What an exciting day for racing! The Fair Grounds, in particular, offers some prime racing today:
$100,000 Bienville Stakes for 4 yr+ fillies/mares (turf): For sentimental reasons, I will be rooting for No Greater Love (Stravinsky-Imprudent Love, out of Foolish Pleasure) and Comalagold (Royal Empire-Splendora, out of Foolish Pleasure). I like Costume Designer, with Edgar Prado riding, and the M/L is excellent (15-1). And how could I not love Todd Pletcher’s Somethinaboutbetty, with John Velazquez up, especially when my mom’s name is Betty! (Hey, handicapping is not just about numbers or breeding…sometimes it is just karma)
$500,000 New Orleans Handicap (G2) for 4 yr+: Sandburr was my pick in yesterday’s Razorback Breeder’s Cup Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn, but he was scratched there to run here; I still like him. Liquor Cabinet (trained by Richard Dutrow, with Edgar Prado up) and Master Command (again, Pletcher and Velazquez) look to be the strong favorites, however.
$500,000 Mervyn Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (G2) for 4 yr+ (turf): Naissance Royale has the class pedigree for turf (out of Giant’s Causeway) and good success this year. Cloudy’s Knight won the Fair Grounds Breeder’s Cup Handicap here this year already. King’s Drama (with Edgar Prado up for Bobby Frankel) rightly looks to be strong. This race will probably be the only one in which Todd Pletcher’s horse doesn’t hit the board.
$400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) for 3 yr fillies: Three of my early Kentucky Oaks choices are running here today, including Mistical Plan (with Corey Nakatani up for Doug O’Neil), Octave (Garrett Gomez up for Todd Pletcher) and Appealing Zophie (John Velazquez up for Steven Asmussen). Gotta go with them.
$600,000 Louisiana Derby (G2) for 3 yr colts: I loved Circular Quay last year in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but he did not impress in the G3 Risen Star here February 10. I have lost a bit of confidence in him too, I must admit. Everyone is taking about Ketchikan, but I just don’t see it. No two-year-old races, and no stakes experience. Slew’s Tizzy had bad luck, clipping heels and losing his rider in the stretch in the Risen Star, but I don’t see Derby potential there. Birdbirdistheword…what a DUMB name for a horse! No three-year-old starts, although finished last year strong with big run in G3 Delta Jackpot Stakes at Delta Downs. This will be a step up in class, and, again, I don’t think he will be up for it. J. Paul Reddam has three worthy Derby horses: Notional, Liquidity and Great Hunter. This will be only Liquidity’s second venture out of California (and the last time—the G1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont—was a ninth place disappointment); he did finish second to Ravel’s very fast G3 Sham Stakes this year, so this will be a test on many fronts for him. Zanjero also getting lots of attention, but hasn’t had a triple digit Beyer yet, although he is improving. Garrett Gomez is back on him, after riding Circular Quay last year before being dumped for John Velazquez. Except for Edgar Prado-Todd Pletcher connection, Soaring By appears outclassed here. The hot longshot I like here is Imawildandcrazyguy (M/L 10-1) coming out of a second place finish in the Risen Star Stakes (behind Notional). He’s had plenty of races (9) at both sprints and routes, but constantly building for the distance. He had a 100 Beyer last December when he won by 10 lengths at 1-1/16. So, my final picks (again, no particular order): Imawildandcrazyguy, Liquidity, and Zanjero.