Feel The Thunder Stable’s Gran Estreno, the $20,000 claim that captured Saturday’s Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap over Fair Grounds’ Stall-Wilson turf course, came out of his weekend race in good order and is being targeted for a return to that surface for the Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap on Louisiana Derby Day March 26.
The Muniz Memorial, named in honor of Fair Grounds’ beloved longtime racing secretary who died in 2003, is the premier grass race of the New Orleans Thoroughbred racing season.
“Our main goal for Gran Estreno is the Muniz,” said trainer Mike Stidham during training hours Monday morning. “I don’t know if we’ll go in that next race (Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap Feb. 19) or not. That hasn’t been decided yet.
“We do have Workin for Hops (owned by Estrorace) getting ready for the Fair Grounds Handicap,” Stidham said. “If he runs well in there, we might bring him back for the Muniz and possibly run both of them in there.”
Workin for Hops, winner of the 75th anniversary edition of the Arlington Classic last May 22 as the first leg of Chicago’s Mid-America Triple, also captured the Grade II American Derby July 17 as the second leg but was denied a sweep of the Triple when he finished third in the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Arlington Million Day Aug. 21.
The altered son of City Zip, who also won Fair Grounds’ $60,000 Grindstone Stakes on Louisiana Derby Day last season, breezed five furlongs at Fair Grounds in 1:01 Jan. 22 after working that same distance in 1:01.60 on Jan. 15.
Naprvanik Ties Eramia For Leading Rider
Following two successive riding triples Saturday and Sunday, jockey Rosie Napravnik has tied Richard Eramia for the lead with 42 wins apiece in the Fair Grounds jockey standings entering Monday’s nine-race program.
Sunday’s 42nd racing day of Fair Grounds’ 2010-2011 season also officially marked the halfway point of the New Orleans oval’s 84-day meeting this winter.
Napravnik, 22, born in Morristown, N.J., is hanging her tack at Fair Grounds for the first time this season after leading the standings at Delaware Park last summer. She began her Sunday hat trick astride Burning Sands Stable’s Lotto Cat for trainer Mike Stidham, came right back to the winner’s circle in the fourth aboard Brereton Jones’ Proud and Fast for conditioner Greg Foley and won the 10th and final race of the day up on Polite and Cozy, owned by Valene Farms and trained by Sturges Ducoing.
During last Saturday’s Road to the Derby Kickoff Day Presented by Hotel Monteleone, her three-win afternoon began in the fourth race on Jerry Adkins’ Ginormus for conditioner Joe Duhon, continued in the fifth race up on Joel Meredith’s Lumberyard Jack for Stidham and concluded in the Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap astride Feel The Thunder Stable’s Gran Estreno, once again for Stidham.