Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice breezed a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.20 at South Florida’s Palm Meadows Thoroughbred Training Center Sunday morning in preparation for his upcoming appearance in Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots and the move has Dogwood president Cot Campbell looking ebulliently forward to the final local prep for the 100th running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby March 30.
“I’m a New Orleans boy – I was born there and it’s going to be great coming back there,” said Campbell, speaking from his South Carolina headquarters. “I also came back there in the early ‘50s to work for an advertising agency there, but I haven’t been back for a few years now. We’ll have about seven people in our party besides me and we’ll be getting in Friday morning. It’s a wonderful town with a wonderful race track and a lot of wonderful people live there.
“We’re starting to get into a very exciting time of year,” said Campbell. “With all the Kentucky Derby preps coming up around the country everybody in the nation starts to get interested in horse racing and I think that’s a wonderful thing for our sport.
“(Palace Malice) worked quite well this morning and he’s been doing well lately,” said Campbell. “I know (trainer) Todd (Pletcher) seemed very pleased with the work, so the horse appears to be very much on target for this race. He’ll have to be if we’re going to have the points we need to continue on the Derby trail.
“This will be his first quest at a mile-and-a-sixteenth,” said Campbell. “In his last race at Gulfstream he caught a sloppy track and the horse that beat us was quite a speed horse, but (Palace Malice) galloped out well that day, and he looks to me like a horse that wants to go long.
“Lastly, of course, I should say that we’re tickled to death to have Rosie (Napravnik) to ride him,” Campbell concluded in reference to Fair Grounds’ current leading rider and two-time defending jockey champion. “How far in front is she in the rider standings now, anyway? Yes, I can say we’re definitely looking forward to our trip down there this weekend.”
WEEKEND WORKERS FOR LOUISIANA DERBY PREVIEW DAY
Three candidates for Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes were on the Fair Grounds work tab one week prior to that final designed prep for the 100th running of the upcoming $1 million Louisiana Derby March 30.
Matthew Bryan’s Ive Struck a Nerve, fourth in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 for trainer Keith Desormeaux, and trainer Al Stall Jr.’s duo of Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Departing and Brittlyn Stable’s Sunbean each went a half-mile in 48.40.
On Sunday, Brereton Jones’s Mark Valeski, runner-up in last year’s Risen Star and Louisiana Derby, breezed a bullet five furlongs in 59 flat in preparation for Saturday’s Grade III Mineshaft Handicap and All In Stable’s Willcox Inn went 1:03.80 in advance of Saturday’s Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap.
VETERAN RIDER PAT JOHNSON RIDES BACK-TO-BACK LONGSHOTS
Veteran jockey Pat Johnson was the runner-up apprentice rider at Ellis Park in the summer of 1981, but in the winter of 2013 at Fair Grounds he’s been flashing eternal youth lately.
In Friday’s finale, Johnson rode Robert Averett’s R.C.’s Rebel Ways to victory for trainer Ronnie Averett at a $53.40 win price, and then the Knottsville, Kentucky-born reinsman came right back in Saturday’s opener for a win payoff of $49.20 aboard Forty One Won for owner-trainer Brian Schweda.
“It’s a real confidence builder, riding back-to-back winners like that,” said Johnson, who is hanging his tack at Fair Grounds on a regular basis for the first time this winter and continues to make the most of his limited opportunities so far. “It makes you feel good. Maybe with those two wins trainers will start giving me more chances to ride for them.
“All I've ever wanted to do since I got a pony named Snowball when I was 5- or 6-years-old was to ride horses and be around horses all my life.”