Feel The Thunder Stable’s Gran Estreno, the $20,000
claim that keeps on giving, is expected to feel the thunder of Pin Oak Stable’s
Strike Again next to him once again over the local Stall-Wilson
turf course in Saturday’s Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap on Road
to the Derby Kickoff Day Presented by Hotel Monteleone at Fair Grounds Race
Course & Slots.
Gran Estreno, who finished second to Strike Again by
three-quarters of a length here in the $60,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial
Handicap Dec. 4, will be attempting to make amends for that defeat and has been
installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite based on his consistent record over
several years, but Strike Again has been pegged as a close second choice at 7-2
in Saturday’s Col. Bradley ’Cap, the second graded stakes offered in addition
to the Grade III Lecomte Stakes for 3-year-olds that highlights the
expanded 13-race program.
Because the Lecomte is the first leg of Fair Grounds’
three-race sophomore series that concludes with the $1 million Grade
II Louisiana Derby March 26, that race for 3-year-olds with Triple Crown
aspirations gets top billing, but the Col. Bradley, featuring the Gran Estreno,
Strike Again and seven other older battle-scarred veterans of past turf wars,
could be a far more contentious affair.
Four other stakes, to include the $100,000
Silverbulletday Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, the $60,000 Louisiana
Handicap for older horses on the main track, the $60,000 F. W. Gaudin
Memorial Stakes for older sprinters and the $60,000 Dr. A. B. Leggio
Memorial Stakes for older female grass sprinters complete the stakes
portion of the afternoon.
Capable of providing strong competition for Gran Estreno
and Strike Again in the Col. Bradley are Cudney Stables and John Gunther’s Midnight
Mischief, runner-up in Churchill’s Grade III River City Handicap and the
9-2 third choice in the morning line; Sam-Son Farm’s Red Strike (8-1),
undefeated in two starts but third in the $60,000 Woodchopper here after
stumbling badly at the start; David P. Holloway Racing’s Dubious Miss
(8-1), winner of Keeneland’s Grade III Ben Ali Handicap last spring; Henry
Pabst’s Joinem (8-1), clearly best in high level allowance company here
Dec. 16; and Stacey Moak’s Southern Anthem (8-1), runner-up in
Keeneland’s Grade III Sycamore Stakes last fall.
Team Block’s Amazing Results (10-1) and W. S.
Farish’s Insider Tip (20-1) complete the Col. Bradley field.