• Rachel Alexandra Half-Brother Debuts Sunday • Amoss Aiming for a Dozen and a Derby
RACHEL ALEXANDRA HALF-BROTHER DEBUTS SUNDAY Dolphus, a half-brother to Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old filly of 2009 Rachel Alexandra, will make his career debut in Sunday’s sixth race for trainer Joe Sharp in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Owned and bred by Dede McGehee’s Heaven Trees Farm, the son of multiple champion Lookin at Lucky has had a steady stream of works for his able conditioner, including a bullet five-furlong gate move at Churchill Downs Trackside on Nov. 11. In his first work over the local surface, the chestnut charge worked a half-mile in :49.60.
“We’ve taken our time with him,” Sharp said. “He’s a big horse and we haven’t been in a hurry to get him there. I think he’ll ultimately be a two-turn horse and he’s pretty special. I’ve been on him and so has Rosie in the mornings, but anyone can ride him. He’s classy and has been handling everything well. I appreciate Dede for giving me the opportunity. She’s supported me from the beginning. Obviously there’s pressure being a half-brother to Rachel Alexandra, but he gives me confidence. He doesn’t have to win, but I expect a good race.
“Brian (Hernandez, Jr.) will be on him in the race,” Sharp continued. “We wanted a commitment from a rider because we think this horse can go places. Brian’s flying in from Kentucky for it.”
Bred in Kentucky, Dolphus is out of stakes-winning Lotta Kim, who won the Tiffany Lass at three at Fair Grounds and was second in the Grade II Golden Rod at Churchill Downs in just four starts under the tutelage Hal Wiggins, who also conditioned Rachel Alexandra from the beginning of her career through her romp in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks. Dolphus is named for Lotta Kim and Rachel Alexandra’s original owner-breeder, Dolphus Morrison.
AMOSS AIMING FOR A DOZEN AND A DERBY Trainer Tom Amoss, a New Orleans native who won his 11th Fair Grounds title in March with a six-win tally over veteran conditioner Bret Calhoun, enters the 2015-16 meet with a stacked barn and an eye on both a 12th title and possibly even an initial victory in his hometown’s marquee race, the Grade II $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby on Mar. 26.
“It feels good to be back home,” Amoss beamed. “As a stable, like any other stable, we would like to start off quickly and maintain that momentum. That’s any trainer’s goal. In particular, we’re excited to run a couple 2-year-olds who have already proven themselves, as well as a couple who haven’t run yet. Having a talented 2-year-old this time of year is always an exciting thing.”
One of the more exciting possible Derby season prospects is recent stakes winner Mo Tom, whom Amoss trains for New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson (G M B Racing). Last out, the son of champion juvenile Uncle Mo – also the sire of expected Eclipse Award-winning juvenile Nyquist – won the $80,000 Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 1 in his third career start over a flat mile.
“Mo Tom is not a quick learner, but he has a lot talent,” Amoss continued. “It was great to see him show a little more professionalism that day. To win for Mr. Benson is great, too. He’s a great guy and knows the business and has for a long time. He knows the joys and disappointments of the game and is wonderful to train for.”
Some top older horses returning for Amoss include speedy sprinter Heitai, who has won three stakes in his six starts since Amoss took over training in January, as well as multiple stakes-winning sprinter-miler Control Stake, whom he trains for five-time defending champion owner Maggi Moss.
EDEN PRAIRIE TOPS SALTY SATURDAY ALLOWANCE Lothenbach Stables’ Eden Prairie, a four-time stakes winner over the Fair Grounds grass, tops a tough field of fillies and mares in Saturday’s featured allowance event. The daughter of Mizzen Mast will try to return to top form over her favorite surface when she breaks from post nine under regular rider Florent Geroux, who rode her to a local victory in the $60,000 Bayou Stakes in February.
“Everything’s good with her,” Pessin reported. “I think she could be the controlling pace, so if no one wants the lead, we have no problem going after it – especially coming from the nine-hole.”
Finishing fifth in her last three tries since the Bayou, the dark bay charge injured a tendon in the Grade I $300,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland in April, was very rank and faded in the $50,000 Melanie Frances Stakes at Arlington in September in her post-injury comeback and then ran into a dead rail in a conditioned allowance behind multiple graded stakes winner I’m Already Sexy in October.
“She was too fresh at Arlington and I just wanted to get a race into her that day,” Pessin said. “The rail was the worst place to be at Keeneland she she got buried down there last time. I think, even though it’s a tough field, she is the best horse and should win on Saturday.”
At 3-1 morning-line favoritism, Eden Prairie enters the one-mile event as the mare to beat, especially with an 8-5-2-0 record over the grass. If the race comes off the turf, 5-2 main-track-only Cassatt would take over morning-line favoritism for Fox Hill Farm and trainer Larry Jones.
Other talented turf distaffers entered include Columbine Stable’s multiple allowance winner and course lover Treaty Oak from the barn of Al Stall, Jr., tough allowance fillies Zubi Zubi Zu and Counterfactual from the dangerous barns of Mike Stidham and Tom Amoss, respectively, and recent stakes-winning Eric Reed trainee Welcome Aboard.
HEITAI LOOKING LIKE A MILLION FOR SATURDAY’S RETURN Rowell Enterprices’s Heitai looks to join the short list of Louisiana-bred millionaires when he goes to post on Saturday afternoon. A 15-time winner in 32 starts, the gelded bay son of Fusaichi Pegasus makes his Fair Grounds 2015-16 seasonal debut on the third day of the meet, Saturday, in the third race for trainer Tom Amoss and will pierce the seven-figure mark with a top-two finish in the $43,000 event. He breaks from the rail under new rider Leandro Goncalves.
“He’s been off a while, but he’s a horse who puts a lot into his work,” Amoss explained. “Six furlongs is a different kind of race than the turf races, but he’s adaptable. I’m comfortable with him and I think he’ll run his race.
“I think he’s changed between his time off and now,” Amoss continued. “He’s put on weight and his overall coat color is really good. He seems to be enjoying his training. I really like the way he’s coming back.”
A three-time winner in 10 starts at the New Orleans oval and considered by many as one of the swiftest turf sprinters in the nation, Heitai was last seen here when taking the $60,000 Costa Rising over a grassy dash on Mar. 28. Saturday’s race, a six-furlong event – a trip over which the 5-year-old is only 2-for-10 – also drew Too Dim, who twice defeated Heitai at the identical trip last season.
Amoss, who took over the training of the Louisiana-bred homebred in mid-January has won three of six with him – all in stakes company. Last out, on July 25, he was second by a head to Quick Dagger in the $75,000 Turf Express at Evangeline Downs.
WORK TAB Fox Hill Farm’s graded stakes winner Cassatt – a winner of 6 of 11, including four stakes – had her first Fair Grounds work of the season for conditioner Larry Jones last Friday, going four furlongs in :48 flat, which was good for second-best of 57 moves at the distance. She is entered for the main track only in Saturday’s salty featured allowance carded at a flat turf mile. Friday’s move was her first since a bad start and a wide run resulted in a fifth-place finish in an October Keeneland allowance – her first start since returning from an injury suffered in the Grade I Santa Margarita Stakes at Santa Anita on Mar 14.
Highly regarded Wayne Catalano trainee Tough Customer, fourth in Grade I company last year, worked five furlongs in 1:02.80 for Gary and Mary West. He is unraced since finishing second in an Aug. 1 allowance at Ellis Park.
Multiple stakes winner and possible millionaire-to-be Heitai worked a half-mile on Friday in a bullet :47.80 for trainer Tom Amoss and owner-breeder Rowell Enterprises.
Stakes-placed sophomore filly True to You worked a serious bullet in :48.20 on Saturday morning – the best of 125 moves at the distance for trainer Tom Amoss and owner Midwest Thoroughbreds. Third last year in the Letellier Memorial at Fair Grounds, she is unraced since finishing seventh in the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes at Turfway Park on Feb. 22.
Swift Al Stall, Jr., trainee Yockey’s Warrior – who opened many eyes with an impressive victory on debut on Louisiana Derby Preview Day – had his first work since finishing third in allowance company in May at Churchill Downs for owners Spendthrift Farm et al. The son of Warrior’s Reward worked three furlongs on Saturday in :37 flat.
Illinois-bred stakes-winning sophomore filly Tizgorgeous – unraced since a fourth in the Purple Violet Stakes at Arlington this summer – worked three furlongs in :38.80 for trainer Richie Scherer and owner Mike Schroeck.
Multiple graded stakes-placed comebacking turf sprinter Positive Side had his first work since finishing fourth in allowance company at Mountaineer for trainer Grant Forster and owner Team Forster when negotiating three furlongs in :37.20 on Saturday morning.
Fox Hill Farm’s well-regarded sophomore filly Broadway Show – one of the more impressive debuters of the 2014-15 meet when doing so on Jan. 8 for trainer Larry Jones – worked three furlongs in a bullet :35.80. Considered one of the better fillies in a barn that included the likes of eventual Kentucky Oaks winner Lovely Maria and expected Eclipse Award finalist I’m a Chatterbox, the daughter of Unbridled’s Song is aiming toward a winter comeback at the New Orleans oval over which she won so decisively last year.
Multiple Stakes winner Wind Chill Factor, who is entered in an allowance event on Sunday afternoon at Fair Grounds, worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 on Sunday for trainer Gary Scherer, who co-owns the 2014 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie winner along with Al and Bill Ulwelling.
Eden Prairie, a four-time stakes winner over the Fair Grounds lawn, worked five furlongs on Sunday in a leisurely 1:04 flat for trainer Neil Pessin and owner Lothenbach Stables. The daughter of Mizzen Mast tops a salty local allowance field set for Saturday.
Highly regarded maiden juvenile All Out of Aces – a half-brother to 2015 Louisiana Stakes and Grade I Santa Anita Gold Cup winner Hard Aces – worked a sharp five panels in 1:00.40 – second-best of 22 – on Monday morning for trainer Larry Jones, who co-owns and -bred the son of Proud Citizen through his Dreamchaser Thorobreds operation. The dark bay colt makes his second start on Sunday at Fair Grounds, following a fifth on debut at Keeneland on Oct. 3.
Fox Hill Farm’s well-bred stakes-winning sophomore Exodus worked five furlongs in a bullet 1:00 flat on Monday morning for trainer Larry Jones. Such was the half-brother to Cross Traffic’s second move since returning from injury and finishing eight in allowance company at Keeneland on Oct. 3.
Jorge Gomez’s Udoknowjack – a four-time winner last meet at Fair Grounds and winner of the Star Guitar Stakes on Louisiana Derby Day when last seen locally – worked three furlongs in :38 flat for his owner-trainer on Monday morning.
Hugh Robertson’s roan win machine Voodoo Spell – a victor in seven of his last nine races, including three of four at the 2014-15 Fair Grounds meet – worked a half-mile in :51.60 on Tuesday in preparation for his 2015-16 seasonal debut on Friday night.
Multiple graded stakes winner Clearly Now worked five furlongs 1:03.20 for trainer Ron Faucheux and owner Brittlyn Stable. Last seen winning in allowance company for previous trainer Bryan Lynch, the son of Horse Greeley was acquired privately from Up Hill Stable and is slated to start in the $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap next Thursday.
Columbine Stable’s stakes-placed Waging War, unraced since finishing second to Exodus in the Allen’s Landing Stakes in January, worked four furlongs in :49.20 on Thursday morning for trainer Al Stall, Jr.