As the showcase race for sophomore fillies each winter in New Orleans, four of the last seven Fair Grounds Oaks winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Oaks later in the spring during Kentucky Derby Week at Churchill Downs.
With that late development, Brereton Jones’s Believe You Can, winner of Fair Grounds’ $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes Jan 21, has been pegged as the 3-1 second choice in the Fair Grounds Oaks, which will offer a $500,000 purse for the first time on Saturday.
Summer Applause, trained by Bret Calhoun, finished second to Believe You Can in the Silverbulletday, while Believe You Can, conditioned by Larry Jones, finished fourth behind Summer Applause in the Rachel Alexandra.
Seven-time Fair Grounds riding champion Robby Albarado will be aboard Summer Applause, while defending jockey champion and current leading rider Rosie Napravnik will be astride Believe You Can.
Third choice in the early line for the Fair Grounds Oaks at 4-1 is Jake Ballis’s Inny Minnie, third in both the Silverbulletday and the Rachel Alexandra. Inny Minnie, trained by Steve Margolis, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.60 Sunday morning at Fair Grounds and will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, Fair Grounds’ leading rider two seasons ago.
Gainesway Thoroughbreds’ Small Kitchen, undefeated in two trips to the post – both locally – is 9-2 in the Oaks early odds, is trained by Mike Maker, and will have Eclipse Award-winning rider Ramon Dominguez.
Glencrest Farm’s Disposablepleasure, who won Aqueduct’s Grade II Demoiselle last fall and was most recently third in Gulfstream’s Grade II Davona Dale, will invade from South Florida for five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, will have defending Arlington Park jockey champion James Graham in the irons and is pegged at 5-1 in the Oaks early line.
Bluegrass Hall’s Colonial Empress, a 20-1 long shot conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, is still a maiden but has finished on the board in stakes in both her lifetime starts. After finishing fourth in Oaklawn’s $75,000 Martha Washington in her career debut Feb. 11, she rebounded to finish third in Oaklawn’s Grade III Honeybee March 10. Louisiana native Corey Lanerie is slated for the saddle.
$100,000 BAYOU HANDICAP HEADS FAIR GROUNDS OAKS DAY UNDERCARD – The 44th running of the $100,000 Bayou Handicap for older fillies and mares over Fair Grounds’ Stall-Wilson turf course is highlighted on Saturday’s Fair Grounds Oaks Day undercard.
Oakcrest Farm et al.’s Upperline, trained by Mike Stidham and defending champion from last year’s Bayou Handicap while also winner of last season’s $60,000 Allen Lacombe Memorial Handicap, heads the field of seven.
$75,000 CRESCENT CITY OAKS, $60,000 RED CAMELIA ALSO SLATED SATURDAY – The feminine-themed Fair Grounds Oaks Day Saturday also includes two stakes restricted to accredited Louisiana-bred members of the distaff set.
Brittlyn Stable’s Sunday’s Child, trained by Al Stall Jr., captured Fair Grounds’ $60,000 Sarah Lanes Oates at last asking and will be well regarded among the 10 accredited Louisiana-bred sophomore fillies that are entered in Saturday’s seventh running of the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks.
In the $60,000 Red Camelia, for accredited Louisiana-bred fillies and mares to be run over the Stall-Wilson turf course Saturday, Russell Welch’s Warrior Maid, trained by Eric Heitzmann and winner of Delta’s $150,000 Premier Distaff in her last start Feb. 4, is expected to draw strong support in the field of nine.