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Optimizer Returns to Fair Grounds for Muniz

With two convincing wins already behind him at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Calumet Farm’s Optimizer has already proved he loves the Stall-Wilson Turf Course at the Crescent City oval.

The 4-year-old son of English Channel conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas galloped home by 3 1/2-lengths in Fair Grounds’ Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap Jan. 26 and then came back to tally by two in the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap Feb. 23.

This Saturday, as part of the gala Louisiana Derby Day program, Optimizer will attempt to win the Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap, the season’s showcase event for older horses over the local lawn.

However, Optimizer is expected to face some serious competition. Five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher is sending WinStar Farm’s Doubles Partner, most recently runner-up by a half-length despite a troubled trip in the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes Feb. 16, who is also the winner of last year’s Grade III Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream.

Chuck and Ella Lou Hageman’s Bim Bam, AJ Suited Racing Stable’s Two Months Rent and Marette Farrell et al.’s Willcox Inn, second and third and fourth, respectively, behind Optimizer in the Fair Grounds Handicap, are all expected to try again.

Expected at this time to complete the Mervin Muniz field is Wachtel Stable et al.’s Amira’s Prince, Charles Craig Smith’s String King, Dream Racing Stable’s Fast Track and Joseph Witek’s Tiz Sardonic Joe.

LARRY JONES PLEASED WITH MONDAY MOVES OF MARK VALESKI, BLUE VIOLET 

Trainer Larry Jones expressed his satisfaction with the Monday works of Brereton Jones’s Mark Valeski and Susan Knoll’s Blue Violet during training hours Tuesday morning.

Mark Valeski, in a tune-up for Saturday’s Grade II New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Louisiana Derby Day, breezed a bullet five-eighth in 58.20, while Blue Violet worked five furlongs handily in 1:00.40 in advance of Saturday’s Grade II $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks.

“Mark Valeski worked great,” said Jones, “despite the fact that he blew a shoe during the move or while he was coming back. He did the same thing in last year’s Louisiana Derby.

“Blue Violet worked in company with a colt we have named (Dreamchaser Thorobreds’) Hard Aces and he’s a nice colt that finished second by a length to (Willis Horton’s Grade II Rebel Stakes winner) Will Take Charge last fall at Keeneland.

“But every time that colt came to her, she just took off again,” said Jones of Blue Violet.

 

 

 

 

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