2-17-2018 Bravazo, with Miguel Mena aboard, pushes to the lead to beat Snapper Sinclair in a close finish in the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Hodges Photography / Amanda Hodges Weir

From Ryan Martin / Media Team at the Fair Grounds:

ASMUSSEN HOPING FOR BIG RUNS FROM SNAPPER SINCLAIR, RETIREMENT FUND IN GR. II LOUISIANA DERBY

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has received solid efforts from his 3-year-old contingent in the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ local preps on Churchill Downs’ Road to The Kentucky Derby but this time he hopes for a victory with one of the two that he has sent for the Grade II $ 1 million Louisiana Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com.

Bloom Racing LLC’s Snapper Sinclair is the only horse to compete in all three Fair Grounds preps on the Road To The Kentucky Derby. The son of City Zip finished a solid third behind Instilled Regard in the Gr. III Lecomte on Jan. 13 and was beaten a nose to Bravazo in the Gr. II Risen Star after leading the field through a slow pace.

“Obviously some solid runs from Snapper in the Lecomte and the Risen Star,” Asmussen said. “Obviously it would be nice to find a little more for Saturday. He’s trained beautifully and we expect a big run from him.”

Snapper Sinclair is also still in search for his first career victory on dirt. He broke his maiden over the turf at Saratoga before winning the Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile Stakes at Kentucky Downs in September. Jose Ortiz ships in the ride.

Meanwhile, Retirement Fund will return to the Fair Grounds following a lack luster performance in Oaklawn Park’s Gr. III Southwest Stakes, where he was a well-beaten seventh. Owned by L and N Racing the son of Eskendereya is undefeated in two starts over the Fair Grounds main track, both of which he took going gate-to-wire. In his career debut on December 22, he won by 7¼ lengths and found the winner’s circle once more on January 20 when defeating fellow Louisiana Derby aspirant Dark Templar by two lengths. He will be guided by regular rider Shaun Bridgmohan.

“I don’t know how to evaluate the off track race in Hot Springs but he’s trained solidly back,” Asmussen said. “Both he and Snapper have drawn well for who they are.”

Both Snapper Sinclair and Retirement Fund share a similar running style, but where they both end up in the race will all depend on the break according to Asmussen.

“They’re both very manageable horses,” Asmussen said. “Snapper is coming out of deeper fields so I think his pace scenario is a little more tried and true. Retirement Fund having everything his own way in a maiden and an a other than doesn’t always translate into a stake.”

Asmussen will be going for his fourth victory in the Louisiana Derby having won previous editions of the event with Fifty Stars (2001), Pyro (2008) and reigning Horse of the Year Gun Runner (2016).

SYNCHRONY DRAWS THE RAIL FOR GR. II MUNIZ MEMORIAL

Pin Oak Stable’s Synchrony is back for another go over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course in Saturday’s Gr. II $300,000 Muniz Memorial Stakes and this time he will be drawing the rail under Joe Bravo as the 7-2 morning line favorite.

“It’s an advantage,” trainer Mike Stidham said. “You’re guaranteed to save ground around the first turn and then from there, you’ve got all the way around the backside to around the turn to get out if you need to get out.”

The son of Tapit successfully came back off of a nine-month layoff when taking the Gr. III Fair Grounds Handicap last out, which was only his fourth start on the turf. He started off his career over the main track while under the care of his former trainer Donnie Von Hemel and was third in the Gr. III Lexington Stakes behind Collected.

It was not until his 4-year-old year that he began campaigning on the grass. In his second start for Stidham he tried turf for the first time over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course last March winning an allowance optional claiming race that featured international stakes winner Sir Dudley Digges. His next two starts were both second place efforts in the Henry Clark Stakes at Laurel Park and the Gr. III Red Bank Stakes at Monmouth Park.

“He continues to really do well,” Stidham said. “We haven’t had to press on him as much as we did going into the first race because now he’s pretty fit so we haven’t asked him as much since that last race. Every indication about the way he’s acting and eating and the way he looks are as strong as he was going into the first time.”

Trainer William "Buff" Bradley

Gene McLean talks with Buff Bradley

THE PLAYER FACES GOOD SAMARITAN IN GR. II NEW ORLEANS ‘CAP

Following a 4¼ length victory in the Gr. III Mineshaft Handicap, The Player is taking the next logical step in the Gr. II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap, which kicks off a $200,000 guaranteed all-stakes Pick 4 on Saturday afternoon.

Trainer William “Buff” Bradley added blinkers to the 5-year-old son of Street Hero for his last effort which appeared to make a difference. The Mineshaft Handicap was The Player’s first graded stakes win since the Gr. II Fayette Stakes at Keeneland in October, which he won by three lengths.

While he only faces five others this time around, it could prove to be a stiffer test as he must face multiple graded stakes winner Good Samaritan, who has not raced since finishing second in the Gr. I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs, a race where The Player finished fifth.

“We have probably the most speed and you know (Hall of Fame jockey) Calvin (Borel) will be on the rail so at least he gets to start out there,” Bradley said. “I think Good Samaritan is definitely going to be the horse for us to beat but I think he’s going to have to catch us.”

If The Player puts up a solid enough effort in the New Orleans Handicap, Bradley did not rule out a start in the Gr. II $400,000 Alysheba Stakes on Churchill Downs’ May 4 Kentucky Oaks undercard.

“That’s kind of what we were looking at later on,” Bradley said. “So we would just keep moving forward to that and on to (Grade I $500,000) Stephen Foster (Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 16).”

Bradley won a previous edition of the New Orleans Handicap with Brass Hat in 2006, when the event was contested at Louisiana Downs.