(Owendale / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
From the Fair Grounds Media Team:
In Rupp Racing’s multiple graded stakes winner Owendale headlines a competitive field of eight older horses for Saturday’s 96th running of the $400,000 New Orleans Classic (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Run at 1 1/8 miles, the New Orleans Classic is Race 11-of-14 and one of eight stakes races on Saturday’s program. The headliner is the $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2)—a Championship Series event on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The All Stakes Late Pick Five (races 10-14) and All Stakes Late Pick Four (races 11-14) are both estimated at $750,000.
Trained by Brad Cox, Owendale began his 5-year-old campaign with a third-place effort in the February 27 Razorback (G3) at Oaklawn Park behind top Dubai World Cup (G1) contender Mystic Guide. Installed as Mike Diliberto’s 9-5 morning line favorite, the Into Mischief colt will break from post 2 with Florent Geroux aboard as he eyes his first graded stakes score since his 3-year-old campaign.
“Looking back, he didn’t get the greatest trip behind a really tough horse (Mystic Guide),” Cox said of the Razorback. “It didn’t appear that you wanted to be down inside at all that weekend, so we’re hopeful he can move forward. I like the mile and an eighth with him. He’s made about half of his money at the distance and we’re hoping we can get his form turned around. We changed things up with Joel (Rosario) at Oaklawn but Florent knows the horse really well and I’m excited to get him back (aboard).”
Breaking to the inside of Owendale is Speedway Stable’s 2019 Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Roadster (3-1 with John Velazquez), who is making his first start in more than a year for new trainer Mike Stidham. The Quality Road colt was previously campaigned in California by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and ran 15th in the 2019 Kentucky Derby.
“We got him at the end of the year,” Stidham said. “He’s had issues with his feet since he was a 2-year-old so we had a little stopping and starting since I got him. But right now, we got him as good as he can be. You can see by his worktab, he’s worked three quarters of a mile three times in a row. But he’s coming off a year layoff, so he needed that to feel like I had him ready to go a mile and an eighth in a Grade 2 race.”
JMJ Racing Stables’ Olliemyboy (post 3 at 12-1 with Irad Ortiz Jr.) will attempt his first start in graded stakes company for trainer Norm Casse following two-consecutive allowance victories at the meet. Prior to entering Casse’s barn at the end of 2020, the now 4-year-old son of Union Rags had competed primarily over the Tapeta surface at Woodbine. In his first dirt try at two-turns, Olliemyboy crushed a first-level allowance field by 4 ¼ lengths and followed that performance with a 1 ½-length victory at against second-level allowance company.
“He wasn’t flashy training on the dirt and I honestly didn’t know what to expect when we led this horse over the first time,” Casse said. “He’s earned his way into this race by doing all the right things. I’m really excited. His work two weeks ago was the best since I’ve had him. We put him in company with a fairly decent horse and it was heads up and we came back and just worked him a half-mile like he did before he won the second allowance. He’s on the same pattern, but I feel like he’s training very well and he looks fantastic. We are not dummies, we know we are longshots in here, but I think he’s got a really good shot.”
Another quality horse expected to garner attention in the New Orleans Classic is Courtlandt Farms’ three-time winner Sonneman (post 8 at 9-2 with Joe Talamo), who finished second behind Maxfield in the February 13 Mineshaft (G3)—the local prep for this race. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Sonneman recorded a powerful 5 ¾-length victory in early November at Churchill Downs.
Completing the New Orleans Classic from the rail out: Lothenbach Stables’ homebred Captivating Moon (post 4 at 10-1 with Marcelino Pedroza), an upset winner of the February 13 Fair Grounds (G3) on turf who is also cross-entered in R12, the $300,000 Muniz Memorial (G2) for trainer Chris Block; John Oxley’s Enforceable (post 5 at 8-1 with Adam Beschizza), fifth in the Mineshaft for trainer Mark Casse; Estate of James Coleman’s Chess Chief (post 6 at 6-1 with Luis Saez), a closing third in the Mineshaft for trainer Dallas Stewart; and Wayne T. Davis’ Mocito Rojo (post 7 at 30-1 with James Graham), sixth in the local Tenacious in February for trainer Shane Wilson.
Watch and wager on Saturday’s action from Fair Grounds on the official wagering provider of Churchill Downs Inc. – TwinSpires.com.
Additional New Orleans Classic quotes:
Stidham, Roadster: It’s an aggressive spot but he’s doing good and he’s a quality horse; he won the Santa Anita Derby at a mile and an eighth. I feel like we’ve got him in peak condition, he looks like a million dollars, and he’s training well, so we’re going to take a shot. And the other thing is I didn’t feel like this race was coming up as tough as it has in previous years. I figure we’re taking a shot, but it’s not a monster-tough race. – trainer Mike Stidham
Casse, Olliemyboy: We left the decision up to Adam (jockey Beschizza). He likes both horses, so it wasn’t a matter of picking between them, it was more about staying loyal to my father (Mark) and to Mr. (John) Oxley. He got to ride that horse (Enforceable) in the Kentucky Derby and he wanted to be loyal to that horse. I would love to have Adam on. He’s undefeated on our horse, he knows him very well and he has a lot of confidence on him but I think we brought in a bang-up substitute off the bench to say the least. It’s a pretty wide-open race. It’s a grade II for a lot of money and there are some good horses in there. I think the main for us is it’s nine furlongs, which is right up his wheelhouse, we’ve won two races over the track already, so we are a horse who seems to be getting better every time he runs and these are the types of chances you take with horses like that.
Dalika Hopes to Keep on Giving in Benson
Stall Trainee Exits Sentimental Win
New Orleans (March 16, 2021) – In her most recent outing, Dalika (Ger) provided trainer Al Stall Jr. with an emotional tribute to a most impactful figure in his life. The multiple stakes-winning mare can give her conditioner another happy tug on the heartstrings this Saturday when she heads up a field-of-13 entered for the $150,000 Tom Benson Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Run at 1 1/16 miles over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, the Benson, named for the late owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, is one of eight stakes on the 14-race card that is headlined by the 108th running of the $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2).
Bal Mar Equine’s Dalika (post 3 as the 3-1 favorite on Mike Diliberto’s morning line, with Miguel Mena to ride) already scored one sentimental triumph for Stall when she captured the Albert M. Stall Memorial—named for his late father—over the same course and distance on February 13. Given that the Louisiana-born trainer conditions horses for Benson’s G M B Stables, a victory by the 5-year-old daughter of Pastorius (GER) in Saturday’s test would resonate beyond just adding to her career total of six wins from 18 starts.
“We were treating it (the Stall Memorial) like any other race as far as the horse was concerned,” Stall said. “As it got closer and the conditions (soft turf) were looking good for us and then when it happened (the win) it was sort of an explosion of emotions. It was great to have most of my family there. My wife, kids, mother, sisters, all that. It couldn’t have really been much better.”
Dalika has notched two of her better career outings over the Stall-Wilson, winning the Blushing K. D. in December to go along with her victory in the Stall Memorial. Holding her top form for consecutive starts has been the albatross for the mare, however, as she has yet to post back-to-back wins in her career.
Sandwiched between her two victories at the New Orleans oval was a fifth-place run in Marie G. Krantz in January. Stall is hoping that the consistency he has seen from Dalika in the mornings will translate into her snapping her roller coaster history.
“If you look at her past performances, it’s peaks and valleys and this looks like a valley type race,” Stall said. “We are just hoping that getting a super consistent number of races in her and training every day, this race keeps her at the proper level to win. Even at her age, we are still learning. We just hope we can put two good races together. That’s the concern and the hope for this weekend.”
If Dalika has an off-day this weekend, conditions could be right for Pocket Aces Racing’s Temple City Terror (post 6 at 8-1 with Joel Rosario) to turn the tables on her nemesis. The Brendan Walsh-trained mare was beaten by Dalika in both the Blushing K. D. and Stall Memorial but owns a win over the course, having prevailed in an optional-claimer going 1 1/16 miles in December.
“She’s a model of consistency, she shows up every time,” Walsh said. “She’s progressed really well as time goes on. She ran a blinder the last time. Joel (Rosario) actually won on her at Churchill last spring, so that’s why we went for him, the fact that he’s in town. Florent (Geroux) couldn’t ride her back so we went with Joel, so here we are.She has won on firm a couple of times, but she does like a little give in the ground, but the key to her is plenty of pace. She does like to run at that pace at the end. She’s got a great kick. She’s doing great. I wouldn’t count her out.”
Silverton Hill’s homebred Pass the Plate (post 8 at 8-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.) was a fast-closing third in the Stall Memorial for trainer Paul McGee. The 4-year-old daughter of Temple City beat 3-year-olds when she won the local Pago Hop in December and should get a solid pace to rally into Saturday.
An X-factor in the field could be Coffeepot Stables’ multiple stakes winner Winter Sunset (post 5 at 20-1 with Marcelino Pedroza), who will be making just her second start since October 2019. The regally-bred daughter of Tapit out of grade 1 winner Winter Memories returned from a year-long layoff in October to finish sixth in a Keeneland allowance. Trained by Wayne Catalano, Winter Sunset has earned two of her three career wins over the Stall-Wilson.
Completing the Benson field from the rail out: MyRacehorse.com’s His Glory (20-1 with Adam Beschizza), seventh as the pacesetter in the Stall Memorial for trainer Joe Sharp; Don Alberto Stable’s homebred Dominga (post 2 at 8-1 with Florent Geroux), who won the LaCombe Memorial over the course last year but is unraced since August for trainer Brad Cox; The Elkstone Group’s Logic N Reason (post 4 at 10-1 with John Velazquez), who enters off a win in a January 2 optional-claimer at Tampa Bay Downs for trainer Christophe Clement; La Nora’s Joy Epifora (Arg) (post 7 at 15-1 with James Graham), a troubled fourth in the Stall Memorial for trainer Ignacio Correas; Ismael Thoroughbreds’ Russian Mafia (post 9 at 20-1 with Santos Sanjur), who won a local course and distance optional-claimer January 31 for trainer Eduardo Rodriguez; Full of Run Racing’s Dreamalildreamofu (post 11 at 10-1 with Colby Hernandez), who romped in an off-the-turf optional-claimer here January 23 for Cox; and Highlander Training Center’s and Sharp’s uncoupled entry of Catch a Bid (post 12 at 5-1 with Luis Saez), fourth in the January 31 Jersey Lilly at Sam Houston, in her first start of the year and for her new barn, and Summer in Saratoga (post 13 at 10-1 with Irad Ortiz Jr.), unraced since winning a September 10 AOC at Kentucky Downs.