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Mission Impazible Set for New Orleans Handicap

Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s Mission Impazible, defending champion from last season’s Grade II New Orleans Handicap and winner of the Grade II Louisiana Derby two years ago, is set to meet George and Lori Hall’s Pants On Fire, hero of last season’s $1 million Louisiana Derby in the upcoming battle for the 2012 New Orleans Handicap to be run April 1.

 

This year’s $400,000 New Orleans Handicap will again be run on Louisiana Derby Day, which also is Closing Day of Fair Grounds’ 2011-2012 racing season.

 

Mission Impazible, conditioned by five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, was most recently second by a nose in Gulfstream’s Grade I Donn Handicap in his 2012 debut Feb. 11.

 

Pants On Fire, trained by Kelly Breen, made his 2012 bow a successful one with a facile 4 1/2-length score in an allowance and $80,000 optional claiming race at Gulfstream March 3.

 

However, despite the allure of a face-off between two Louisiana Derby winners in the New Orleans Handicap, this year’s 88th renewal of Fair Grounds’ richest event for older horses on dirt is more than a two-horse race.

 

Zayat Stable’s Nehro, second by a neck to Pants On Fire in last season’s Louisiana Derby and subsequently runner-up in Oaklawn’s Grade I Arkansas Derby and then the Kentucky Derby, returned to competition to win a conditioned allowance race at Fair Grounds Feb. 25 by 7 1/4-lengths and appears primed to give his best effort in the New Orleans Handicap under the tutelage of Fair Grounds’ 10-time training champion Steve Asmussen.

 

Jay Em Ess Stable’s Redeemed, third in the Donn in his seasonal bow, closed out his 2011 campaign with an impressive 2 1/4-length victory in Aqueduct’s Grade III Discovery Handicap Nov. 19 after previously annexing Remington’s $400,000 Oklahoma Derby Oct. 16. Conditioner Tony Dutrow will be the trainer of record when Redeemed makes his expected start in the New Orleans Handicap.

 

Dianne Cotter’s Toby’s Corner, winner of last year’s Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct but subsequently sidelined, is being prepared by trainer Graham Motion to make his second start of 2012 in the New Orleans Handicap after finishing third in Laurel’s Grade II General George Handicap Feb. 20.

 

Windy Hill Farm’s Nates Mineshaft, hero of Fair Grounds Grade III Mineshaft Handicap Feb. 25 as the designed prep for the April 1 main event, is being pointed for the New Orleans ’Cap by trainer Austin Smith.

 

Also, Mark Gorman, Neil Haymes and Sterling Stable’s Thirtyfirststreet, eighth in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap after being bumped into the rail in upper stretch, is likely to invade from the West Coast to contest the New Orleans Handicap for trainer Doug O’Neill.

 

Jim Tafel’s Fast Alex, runner-up in the Mineshaft ’Cap and the $100,000 Louisiana Handicap as the first leg of the older horse series Jan. 21, won Fair Grounds’ $75,000 Tenacious Handicap Dec. 17 and trainer Greg Geier is pointing the son of Afleet Alex for the local highlight.

 

Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Cease, an Al Stall Jr. trainee who won Sam Houston’s $150,000 Maxxam Gold Cup March 3, and Lothanbach Stables’ Mister Marti Gras, trained by Neil Pessin and fifth in the Mineshaft, are expected to be cross-entered in the New Orleans Handicap on the main track as well as Fair Grounds’ Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap over the Stall-Wilson turf course on the same day.

 

 

 

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