(Wells Bayou / Photo Courtesy of the Fair Grounds)

From the Fair Grounds Media Team:

It’s been a long road back but Clint and Lance Gasaway, Madaket Stables, and Wonder Stables’ Wells Bayou, who won last year’s Louisiana Derby (G2), makes his much-anticipated return in Saturday’s $125,000 Louisiana (G3) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The 1 1/16-mile race is a key supporting feature on the six-stakes Road to the Derby card and could prove the pivotal comeback race in a 2021 handicap division lacking any true standouts.

Carded as race 10, the Louisiana is the second leg of the $100,000 guaranteed “All Stakes Pick Five” and the first leg of the $150,000 guaranteed “All Stakes Pick Four”. Both sequences conclude with the Lecomte (G3), which is carded as the finale on a 13-race extravaganza.

Wells Bayou, who drew post 8-of-9, was installed by Mike Diliberto as the lukewarm 3-1 morning line favorite with regular rider Florent Geroux in tow. The 4-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky stamped himself as a legitimate Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) contender for trainer Brad Cox when he won the local Derby in gate-to-wire fashion last March. Things didn’t go accordingly to plan from there, however, as Wells Bayou was a distant fifth after dueling on the lead in the May 2 Arkansas Derby (G1) and hasn’t been seen since.

“We worked him a time or two after the Arkansas Derby and we weren’t happy with the works,” Cox said. “We sent him off for a bone scan. There was nothing major going on, just a little bone remodeling and young horse stuff, you know, some wear and tear. He just needed some time off and he got that.”

Should he rediscover his form, Wells Bayou, who is 3-for-6 lifetime, would be a major addition to a handicap division there for the taking at the start of 2021. The Louisiana is clearly just a start to what Cox hopes is a serious campaign, which is why he may not be at his absolute best Saturday.

“He’s been a little slow to get back on track,” Cox said. “He was very heavy when he came in. His last few works at Oaklawn have been really sharp. The race (Louisiana) was there so we would enter and take a good look at it and it looks like a really good comeback spot for him.”

Calumet Farm’s homebred Blackberry Wine (post 4 at 9-2 with Adam Beschizza), was an easy 5 ½-length winner of a local December 13 optional-claimer for trainer Joe Sharp. The 4-year-old son of Oxbow has long been held in high regard by his connections in a Jekyll and Hyde career that has seen some big wins and disappointing efforts as well. Blackberry Wine is 2-for-11 lifetime, which includes a distant seventh in the Risen Star here last February, but Sharp believes the arrow is pointing up leading into the Louisiana after such a dominant win.

“We felt really good coming into the Fair Grounds race last time,” Sharp said. “That was the old Blackberry Wine and numbers-wise, it was even better than the old Blackberry Wine. The timing is good. He’s had a few good works since then. It doesn’t look like there is a lot of speed in the race, which plays into our hand. He doesn’t have to be on the lead, but he likes to be close early, that’s for sure.”

Charles Fipke’s homebred Title Ready (post 6 at 6-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.) has been knocking heads with some of the best horses in the country the past few years for trainer Dallas Stewart. He enters Saturday’s assignment off a seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic November 7 at Keeneland in November and a 10th in the Clark at Churchill Downs 20 days later. The 6-year-old son of More Than Ready is 4-for-24 lifetime and has hit the board in seven stakes, including a third in the Fayette (G2) at Keeneland in October. There’s little doubt Title Ready gets a decided drop in class in the Louisiana, which could result in a long-awaited initial stakes win.

“I think the company will be a little lighter for him and he tries hard every time he runs,” Stewart said. “That’s the type of horse you want to be around.”

Courtlandt Farms’ Sonneman (post 9 at 4-1 with James Graham) was a closing second to heavyweight Maxfield in the local December 19 Tenacious for trainer Steve Asmussen. The 4-year-old son of Curlin was making his first start against older horses and was much farther back than usual, yet he rallied nicely for the place spot and was well clear of third. Sonneman was second in Churchill’s Pat Day Mile (G2) in September and is another who could be a big player in the older horse division this year.

Completing the Louisiana field from the rail out: trainer Gerard Perron’s Grand Luwegee (20-1 with Colby Hernandez), who shocked the local December 12 Louisiana Classic over state breds; Lothenbach Stables’ Captivating Moon (post 2 at 6-1 with Shaun Bridgmohan), fifth in the Tenacious for trainer Chris Block and also cross-entered in the Colonel E.R. Bradley in R11; Ed and Susie Orr’s Silver Prospector (post 3 at 5-1 with Ricardo Santana Jr.), who drops in class after running sixth in Churchill’s November 27 Clark (G1) for Asmussen;; Lea Farms’ Indimaaj (post 5 at 12-1 with Joe Talamo), who enters off two straight dominant optional-claiming wins at Tampa Bay Downs for trainer Jeff Engler; and Don’t Tell MY Wife Stables, Monomoy Stables, and West Point Thoroughbreds’ My Boy Jack (post 7 at 12-1 with Gabriel Saez), a multiple graded stakes winning 3-year-old in 2018 who goes second-off a 13-month layoff and is also entered in the Bradley for trainer Keith Desormeaux.

Additional Louisiana quotes:

Sharp, Blackberry Wine: “He’s always been a horse that’s been high on our radar,” Sharp said. “He got injured in his breeze following the 1X at Oaklawn last year. We had to send him home for some time off. He came back in good order, but the Beard distance is very tough first off the layoff. He got one of those inside, pressured trips that really wasn’t for him.

Born Great Wheels Right Back for Kenner

Lightly Raced Runner Tries Stakes Foes on 10 Days Rest

In a different era, running a horse a week and a half after their last race wouldn’t have garnered a second thought, but in the racing age we live in, it’s a story, and that’s why Marc Detampel and Fergus Galvin’s Born Great will be viewed with some skepticism when he tackles seven others in the $75,000 Duncan F. Kenner. The Kenner, run at 5 ½ furlongs over the Stall-Wilson turf course, kicks off a six-pack of stakes Saturday on the Road to Derby card at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Born Great (post 1 at 5-1 on the morning line with Brian Hernandez Jr. to ride) has done little wrong in six races for trainer Brendan Walsh, which includes a gate-to-wire allowance win here January 6. The 5-year-old son of Scat Daddy has won half of his starts, with his lone off-the-board finish coming at two turns in Keeneland’s Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), when ninth. At one-turn however, Born Great has been extremely impressive. His resume includes wins a week apart at Kentucky Downs in September, which gives Walsh a lot of confidence in the Kenner.

“He handled the short rest so well at Kentucky Downs that we decided to enter him back,” Walsh said. “He seems like a horse that when he’s doing well, you have to hit them while the iron is hot. He ran so good the other day. It’s either you run him right back or wait for another five or six weeks (to run again).”

Born Great has yet to run in a sprint stakes, but he fits nicely with the Kenner group on paper, while showing the ability to win from on or off the pace. Walsh has tangled with some of the favorites in the past with others horses in his barn, which gives him a good gauge of where Born Great might fit, both Saturday and moving forward.

“This is a solid bunch,” Walsh said. “If he can run with these horses, he can run with anybody. We are familiar with these horses. We’ve taken them on with Extravagant Kid and Guildsman time and time again. It will be interesting to see how he fares with these, but I would be very surprised if he’s not too far away from them. “

Off his local win in the December 19 Richard Scherer Memorial, Crawford Farms Racing’s Archidust (post 8 with Rafael Santana Jr.) has been installed as the lukewarm 7-2 morning line favorite for the Kenner. The Steve Asmussen-trained 5-year-old son of Verrazano won both the Wolf Hill and Get Serious this summer at Monmouth Park then and rebounded from a sixth-place finish in the Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship in November to win his local debut. Archidust is 8-for-17 lifetime and would be tough if he runs back to his 1-length win in the Scherer.

Trainer Michelle Lovell and Griffton Farms’ Just Might (post 5 at 4-1 with Colby Hernandez) won the battle but lost the war in the Scherer, dueling early and succumbing late to finish second. The 5-year-old son of Justin Phillip has been knocking at the door of some major sprint stakes, as he was third in both the Turf Sprint (G2) at Churchill Downs in September and Woodford (G2) at Keeneland in October. Just Might is 3-for-21 overall, which includes a local win in the Colonel Power last February.

Completing the Duncan F. Kenner field from the rail out: Brad Grady’s Fast Boat (post 2 at 9-2 with Adam Beschizza), fifth as the favorite in the Scherer for trainer Joe Sharp; Gary Barber’s Real Money (post 3 at 10-1 with Shaun Bridgmohan), who won an optional-claimer this summer at Woodbine for trainer Mark Casse; Sequel Racing and Lakeland Farm’s Readyforprimetime (post 4 at 5-1 with Florent Geroux), a wire-to-wire winner in a December 11 optional-claimer over the course/distance in his first start for trainer Brad Cox; owner/trainer Louis Roussel III’s Went West (post 6 at 12-1 with Mitchell Murrill), last seen wiring an optional-claimer November 13 at Gulfstream Park West; and Susan Moulton’s Manny Wah (post 7 at 5-1 with Miguel Mena), second sprinting in the local November 26 Thanksgiving Classic and making his turf debut for trainer Wayne Catalano.

Additional Kenner quotes:

Walsh, Born Great: “We put him in the Shadwell Mile because there wasn’t really anything coming up for his at the time so we decided to take a shot. His numbers had been so good, especially his second race at Kentucky Downs. It didn’t work out. We ended up on the lead, went too quick, and probably didn’t get home either. I think he’s probably a sprinter. His first ace here earlier in the meet sharpened him up for the second one. The 6 ½-furlong races at Kentucky Downs are ideal for him but that can be a tricky spot. He’s kind of an in betweener.”

Sharp, Fast Boat: “He’s a very switched-on horse,” Sharp said. “He never trains in blinkers, but he always ran in them because his form was good enough we never needed to make a change. Sometimes with an older horse you can switch things up and kind of just reengage them a little bit. His last out I didn’t come back and have some big epiphany as to why he didn’t fire, that being said, we had a lot of horses in our barn around that time that had a little bit of sickness/virus, and particularly a few right around where he was stabled. Nothing ever jumped off the page, but I chalked it up to the fact that maybe he had a low-grade illness and just wasn’t 100% that day. Prior to that he had been training lights out, and since then he’s had two bullet breezes without asking him. I’m going to forgive him for the last one. There’s plenty of speed in there. He’s capable of running a big number and I think it will set up for his closing kick.”

 Cox, Readyforprimetime: “He’s got to step up,” Cox said. “He showed up fresh off the van from Churchill and ran really well last time in the two-other-than optional forty. His last work was really good and he’s doing really well. It looks like there is a lot of speed in that race. We will see how the race plays out.”


Dalika Goes for Stakes Double in Krantz

Blushing K.D. Winner Keeping Busy for Stall

In the perfect world, trainer Al Stall Jr. will get both quantity and quality with Bel Mar Equine LLC’s Dalika (Ger) this year, as the tough-to-train mare has been a handful for the barn to manage, which has prompted her trainer to run her as often as possible. The newfound strategy worked in last month’s local Blushing K.D., and it will be on display again in the $100,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial at 1 1/16 miles over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Carded as race 9 of 13, the Krantz is the first leg of the “All Stakes Late Pick Five,” offering a $100,000 guaranteed pool.

Dalika (post 5 at 2-1 with Miguel Mena), a 5-year-old daughter of Pastorius (Ger), flashed her speed in the December 19 Blushing K.D. and never looked back, easily pulling clear late for a 2 ¼-length gate-to-wire win. Stall has been adamant about the difficulties Dalika has presented to both him and his staff, and she can be extremely tough to settle, which is where a busier afternoon schedule has come into play.

“Our thought process with Dalika for this Fair Grounds meet was to give her a steady diet of races,” Stall said. “She’s been a little hard on herself in her training and in her races, she can get a little bit headstrong. She’s a very strong, sound mare, and we were thinking if could run her once a month it might help her relax in the training and racing department.”

Dalika, who is 5-for-15 lifetime, led every step of the Blushing K.D. but has also won from as far back as sixth, so she’s clearly not the need-the-lead type. She pressed and drew off in a win in the One Dreamer at Kentucky Downs in September, a style Stall wouldn’t mind seeing again in the Krantz.

“We’d love to see some other speed to see if she can take off of another horse and park herself comfortably like she did at Kentucky Downs,” Stall said. “Besides trying to win another stake race, we are trying to figure out a few more things out about her.”

Spendthrift Farm’s Secret Message (post 3 at 5-2 with Shaun Bridgmohan) was third as the favorite in the Blushing K.D. while making her first start for trainer Brad Cox. The 6-year-old daughter of Hat Trick (Jpn) was a four-time stakes winner for trainer Graham Motion, including the Mint Julep (G3) at Churchill Downs last May, and she changed barns after being purchased for $625,000 Keeneland Association November Breeding Stock Sale 2020. Secret Message is 6-for-20 lifetime and should benefit from a better post this time, as she was hung wide much of the way in the Blushing K.D, though Cox knows turning the tables on Dalika won’t be easy.

“A little bit more of a ground-saving trip may really be our only hope,” Cox admitted. “We will see how the race unfolds. We can’t give up quite as much ground as we did last time, and I’m not certain even if we had saved all the ground, we would have gotten to her, but I think it would have definitely been the difference between second and third. She’s training really well. She’s a big strong filly. We were a little bit disappointed in her last race. Hopefully she can turn it around and get back on track.”

West Point Thoroughbreds, Forge Ahead Stables, and Jerry Caroom’s Room to Finish (post 8 at 8-1 with Adam Beschizza) steps into open stakes company after winning the December 12 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Turf over the course and distance for trainer Wayne Catalano. The 6-year-oldd daughter of Giant Oak is 7-for-20 lifetime and an even better 5-for-9 over the Stall-Wilson, which could give her an upset chance behind the two favorites.

Completing the Marie G. Krantz field from the rail out: La Nora’s Joy Epiforma (Arg) (10-1 with James Graham), winless in four U.S. starts for trainer Ignacio Correas; CJ Thoroughbreds’ Jeanie B (GB) (post 2 at 8-1 with Florent Geroux), an October 24 allowance winner at Woodbine for trainer Mark Casse; VinLaur Racing Stables’ Xanthique (post 4 at 10-1 with Mitchell Murrill), 10th sprinting in the local December 5 Pan Zareta for trainer Tom Morley; Jerry Jamgotchian’s Loving Moment (post 6 at 30-1 with Gabriel Saez) for trainer Eric Reed, Tony Crognale and Fred Dullano’s Curlin’s Journey (post 7 at 8-1 with Aubrie Green), a longshot second to Dalika in the Blushing K.D. for trainer Dallas Keen; and Bloom Racing Stable and Barry Ostrager’s Kuora (Per) (post 9 at 8-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.), fourth in the Blushing K.D. for Correas.


From Hunter to Hunted, Logical Myth Eyes

Stakes Repeat in Bradley

Local Lover Out to Prove Diliberto no Fluke

At odds of 9-1, JPS Racing’s Logical Myth flew under the radar when winning local December 19 Diliberto Memorial, but the script has flipped in Saturday’s $125,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley, as he looks like one of the horses to beat. The Bradley, run at 1 1/16 miles over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, drew a deep field of 11.

Logical Myth (post 1 at 9-2 with Adam Beschizza) entered the Diliberto 3-for-4 over the local turf course, but didn’t get a lot of respect for trainer Joe Sharp in what was just his second career stakes start and first on grass. The 5-year-old son of Data Link settled in third early, split horses late, and won a frantic blanket finish in what was by far a career-best run. Logical Myth once again drew the rail for Saturday.

“I was really happy with the post position for him,” Sharp said. “He was able to work out a really good trip last time. He can put himself into the race and be tactical depending on the pace scenario, but he’s shown the dynamic to come from way out of it if needed.”

Logical Myth is 6-for-17 lifetime, but he has really moved up since Sharp claimed him for $40,000 at Churchill Downs in May. He’s 5-2-2-1 for his new connections, and it’s that form that prompted them to take a shot in the Diliberto.

“We’ve gotten really confident in this horse and I couldn’t be happier about where we have him physically right now,” Sharp said. “His owners are pretty new in the game, so they’re getting spoiled in a good way right now.”

Candie A. Baker’s Spectacular Gem (post 8 with James Graham) was a close fifth as the favorite in the Diliberto for her husband and trainer Jimmy, and he enters the Bradley as the lukewarm 7-2 morning line choice to bounce back. The 5-year-old son of Can the Man won the Kentucky Downs Preview at Ellis Park in August and entered off a slew of good efforts but found himself dueling on the lead from a wide draw, which compromised his chances late. Spectacular Gem is 6-for-19 lifetime and drew better in the Bradley, which could help make up the 1 ¾ lengths he was beaten in the Diliberto.

Owner/trainer Louie Roussel III’s Sailing Solo (post 10 at 9-2 with Mitchell Murrill) pressed Spectacular Gem early in the Diliberto and was fourth, beaten just a half-length. The 6-year-old son of Smart Strike, who won the Mecke and Mr. Steele at Gulfstream Park this summer and is 6-for-17 lifetime, figures on or near the lead once again, and could go unopposed early if Spectacular Gem isn’t used as hard from his better post this time.

Completing the Colonel E.R. Bradley field from the rail out: Don’t Tell MY Wife Stables, Monomoy Stables, and West Point Thoroughbreds’ My Boy Jack (post 2 at 20-1 with Gabriel Saez), a multiple graded stakes winning 3-year-old in 2018 who goes second-off a 13-month layoff and is also entered in the Louisiana in R10 for trainer Keith Desormeaux; Lothenbach Stables Inc’s Captivating Moon (post 3 at 10-1 with Jose Lopez), fifth in the Tenacious for trainer Chris Block and also cross-entered in the Louisiana; Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher’s Big Agenda (post 4 at 6-1 with Ricardo Santana, Jr.), a two-time optional-claiming winner in Kentucky in September for trainer Mike Maker; Collinsworth Thoroughbred Racing’s Maraud (post 5 at 8-1 with Miguel Mena), a multiple graded stakes winner as a 3-year-old in 2018 and now making his first start for trainer Bret Calhoun; Alistar Fyfe’s Vettori Kin (Brz) (post 6 at 20-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.), claimed by trainer Mike Stidham out of a fourth at Churchill May 28; Running Down a Dream Stable’s Split the Wickets (post 7 at 8-1 with Joe Talamo), third in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Cup at Ellis Park in August for trainer Tom Van Berg; JSM Equine’s Peace Achieved (post 9 at 20-1 with Declan Carroll), fourth in the September 10 Dueling Grounds Derby against 3-year-olds for trainer Mark Casse.

It was announced earlier this week that Flurry Racing Stables’ Mr. Misunderstood (post 11 at 6-1 with Florent Geroux) will not participate and will be retired.