West Point Thoroughbreds’ Awesome Gem
California-based gelding with dangerous recent success as an invader, has been
installed a the slight choice at 5-2 in the morning line for Saturday’s 85th
running of the Grade II New Orleans Handicap
– Fair Grounds’ season
highlight for older horses run as part of the Louisiana Derby Day
On that same centerpiece afternoon of the Fair Grounds
racing season, the Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap will
be run over the Stall-Wilson turf course as the featured grass test of the Crescent City racing season and Anstu Stables’ Blues
Street is pegged as the 3-1 favorite in the 17th renewal of that event.
In the New Orleans Handicap, run at nine furlongs on the
main track, Awesome Gem – trained by Craig Dollase – will be ridden by
jockey David Flores who rode the gelding when he visited Chicago to take
down winning honors in the Grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup last Oct. 3. In Awesome
Gem’s previous trip away from California the
7-year-old son of Awesome Again won the Grade III Longacres Mile
Handicap at Emerald Downs in the Seattle,
Washington, area. In his most
recent trip to the post, he was eighth in Santa Anita’s Grade I Frank E. Kilroe
Mile but beaten less than four when trying the grass course there. He shoulders
the top impost of 121 pounds Saturday.
Among the dangerous rivals for Awesome Gem Saturday is Tom
McCarthy’s General Quarters, second by a neck in the Grade III
Mineshaft Handicap here as the final designed prep for the New Orleans Handicap
run Feb. 20, and second to last year’s Louisiana Derby winner Friesan Fire
in the $75,000 Louisiana Handicap before that on Jan. 23. Seven-time Fair
Grounds jockey champion Robby Albarado has the riding assignment and
will make up most of the 120 pounds assigned General Quarters, who is trained
by his owner.
Virginia Tarra’ Giant Oak is the third choice in the
New Orleans Handicap morning line at 9-2. Trained by Neil Pessin, the
4-year-old entire son of Giant’s Causeway
finished third in the Mineshaft Handicap. James Graham gets the mount on
Giant Oak, who gets in Saturday with 119 pounds.
Completing the New Orleans Handicap field, with jockeys,
weights and odds, is Millennium Farms and James Covello’s Tone It Down, John
Jacinto, 113, (20-1); Two Bucks Farm and Glenn Bromagen’s Stones River,
Jose Lezcano, 115, (15-1); Southern Equine Stables’ Big Polk a Dot,
David Cohen, 112, (20-1); WinStar Farm’s Hold Me Back, Kent
Desormeaux, 116, (8-1); Brittlyn Stable’s Star Guitar, Curt Bourque,
117, (10-1); Richard Rudolph and Michael Vranich’s Stonehouse, Miguel Mena,
117, (8-1); and Overbrook Farm’s Battle Plan, Javier Castellano, 117,
In the Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap, Blues Street inherited the favorite’s
mantle by winning the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap here by 2 1/4-lengths on
Feb. 20. The Fair Grounds Handicap is the final designed prep for the Mervin
Muniz Memorial. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the 6-year-old son of Street
Cry will be ridden by Javier Castellano once again after being
aboard for the win four weeks ago. Blues Street shares the top impost of 119
Also with that same impost of 119 pounds in the Muniz
Memorial is James Spence’s El Caballo, who won the Grade III Col. E. R.
Bradley here by 3 1/4-lengths on Jan. 23 as the first leg of the three-race
Stall-Wilson turf course series, but subsequently passed on the Fair Grounds
Handicap. El Caballo, trained by Ralph Nicks, led every step of the way
but the last one in the 2009 Muniz Memorial before being caught at the wire by
Proudinsky, who also won the 2008 Muniz. Robby Albarado is named to
handle the reins on El Caballo, who is the second choice in the morning line.
The third horse with the 119-pound assignment is Farnsworth
Stables’ Jet Propulsion, who won the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Turf at
Gulfstream Park Jan. 30 and then came back to run third – beaten a length and a
half for the win – in Gulfstream’s Grade III Canadian Turf Handicap Feb. 20.
Trained by Marty Wolfson, Jet Propulsion will be ridden by Shaun
Bridgmohan and is the co-third choice in the morning line at 5-1.
Named to oppose those three in the Muniz Memorial, with
respective jockeys, weights and odds, are: Wachtel, Brous and Robinette
Crawford’s Yate’s Black Cat, Kent Dersormeaux, 117, (6-1); Fritz
McTarnahan’s My Happiness, Jamie Theriot, 112, (30-1); EMO Stables’ Pick
Six, Shane Sellers, 115, (15-1); Pat Gallagher’s Red Alert Day, David
Flores, 115, (8-1); Castle Top Stable’s Baletti, Rajiv Maragh, 114,
(5-1); Martin Cherry’s Pickapocket, James Graham, 115, (12-1); H B O
Racing Stable’s Feels All Right, Corey Nakatani, 118, (8-1); and Kim and
John Glenney’s Transduction Gold, Miguel Mena, (30-1).
Entered for main track only in the Muniz is Two Bucks Farm
and Glenn Bromagen’s Stones
Bridgmohan, with 111 pounds and pegged at 20-1 in the morning line.