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Maximus Ruler Finally Healthy

Fair Grounds Race Course
Photo: CDI
Don Benge’s Maximus Ruler, runner-up in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes last January 23 on Fair Grounds’ 2011 Road to the Derby Kickoff Day, may be the longest shot in the morning line for Saturday’s $75,000 Tenacious Handicap, but he may also have the biggest upside.


After what was initially diagnosed as a stone bruise kept him out of the Grade II Risen Star Stakes, the Clark Hanna trainee suffered a recurring series of setbacks which knocked him off the Triple Crown trail and into a number of disappointing outings.


“He went to Delaware and had one good race before other things went wrong,” said Hanna assistant Chrissy Tubbs Friday morning while grooming Maximus Ruler on the Fair Grounds backstretch. “But now he’s back with his regular team and he’s come back good and he looks like himself again. He’s happy with us. He’s been eating everything we put in front of him and he’s back happy again with people he likes a lot, including his regular gallop girl Georgina Baxter. She’s done a wonderful job with him and he gets along great with her.


“Clark is on his way back from Louisville right now, and I’m expecting big things from (Maximus Ruler in the Tenacious Handicap),” said Tubbs. “I especially like the fact that Brian (Hernandez Jr.) will be back on him. Brian rode him real good last time.”


Conditioner Steve Asmussen and jockey Rosie Napravnik, defending champions in their respective categories from the 2010-2011 racing season at Fair Grounds, both put the pedal to the metal in their title defenses Thursday on the 15th racing day of the 2011-2012 New Orleans 84-day Thoroughbred Racing Season that lasts until April 1.


Asmussen, who has won 10 Fair Grounds training titles, saddled three winners Thursday, initiating his triple with a win by Millennium Farms and Littlebrother Farm’s Goldenexpectations in the sixth race, coming right back to the winner’s circle after the seventh with Darren Fleming’s Tapativity and making it three straight with Zayat Stables’ Z Dager in the eighth, who returned a healthy $31.40 straight price.


Napravnik also won three straight, capturing the fourth race with Friendship Stable’s Parade of Homes, the fifth with John Hulsey’s Top Cats Bull and the sixth on Goldenexpectations. The first female jockey to ever win a riding title at Fair Grounds later added a fourth win on P & D Racing Stables’ Radio Lover in the day’s finale to accomplish a winning riding quartet for the second time this season.


Entering Friday’s racing program, Napravnik led the jockey standings with 28 wins, six in front of her nearest pursuer James Graham who had 22 wins, with apprentice jockey C. J. McMahon in the third spot 16 wins.


Meanwhile, Asmussen leapfrogged into a tie for the second spot in the standing with trainer Mike Stidham with 10 wins on the local season after his Thursday training triple. Those two are one behind current leading trainer Al Stall Jr., who has 11 wins entering Friday’s racing day.





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