NEW ORLEANS – G M B Racing’s Tom Amoss-trained Mo Tom makes his 4-year-old bow on Saturday in a competitive, local star-studded field of older horses in the 1 1/16-miles Grade III $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The son of Uncle Mo leads a parade of Fair Grounds favorites, including Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s 2015 Grade II Louisiana Derby winner International Star, his William S. Farish-owned rival Eagle and Paul Van Doren’s Amoss-conditioned stablemate and hard-knocking speedster Rise Up.
A field of eight, including five graded stakes victors, will go to post in the eighth race on a 12-event card; an event that not only looks wide open, but also kicks off a $0.50 All-Graded Stakes Pick-4 (races 8-11) that is highlighted by the day’s co-features, the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star (race 11) for Grade I Kentucky Derby hopefuls and the Grade II $200,000 Rachel Alexandra (race 9), which clashes top Grade I Kentucky Oaks candidates Farrell and Valadorna.
Mo Tom was last seen finishing off the board as the 8-5 favorite in the Grade III Super Derby in September, a dull effort that necessitated a break for the three-time stakes winner from 10 lifetime starts. Owned by the Big Easy’s Benson family of New Orleans Saints and Pelicans ownership and trained by a Nola native, the late-running bayou-based beast will try to break a string of bad juju that has haunted him in his past couple starts over the New Orleans oval.
After taking the Grade III Lecomte Stakes with a flourish last January in his initial Fair Grounds try, Mo Tom had a pair of atrocious trips in the Risen Star and Grade II Louisiana Derby before having another rough go in the Kentucky Derby. Looking to return to the form that made him a three-length victor in last summer’s $500,000 Ohio Derby, the bay colt will be ridden for the first time by meet-leading jockey Florent Geroux from post five.
Mike Maker-trained International Star is another who could use a retrieval of form and returns to the surface responsible for most of his race-topping $1.18 million bankroll. The four-time graded stakes-winning 5-year-old son of Fusaichi Pegasus has been off since a seventh in June’s Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs and reunites with Miguel Mena, who has piloted him to four stakes wins, including a sweep of the local graded Kentucky Derby prep series in 2015. The pair will leave from outside post eight.
Neil Howard-trained barn favorite Eagle makes his seasonal debut for top connections. Second in the aforementioned Foster, the graded stakes-winning 5-year-old son of Candy Ride (ARG) has finished ahead of International Star in three of their five meetings and is unraced since finishing fourth in July’s Grade II Suburban Handicap at Belmont. Regular rider Brian Hernandez, Jr., returns to ride the ultra-consistent chestnut who has hit the board in 13 of 16 lifetime starts from post two.
Rise Up appears to be the key to the pace, as the speedy millionaire 6-year-old breaks from the rail under Mitchell Murrill. A bona fide miler with sprinter gears, the six-time stakes-winning son of Rockport Harbor will try stretch his pace an extra half-furlong as he did when taking the Grade III Delta Jackpot as a juvenile.
Big Chief Racing et al.’s 4-year-old Dalmore gets a slight break in class when he ships in from California for Louisiana native Keith Desormeaux. The good-looking son of Colonel John came to the Pelican State last fall to finish second, ahead of Mo Tom, in the Super Derby and has spent the last six months clashing with the likes of Grade I winners California Chrome, Beholder, Midnight Storm and Hoppertunity. Brother Kent Desormeaux flies in to ride the winner of last summer’s Grade III Affirmed Stakes from post four.
A trio of locally based horses with as much a claim to victory as their more accomplished rivals round out the field in DARRS, Inc.’s Brendan Walsh-trained $75,000 Tenacious Stakes winner Honorable Duty (Julien Leparoux, post seven), Steve Landers Racing’s Brad Cox-trained graded stakes-placed Dazzling Gem (Robby Albarado, post six) and Jay Em Ess Stable’s Paul McGee-trained local allowance romper December Seven (James Graham, post three).
Later in the card in race 10 — the third leg of the all-graded stakes Pick-4 — is the Grade III $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on the Stall-Wilson turf course. Four of the nine entrants are trained by Maker, with his best shots appearing to be 3-1 morning-line favorite Granny’s Kitten, a winner last out in the Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap over this course, and 7-2 co-second choice Oscar Nominated, who owns a Stall-Wilson stakes victory of his own here last season. Both are Kitten’s Joy sons owned by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey. Mena rides the former from post five, while Geroux has the mount from the outside post nine with the latter.
Marc Detampel’s Brad Cox-trained 5-year-old gelding Western Reserve will try to stretch his form to the nine-furlong trip of the Fair Grounds when regular rider Shaun Bridghmohan pilots from post eight. A game local stakes winner over Granny’s Kitten two back in the Diliberto Memorial, he got the short end of the rivalry stick last out in the Bradley when a begrudging runner-up.
The remainder of the field is comprised of graded stakes winners Bullards Alley (Marcelino Pedroza, rail), Greengrassofyoming (Robby Albarado, post two) and One Mean Man (Mario Gutierrez, post four), as well as recent restricted stakes winner Enterprising (Julien Leparoux, post six), classic-placed Golden Soul (John Velazquez, post seven) and local allowance winner Blame Angel (Ricardo Santana, Jr., post three).
Adding to the stakes-filled card is a pair of added-money turf events: the $75,000 Daisy Devine over 1 1/16 miles for older fillies and mares and the $50,000 Colonel Power, a turf sprint for older horses.
The Ramseys’ Maker-trained Kitten’s Roar barely held on last time in the $75,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial at this trip on soft going on Jan. 21. Mena returns to ride the consistent five-time winner from 12 starts from the outside post eight. The second- and third-place finishers from said event, Darrell and Sadie Brommer’s Richie Scherer-trained graded stakes winner Prado’s Sweet Ride (Francisco Torres, post five) — who flew home from last to lose by a nose at the wire — and Allied Racing Stable’s Tom Proctor-trained third-place finisher Cambodia (Florent Geroux, post two) return with equal claims to the top spot this time around.
All three of the aformentioned 5-year-olds will have to defeat newly turned 4-year-old Louisiana-bred Believe in Bertie, who scorched the local turf, breaking a one-mile track record in the $75,000 Pago Hop Stakes against her generation on New Year’s Eve for owners Richard Klein and Bertram Klein. The daughter of Langfuhr has been called ‘maybe the most talented horse in my barn’ by meet-leading conditioner Cox and breaks from post seven under Shaun Bridgmohan as the 9-5 morning-line favorite.
The remainder of the Daisy Devine field is comprised of Mexican Miss (Brian Hernandez, Jr., rail), Factory of Faith (David Flores, post three), Princess Erindelle (Marcelino Pedroza, post four) and Freudie Anne (James Graham, post six).
Kicking off the sextet of stakes on Saturday afternoon is the day’s fifth race, the Colonel Power, where eight speedsters will blitz the bayou. William Stiritz’s Scott Becker-trained graded stakes-winning 8-year-old deep closer Hogy will get a chance at redemption when he gets another crack at Abdullah Saeed Almaddah’s Brad Cox-trained Green Mask. The pair met in December in the $75,000 Bonapaw Stakes over this trip, where Hogy’s rally was timed a tad late and the nearly black gelding fell just over a length short in third. Florent Geroux, who was aboard when the pair was a close second last out at Sam Houston, rides Hogy from post two. Green Mask, who could earn a trip to Dubai’s Group I $1 million Al Quoz Sprint with another win, breaks from the rail under Robby Albarado.
Steve Vanovich et al.’s Latent Revenge is the speed of the speed and fell a neck short last time in the Bonapaw after setting a solid pace. A winner of three of five over this course, the Greg Foley-trained charge breaks from outside post eight under regular rider Francisco Torres.
The remainder of the Colonel Power is comprised of Ikerrin Road (IRE) (Julien Leparoux, post three), American Sailor (Miguel Mena, post four), Curlino (Brian Hernandez, Jr., post five), Grand Candy (Ricardo Santana, Jr., post six) and Shadow Rock (Channing Hill, post seven).
The Colonel Power caps a $0.50 Early Pick-4 (races 2-5) that also includes a turf allowance (race 3) where Dare to Dream Racing’s Mike Stidham-trained Tiznoble will look to return to winning ways after a tough head loss in the $75,000 Woodchopper Stakes to One Mean Man, as well as a six-furlong maiden special weight (race 4) where a septet of promising sophomores from formidable barns — including daughters of Into Mischief, Tapit, Candy Ride (ARG) and Uncle Mo — will try to ‘fly the W’ for the first time.
First post is 12:30 p.m., with the Mineshaft slated for 3:39 p.m.
About Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the nation’s third-oldest racetrack, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Market: CHDN); it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and 11 off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. The 145th Thoroughbred Racing Season – highlighted by the 104th running of the Louisiana Derby – will run from November 2016 through April 2017. More information can be found online at www.FairGroundsRaceCourse.com.