was beaten less than two lengths for the win despite being kept wide throughout the running. The 6-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro finished second in Churchill’s Grade III Ack Ack Handicap Nov. 4, won the $100,000 R.R.M. Carpenter Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park last July, finished third in Belmont’s Grade II Brooklyn Handicap last June and won Laurel’s $50,000 John B. Campbell Handicap a year ago.
OTHER RISEN STAR STAKES PROBABLE STARTERS – Likely to face Let’s Go Stable’s El Padrino in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes Feb. 25 are the Grade III Lecomte Stakes winner Mr. Bowling, owned and bred by Brereton Jones and trained by Larry Jones; the Lecomte runner-up Z Dager, owned by Zayat Stables and conditioned by 10-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Steve Asmussen; and Lecomte third-place runner Shared Property, owned by Jerry Namy and trained by native New Orleanian Tom Amoss, who has earned nine-training titles at the Crescent City oval.
Others considered probable for the Risen Star Stakes at this early juncture are the Brereton Jones-owned and bred Mark Valeski, trained by Larry Jones, who won his most recent outing on Jan. 13 at Fair Grounds in allowance and $50,000 optional claiming company; as well as Bluegrass Hall’s Optimizer, conditioned by four-time Eclipse Award winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who broke his maiden last August at Saratoga, finished third in Keeneland’s Grade I Breeders Futurity Oct. 8 and was then fourth in Churchill’s Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes Nov. 26.
OTHER RACHEL ALEXANDRA STAKES PROBABLE STARTERS – Likely to face Glencrest Farm’s Disposablepleasure in the Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes Feb. 25 are the Fair Grounds’ $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes winner Believe You Can, owned by Brereton Jones and trained by Larry Jones; the Silverbulletday runner-up Summer Applause, owned by Gillian Campbell et al. and trained by Bret Calhoun; and the Silverbulletday third-place runner Inny Minnie, owned by Jake Ballis and trained by Steve Margolis.
Also on tap for the Rachel Alexandra are Ramona Bass’s undefeated Applauding, trained by native New Orleanian Al Stall Jr. and the morning-line favorite for the Silverbulletday until scratched due to mild case of colic but a filly who returned to breeze her second half-mile move since then Sunday morning in 49.60, as well as Tall Oaks Farm’s highly-regarded Avie’s Sense, trained by Josie Carroll and a daughter of Street Sense who broke her maiden here Jan. 5 by 5 3/4-lengths and worked five furlongs in 1:02.40 on Feb. 5.