From the Fair Grounds Media Team:
The $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) may be the rightful centerpiece of a Saturday card that has 14 races and eight stakes, but Louisiana breds get their chance to shine as well. A trio of $100,000 stakes support the card, and with state-bred stars Australasia, Who Took the Money, and No Parole set to dazzle to kick off the stakes proceedings, things figure to get off to a great beginning at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Magnifico and Hubert Guy’s Australasia (post 2 as Mike Diliberto’s 2-5 morning line favorite, with Florent Geroux to ride) looks like an imposing favorite in the Crescent City Oaks at 1-mile and 70 yards for 3-year-old fillies, which kicks off the card at 11:20 AM CT.
Australasia, a daughter of Sky Kingdom, hasn’t missed a beat since breaking her maiden on Opening Day in November for trainer Brad Cox. She enters undefeated and untested in three starts, which includes stakes romps by 6 lengths in the Louisiana Jewel at Delta Downs in January and 7 ¼ lengths Premier Starlet there February 10. While both of those two-turn wins came over a tighter oval at Delta, Cox thinks she’ll be up for the challenge at Fair Grounds.
“Two turns at the Fair Grounds is a bit of a wildcard, as it’s obviously different than two turns at Delta,” Cox said. “But she has a good bit of class and has been running figures that make her very competitive and I think she’ll be tough to beat.”
Valene Farms’ Big Time (post 1 at 6-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.) won a pair of December state-bred stakes at one-turn earlier in the meet for trainer Dallas Stewart, as she scored in the Lassie and Futurity 19 days apart to go 3-for-3. The Astrology filly has been off-the-board in her last two, though both can be excused, as tried two turns and open foes when sixth in an optional-claimer here in February then was a solid fourth in the February 28 Dixie Belle at Oaklawn Park. Big Time should benefit to a return to state-bred company, though she’s still unproven around two turns.
Bob Mahoney’s homebred Eileen Alexandra (post 5 at 5-1 with Luis Saez) wheels back after winning a local March 5 state-bred N1X for trainer Tom Amoss. The daughter of Jess’ Dream is 2-for-6 lifetime but was left in Australasia’s wake when second in the Premier Starlet.
The remainder of the Crescent City Oaks field is led by Allied Racing Stable’s homebred Winning Romance (post 4 at 8-1 with Gabriel Saez), who was third in the Futurity to Big Time and a well-beaten third to Australasia and Eileen Alexandra in the Premier Star for trainer Bret Calhoun, while Whispering Oaks Farm’s homebred Tecate Time (post 3 at 20-1 with John Velazquez), who won a local N2L state-bred sprint January 31 for trainer Steve Flint, and owner-trainer Ralph Nicks and Cindy Bockman’s Kuhlke (post 6 at 20-1 with Mitchell Murrill), who broke her maiden over the track and distance February 15, are also entered.
Who Took the Money Looks Imposing in Crescent City Derby
Homebred a Short Price to Score a Hat Trick at Meet
A baker’s dozen is set to meet the starter in the $100,000 Crescent City Derby for Louisiana-bred 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, but it’s Allied Racing Stable’s homebred Who Took the Money who will look to keep on the fast track when he starts as what figures to be a strong favorite.
Who Took the Money (post 2 as Mike Diliberto’s 5-2 morning line favorite, with Gabriel Saez to ride) will look to go from an unraced maiden on the morning of February 5 to a stakes winner on the afternoon of March 20, while sandwiching a N1X win in between for trainer Bret Calhoun. The son of Street Boss was bet like a good thing in his debut and delivered, winning off by 4 ½ lengths, then stretched out March 6 and looked even better, winning a state-bred N1X by a widening 5 ½ lengths. Calhoun knows the waters get deeper in the Crescent City Derby, and he’s asked a lot of Who Took the Money in a short period of time, but he still feels like he’s bringing a horse with a world of upside over.
“His first race he wasn’t as prepared as most of mine are first time out, but it was getting later in the meet, he’s a Louisiana-bred, we thought he could run, and we thought he could overcome being just a little underprepared, and he did,” Calhoun said. “He did it in very good fashion. It looked like he was just running on raw ability, kind of all over the place. I had the Crescent City Derby in mind and the only way I felt like I could get there was to get a prep, so we went from the sprint to a two-turn race, and there again I don’t think I had the time to prepare this horse mentally or physically for what I’ve asked him to do so far, and that’s what has been impressive and amazing about this horse. He’s overcome my bad training job (said with a laugh).”
Allied and Calhoun will also team up with Highland Creek (post 1 at 6-1 with Adam Beschizza), who should be a major pace player from his inside draw. The son of Broken Vow is 2-for-5 lifetime and enters off an easy 5 ½-length win going two turns in a local February 25 state-allowance and gives his connections a nice backup should Who Took the Money regress.
“The last race was really good,” Calhoun said. “I was happy the way he got covered up and turned off a little bit. He had been really aggressive in some of his other races. Even though his record was good, he had not impressed me like I had hoped or thought he would. He finally put it together and ran like a seasoned horse last time. I think he’ll have a big performance on Saturday.”
WinStar Farm and CHC’s Unanimously (post 7 at 5-1 with Joe Talamo) will garner some upset support, as it’s not often you see a son of Tapit in the Louisiana-bred ranks. The Steve Asmussen trainee is 2-for-3 lifetime and impressed beating state breds in his seasonal bow, when he closed from last, some 13 lengths behind, to get up in the short stretch mile run here February 6.
Anthony Foyt Jr.s’ homebred Wrongwayhighway (post 9 at 10-1 with Aubrie Green) is undefeated in two starts at Delta Downs for trainer Scotty Gelner, though he’ll get the acid test Saturday. The son of Highway to Fame broke his maiden for a $10,000 tag at one-turn in February then won an allowance going two turns March 11 and should be forwardly placed.
John Duvieilh and Keith and Earl Hernandez’s Martinized (post 13 at 8-1 with Marcelino Pedroza) enters off rousing 6 ½-length maiden win February 28 over the track for trainer Sam David. The Astrology gelding took five starts to get is first win but the addition of blinkers last time clearly helped deliver a breakthrough run.
Completing the Crescent City Derby field from the rail out: Michael Martin’s homebred Wise Verdict (post 3 at 10-1 with Florent Geroux), 2-for-3 lifetime and recently third in the February 10 Premier Prince at Delta Downs for trainer Brett Brinkman; Ken Sentel, Dan Lynch, and Merrill Scherer’s Your Time’s Coming (post 4 at 10-1 with John Velazquez), third behind Highland Creek for trainer Marianne Scherer; Wayne T. Davis’ Grief (post 5 at 20-1 with James Graham), last-of-8 behind Highland Creek in his first start off the claim for trainer Shane Wilson; Set-Hut’s Henning (post 6 at 20-1 with Shaun Bridgmohan), last-of-7 behind Unanimously in his main track debut for trainer Jeff Delhomme; Norman Stables’ Drewhustle (post 8 at 20-1 with Jose Riquelme), a distant sixth to Highland Creek in his local debut for trainer Lonnie Briley; Terry Paul Bodin’s homebred Sy Michael (post 10 at 12-1 with Colby Hernandez), second in a Delta allowance March 11 for trainer Sam Breaux; Glockenburg’s Mr. Universe (post 11 at 15-1 with Eddie Martin Jr.), and upset MSW winner here on the turf 13 days ago for trainer Gennadi Dorochenko; and Perform Stable’s homebred Sarah’s Vision (post 12 at 12-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.), who beat Sy Michael at Delta for trainer Allen Landy.
Additional Crescent City Derby Quotes:
Calhoun, Who Took the Money: He was quite a handful at the farm so they decided to castrate him early on. He was one of those horses that was probably going to hurt himself and not make it to the races if we didn’t castrate him. We did that early on. If he figures things out, he’s going to be a pretty nice horse. I thought he was still pretty green the other day, and he won pretty handily. He’s a big strong horse. You definitely wouldn’t choose this path if you had plenty of time and options, but the short rest doesn’t have seemed to have bothered him at all. It’s been on the job training. He’s handled everything well. I just think he’s the kind of horse who can thrive in these situations.
No Parole an Imposing Warden in Costa Rising
Grade 1 Winner Holds Decisive Class Edge in Turf Debut
A robust field-of-14 is entered for the $100,000 Costa Rising for Louisiana breds going 5 ½ furlongs over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, though only one rates as a grade 1 winner. While Maggie Moss and Greg Tramontin’s No Parole will be making his turf debut, that won’t keep bettors from sending it in with both hands on a blazing fast runner who reached racing’s highest level last year.
No Parole (post 2 as Mike Diliberto’s 8-5 morning line favorite, with Luis Saez to ride) was one of the best 3-year-old sprinters in the country in 2020 for trainer Tom Amoss. He ran with the best one-turn horses in training in a campaign highlighted by a win in Belmont Park’s Woody Stephens (G1) in June. The son of Violence was off-the-board in a pair of graded stakes to end his sophomore campaign and Amoss backed off, regrouped, and found a soft return spot February 10, when No Parole won the Premier Sprint with ease at Delta Downs. Amoss got what he wanted at Delta, and is looking forward to trying No Parole over the Stall-Wilson.
“The comeback race was a good race, but it was obviously the stepping stone,” Amoss said. “So, what makes us all of a sudden try the grass with a horse who has never been on the grass? Timing is one thing, the purse is another thing, but more important than those two things, pedigree.”
No Parole is out of the Bluegrass Cat mare Plus One, who won the Alison McClay over the turf at Penn National in 2012, and is a full-brother to recent local turf winner Violent Ways, another talented state-bred who is 4-for-7 lifetime. With a strong pedigree, especially for a Louisiana-bred, Amoss knows that a turf stakes win would add a lot of No Parole’s stallion potential.
“There’s a lot to see in that female side of the family in terms of being able to sprint on the grass,” Amoss said. “With that kind of evidence out there, this was a very logical race for us before we leave Fair Grounds. If it doesn’t work, it’s horse racing, a lot of what you try doesn’t work.”
Trainer Ron Faucheux will start an uncoupled quartet, with Ivery Sisters Racing’s Monte Man (post 6 at 5-1 with Adam Beschizza) leading the way. The 8-year-old son of Custom for Carlos is an eight-time stakes winner who has won the Costa Rising the past two years and is 3-for-4 over the Stall-Wilson. Monte Man enters off a February 26 optional-claiming win over the course and distance, is 17-for-45 lifetime, and clearly represents the main danger to the favorite.
Lane Cortez’s Afleet Ascent (post 8 at 12-1 with John Velazquez), a 6-year-old son of Northern Afleet, was second going long in the Louisiana Champions Day Turf here in December for Faucheux, who also runs Picard Thoroughbred Racing Stable’s Fame Feather (post 12 at 12-1 with Florent Geroux), a stretch runner who is 4-for-11 over the course, and Allen Cassedy’s Bertie’s Galaxy (post 14 at 8-1 with Irad Ortiz Jr.), who has been in three exacta in 11-of-16 lifetime starts, though he’s just 1-for-2 on turf.
Completing the Costa Rising field from the rail out: Robin Lane Thoroughbreds’ Future Ruler (30-1 with Aubrie Green), who is 5-for-24 lifetime but has lost seven straight for trainer Lee Thomas; Richard Benton’s Silver Galaxy (post 3 at 30-1 with Gabriel Saez), who enters off a deep-closing February 19 allowance win here on the dirt but winless in one turf start for trainer Joey Foster; owner-trainer Gerard Perron’s homebred Grand Luwegee (post 4 at 12-1 with Roberto Morales), who upset the Louisiana Champions Day Classic on dirt here in December but is 0-for-3 on turf; Set-Hut’s X Clown (post 5 at 12-1), a close third to Monte Man last time for trainer Jerry Delhomme; Farm d’Allie Racing Stable’s Win Lion Win (post 7 at 20-1 with Eddie Martin Jr.), unraced since running ninth in Keeneland’s October 3 Woodford (G2) for trainer Allison Ramsay-Banks; Columbus Circle Partners and trainer Steve Margolis’ Yankee Seven (post 9 at 10-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.), third in the Costa Rising last year; Valene Farms’ Classy John (post 10 at 12-1 with Colby Hernandez), second, beaten a head, to Monte Man last time for trainer Dallas Stewart; Lorlow Stables’ homebred Bootsie’s Galaxy (post 11 at 15-1 with Marcelino Pedroza), fourth to Monte Man last time for trainer Sam David); and Larry and Katherine Menard’s homebred A Song for Arch (post 13 at 20-1 with Mitchell Murrill), who won a state-bred optional-claimer two-back for trainer Brett Brinkman.