(Trainer Mark Casse / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)

From the Fair Grounds Media Team:

A field of ten 3-year-old fillies will meet the starter in Saturday’s $75,000 Allen “Black Cat” Lacombe Memorial, though it’s Saranya and Earth Strike (Ire), the 1-2 finishers of a local February 5 optional-claimer, who figure to attract the majority of the attention. The Lacombe will be run at about 1-mile over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course and it headlines a 10-race card that also has the $60,000 Red Camelia as a supporting feature.

D J Stable and Jonathan Green’s Earth Strike (post 6 at 9-2 on Mike Diliberto’s morning line with Declan Carroll to ride) was second to Saranya in what was her U.S. debut and first start for trainer Mark Casse but she appears poised to improve on that run. The daughter of Zoffany (Ire) was 1-for-3 in her native Ireland in 2020 for trainer Joseph O’Brien but she clearly took to American racing while making her first start since October 11. Casse’s local assistant David Carroll has been with Earth Strike since she came to the barn in November and was as relieved as he was excited to get the filly to the starter.

“It was frustrating to get her to the races without rain, Carroll said. “We scratched her three times, but we finally got her over there and she ran a winning race. “She came out of the race great and she fits in there well and we think she’s a filly with a future.”

Earth Strike settled in seventh in her U.S. debut, made a bold run towards the lead, then got run down by Saranya and finished three quarters of a length behind. Getting a bit of class relief after finishing off-the-board in a pair of stakes in Ireland helped, and with a bit more time to acclimate to American racing, and her new surroundings, Carroll expects another good run in the Lacombe.

“She’s really moved forward off that last race, which is what she needs to do,” Carroll said. “She used to be a very laid back filly, but since that last race she’s really come alive. When they sent her to us, they liked the filly but didn’t think she’d be at the group level over in Ireland but thought she’d be very useful over here. The races over there at that level are very competitive.”

Peachtree Stable’s Saranya (post 5 at 7-2 with Shaun Bridgmohan) is the clear horse to beat for trainer Brad Cox, as she not only handled Earth Strike last time, but she also broke her maiden over the Stall-Wilson two starts back in January. The daughter of The Factor was a $320,000 2-year-old in training purchase and is off to a good start at paying back that big purchase price. Saranya hit the board in her first three starts before heading to Fair Grounds for her two victories, and has shown plenty of versatility as well, as she wired in her maiden and came from six early last time.

Barry and Carol Conrad’s New Boss (post 3 at 8-1 with Adam Beschizza) looms as the one to catch for trainer Bret Calhoun. The Street Boss filly enters off a gate-to-wire win in a local optional-claimer sprinting over the course when she opened up 6 lengths in the stretch and coasted home by 4 ½ lengths to build off a second in her turf debut two races back. New Boss is 2-for-5 lifetime but has really elevated her game since getting to the turf, and she will run past 6 furlongs for the first time.

Steve Asmussen will start two, with Bradley Thoroughbreds, Tim and Anna Cambron and Kurz Equine Investments’ Arm Candy (post 1 at 6-1 with Miguel Mena) having plenty of turf experience, while Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Simply Sovereign (post 2 at 5-1 with Colby Hernandez) trying the surface for the first time. The former, a daughter of Twirling Candy, was a close third to Saranya last time, while the latter, a daughter of American Pharoah, is 2-for-3 lifetime and enters off a head loss when second in the Trapeze December 18 at Remington Park.

Completing the Allen Black Cat Memorial field from the rail out: Dewberry Thoroughbreds’ Princess Theorem (post 4 at 8-1 with Gabriel Saez), who has run three times on dirt since running third on debut in her lone turf start for trainer Brendan Walsh; Big Chief Racing and Rocker O Ranch’s Dramatizer (post 7 at 12-1 with Jose  Riquelme), who closed from last to win his turf debut in a local maiden-claimer February 3 for trainer Keith Desormeaux; Miacomet Farm and Michael Pietrange’s Barista (post 8 at 10-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.), who broke her maiden on the turf at Churchill in November for trainer Jimmy Baker; Nine Thirty Racing’s Spun d’Etat (post 9 at 10-1 with James Graham), who makes her turf debut off an off-the-turf MSW romp here January 23 for trainer Tom Amoss; and Naveed Chowhan’s Euphoric (post 10 at 10-1 with Mitchell Murrill), who wired an MSW in fast time sprinting on the dirt here February 13 but is winless in two turf starts for trainer Bernie Flint.


Room To Finish, Net A Bear Meet Again In Red Camelia

State-Bred Stars Tangle for Sixth Time

If it’s a Louisiana-bred stakes on the grass for fillies and mares, expect to see Room to Finish and Net a Bear. And assume they’ll be tough to beat as well. The song remains the same in Saturday’s $60,000 Red Camelia, as the state-bred stars meet for the sixth time in the about 1-mile stakes over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course.

West Point Thoroughbreds, Forge Ahead Stables, and Jerry Caroom’s Room to Finish (post 1 at 3-1 on Mike Diliberto’s morning line with Adam Beschizza to ride) has been one of the most accomplished members of the state-bred filly and mare ranks for the past two years for trainer Wayne Catalano. The 6-year-old daughter of Giant Oak had hit the board in several stakes but finally broke through when she won the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Turf here in December. Room to Finish followed that up with a strong second in the open Krantz Memorial in January and will look to make amends after running eighth in the open Stall Memorial over a yielding turf course February 13.

“She’s doing good and I don’t think she liked the soft turf course last time,” Catalano said. “The rail is a good post for her. She breaks well and she likes to stay in the pocket, then get clear and make her late run.”

Room to Finish is 7-for-22 lifetime but has really upped her game over the local Stall-Wilson, as she’s 11-5-3-0. She owns a 3-2 edge over Net a Bear, with all five starts coming in New Orleans, and Catalano is hoping she’ll get the better of her main rival once again.

“She likes this turf course a lot and we’ve got a nice rivalry with Net a Bear,” Catalano said. “Hopefully it will be our turn again Saturday.”

Maximo Lamarche and Federico Deltoro’s Net a Bear (post 6 at 7-2 with James Graham) has gotten to know Room to Finish quite well over the past few seasons for trainer Allen Landry. The 5-year-old daughter of Awesome Bet won the Ladies Turf in 2019 and the Red Camelia in 2020 over the favorite and was a good second to her in this year’s Ladies Turf. Since then she romped here in an off-the-turf optional claimer and was fourth at Delta Downs in the Premier Distaff on dirt February 10. Net a Bear is 5-for-21 lifetime and 2-for-5 against Room to Finish, and is clearly the main danger.

Oak Tree Stable’s Offspring (post 9 at 7-2 with Brian Hernandez Jr.) offers an upset chance, as she was a close third in the Ladies Turf for trainer Joe Sharp. The 5-year-old daughter of Into Mischief is 3-for-16 lifetime and enters off a pair of second-place finishes on the main track, and the third to Room to Finish and Net a Bear washer lone grass start since Sharp claimed her four starts back.

Trainer Joey Foster will start a pair in Hope Haven Racing’s Lebkuchen (post 2 at 8-1 with Mitchell Murrill), and Suite Stable’s Marywood (post 4 at 8-1 with Miguel Mena). The former, a 4-year-old daughter of Mizzen Mast, has won two straight state-bred optional claimers at the meet, while the latter, a 5-year-old daughter of Paddy O’Prado, wheels right back off the claim after winning a state-bred optional-claimer here February 26 for trainer Ron Faucheux.

Completing the Red Camelia field from the rail out: Northpointe Thoroughbreds’ Sebs Princess (post 3 at 30-1 with Marcelino Pedroza), who has yet to hit the board in her two turf starts for trainer Steven Duke; Whispering Oak Farm’s Quickfast N Ahurry (post 5 at 8-1 with Colby Hernandez), a state-bred stakes winner on dirt who didn’t hit the board in her lone turf start for trainer Steve Flint; William Reed’s homebred She’s Gone d’Wild (post 7 at 15-1 with Gabriel Saez), 3-for-6 on dirt but 0-for-2 on turf for trainer Bret Calhoun; Rodney Verret’s Saints N Muskets (post 8 at 8-1 with Shaun Bridgmohan), a two-time state-bred stakes winner on dirt who is making her turf debut for Landry; and owner-trainer Bunky Richards’ Crimson Feline (post 10 at 30-1 with Aubrie Green), a distant fourth to Lebkuchen in January.