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Neil Howard Updates Machen, Wilkinson

Fair Grounds Race Course
Photo: CDI

Trainer Neil Howard has two 3-year-old prospects who have already shown enough promise to be under consideration for this year’s Grade II Louisiana Derby when that local classic offers a $1 million purse for the first time in its 98-year history on March 26.


One of them, Courtlandt Farms’ undefeated Machen, will go to the post in Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes as the designed prep for the Louisiana Derby and breezed five furlongs in 1:01.80 Monday morning.


Jamie (jockey Theriot) said he felt very comfortable under him,” Howard said Tuesday. “I feel that if (Machen) is good enough, this race Saturday should set up perfect for him.”


Howard’s other current leading 3-year-old, Gaillardia Stable’s Wilkinson, breezed the same distance in the same time Monday and won Fair Grounds’ Grade III Lecomte Stakes Jan. 22 as the first leg of the three-race local sophomore series. Wilkinson remained possible for Saturday’s Risen Star until Howard and owner Ed Gaylord conferred after Monday’s work.


“(Wilkinson) worked good,” said Howard, “but he had a hard race in the Lecomte and he’s had three races over the track already this season, and when you’re changing your mind (about whether or not to run Wilkinson in the Risen Star) every 15 minutes or so – there’s a reason you’re hedging. These horses are still young and very vulnerable at this stage of their careers, so I’ve found out that when you’re in doubt like that the best thing to do is stay in the barn. However, I would say that the Louisiana Derby is definitely in the cards for Wilkinson.”




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