· Mo Town Works, Ready for 3-Year-Old Bow in Risen Star
· Stewart’s Saint’s Fan Could Train Up to Louisiana Derby; Tom’s Ready Progressing
· Honorable Duty Works for Mineshaft, Gives Walsh Confidence
· Tour de Force to Ascend Allowance Ranks
· Chocolate Ride Looking for Confidence Boost, Passes on FG Hcp
· Girvin and Cool Arrow Top Work Tab
MO TOWN WORKS, READY FOR 3-YEAR-OLD BOW IN RISEN STAR
The most accomplished horse in the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes field next Saturday is the highest-profile ship-in, Tony Dutrow-trained Mo Town. Owned by Team D in partnership with the principals of the powerful Coolmore conglomerate – Mrs. Tom Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith – the son of Uncle Mo completed his final preparations for his sophomore bow with a five-furlong move on Friday morning in 1:01.40 at Payson Park in South Florida.
“He worked today and he’s happy and ready to run,” Dutrow said. “He’s done well since his last race and all winter. He leaves on a Tex Sutton flight Tuesday morning from South Florida and should arrive later that day at the Fair Grounds. He might be going into Steve Asmussen’s barn.”
Mo Town has only started three times, but has impressed in each. On debut, Aug. 27 at Saratoga, he was bumped when beaking from post nine of 10 going six furlongs before running a valiant second to highly regarded Asmussen trainee Reckling. He returned four weeks later to romp in the mud by seven lengths in a one-turn mile maiden at Belmont Park.
Two months later, in his first two-turn attempt, he was impressive when taking the nine-furlong Grade II $300,000 Remsen Stakes on Nov. 26 in just his third start. The lone winner at such a level coming into the Risen Star, he has worked well in recent weeks at Payson Park, including three consecutive five-furlong bullets.
Out of the Bernardini mare Grazie Mille, Mo Town will be reunited with Johnny Velazquez, who also flies in from Florida for the race. Velazquez and the bay colt break from post 9-of-14.
STEWART’S SAINT’S FAN COULD TRAIN UP TO LOUISIANA DERBY, TOM’S READY PROGRESSING
Saint’s Fan, who already has a local following, has exited his third-place effort as the favorite in the $100,000 Louisiana Premier Night Prince last week in top form for breeder-owner-trainer Dallas Stewart. Making just his third start and first in two months, the previously undefeated stakes-winning son of Tale of Ekati with a unique split-blaze marking may jump up to even tougher competition next out.
“What I might do is train him up to the (Grade II $1,000,000) Louisiana Derby (on Apr. 1),” Stewart said. “The seven weeks should be good for him. He came out of his race in great shape and, as you can see, is feeling good. He needed the race. If we don’t go there, we might go to the ($75,000) Crescent City Derby on the same day. We’ll give him a chance to prove he can go two turns before deciding what to do with him next. There are always races like the Pat Day Mile around one turn after that.”
Stewart also expressed pleasure in the progression of Tom’s Ready, who had a solid 2016 season for the New Orleans-based Benson Family, which races as G M B Racing and also owns the New Orleans Saints (NFL) and Pelicans (NBA).
“He’s had a couple half-miles so far and I think we could have a great year with him,” Stewart said. “He’s training well.”
After proving himself formidable around two turns with runner-up efforts in the Grade II Louisiana Derby and Grade III Lecomte Stakes – both at Fair Grounds – the son of More Than Ready won the Grade II Woody Stephens Stakes and Grade III Ack Ack around one-turn, with the former being seven furlongs and the latter a mile. In his last start before a well-earned break, the two-turn Grade I Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, he rallied respectably to be fifth.
One early season goal for Tom’s Ready may be a return to Belmont Park, a surface over which he won the Woody Stephens, and its rich Grade I Metropolitan Mile Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day.
HONORABLE DUTY WORKS FOR MINESHAFT, GIVES WALSH CONFIDENCE
DARRS, Inc.’s Honorable Duty skipped last month’s $75,000 Louisiana Stakes with next Saturday’s Grade III $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap in mind. The son of Distorted Humor has given trainer Brendan Walsh reinforced confidence with a solid five-furlong drill Friday morning in 1:00.80.
“He is truly doing very well right now, I have to be honest,” Walsh said. “I really liked his work today. He’s getting better and better and has really been a different horse since we gelded him. I look forward to the Mineshaft with him and think he’ll be tough in there.”
Bred by Juddmonte Farms, Honorable Duty proved that the ultimate equipment change – a gelding between his fifth in the Listed $175,000 Lukas Classic on Oct. 1 and his victory in the $75,000 Tenacious Stakes last out on Dec. 17 – was the right move. He will now attempt to beat a talented field of eight – including five graded stakes winners – when he breaks from post seven under Julien Leparoux on Feb. 25.
TOUR DE FORCE TO ASCEND ALLOWANCE RANKS
John C. Oxley’s high-profile 4-year-old Tour de Force won for the second time in three starts on Thursday when taking a first-level allowance race under Robby Albarado for trainer Mark Casse. The $1.35 million sale purchase now has a victory on each surface and will aim toward a race in the Fair Grounds condition book next month. His time of 1:42 2/5 was impressive for the mile and 70-yard distance, as was his widening winning margin while on the wrong lead.
“We’ll most likely keep him in allowance races right now,” said David Carroll, assistant to Casse. “He came out of the race well. There’s a race on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, going two turns on the main track that fits him. He’s still learning.”
CHOCOLATE RIDE LOOKING FOR CONFIDENCE BOOST, PASSES ON FG HCP
When GenStar Thoroughbreds’ Chocolate Ride did not turn up in the entries for next Saturday’s Grade III $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap – a race he had annexed the previous two years – it definitely seemed like a curious absence for the Brad Cox trainee. Nonetheless, it was by design, as the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots 2016-17 leading trainer is aiming for a confidence boost next out for the 7-year-old son of Candy Ride (ARG).
“He’s fine and doing well,” Cox assured. “He’s going to breeze Saturday and I’m pointing him to an easier spot. I would like to get him back winning and hopefully there will be an allowance in the next couple weeks.
“If he wins that, there’s a chance we may bring him back for the (Grade II $300,000) Muniz (Memorial on Apr. 1),” Cox continued. “Right now I just want to get him back winning.”
Since joining the Cox barn, Chocolate Ride has earned $496,900 of his $553,691 career bankroll, including six of his seven career victories. He was third last out in the Grade III $125,000 Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap behind Granny’s Kitten and stablemate Western Reserve, who are both running back in the Fair Grounds Handicap on Feb. 25.
GIRVIN AND COOL ARROW TOP WORK TAB
Brad Grady’s pair of Grade II Risen Star Stakes runners, Girvin and Cool Arrow, each worked half-miles in 49.20 for trainer Joe Sharp. The pair worked in company, with Girvin close to the rail on the inside and the pair finishing well within themselves past the wire.
Undefeated turf sprint filly Equation, a stakes winner last out in her fourth career start, worked a half-mile in 48.80 for trainer Brendan Walsh.
“She’s doing extremely well right now,” Walsh said afterward. “She’s done great since the stakes win.”
Classic-placed Golden Soul worked a half-mile in 49.80 for trainer Dallas Stewart and owner Charles Fipke in advance of his run in the Grade III $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap next Saturday. Another classic-placed charge from the same connections, Tale of Verve, worked a half-mile in 49.40.
Graded stakes-winning turf sprinter Hogy worked an easy half-mile in 50.20 for trainer Scott Becker and owner William Stiritz in advance of his rematch with Green Mask in next weekend’s $50,000 Col. Power Stakes.
Rise Up worked a sharp half-mile in 48.40 for trainer Tom Amoss and owner Paul Van Doren. He runs in next Saturday’s Grade III $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap against highly regarded stablemate Mo Tom, as well as a host of other talented campaigners, including lightly raced December Seven, who drilled five panels in 1:01 flat for Jay Em Ess Stable and trainer Paul McGee.