Ike and Dawn Thrash’s Hurricane Ike, who stormed home first by a neck in Saturday’s $75,000 Tenacious Handicap, is now on a likely path back to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots stakes competition with a projected start in the upcoming $100,000 Louisiana Handicap Jan. 19.
The Louisiana Handicap, which will be observing its 66th renewal on that Road to the Derby Kickoff Day Presented by Hotel Monteleone, is also the first leg of the Crescent City oval’s three-leg series for older horses on the main track.
The intermediate leg – the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap – will be renewed Feb. 23 (Louisiana Derby Preview Day Presented by Lamarque Ford) with the concluding leg of that series – the Grade II New Orleans Handicap following March 30 as part of the gala Louisiana Derby Day program.
“So far, so good,” said trainer Mike Stidham on Sunday morning during training hours when asked how Hurricane Ike had bounced back from his Saturday endeavor. “Assuming he continues to do well, we’ll shoot for that handicap series here with him. We’re looking hard at that right now.”
The big question Saturday was whether Hurricane Ike could get the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Tenacious and he answered that in the affirmative. The upcoming Louisiana and Mineshaft handicaps are also at the same middle distance, but the New Orleans Handicap is contested a mile and an eighth.
STIDHAM TO STRIKE AGAIN ON SANTA SUPER SATURDAY
This Saturday is Santa Super Saturday Presented by Lee Tractor Co. & Kubota Tractors at Fair Grounds and in addition to the appearance of two live reindeer on the Family Fun Day program, guests at the Crescent City oval and fans of the simulcast signal around the country will get to enjoy three stakes races – all slated for the Stall-Wilson Turf Course.
That troika – all with $75,000 purses – consists of the “Buddy” Diliberto Memorial Handicap for older horses at about 1 1/16-miles over the local lawn, the Bonapaw for sprinters at about five and a half furlongs and the Blushing K. D. Handicap for older fillies in mares and run at the same middle distance as the “Buddy” Diliberto.
Trainer Mike Stidham, who saddled Ike and Dawn Thrash’s Hurricane Ike to win last Saturday’s $75,000 Tenacious Handicap, will be active once again in Santa Super Saturday’s stakes threesome.
“I don’t have anything for the Blushing K.D.,” Stidham said Sunday, “but I’m planning on (Peter Redekop’s) Hollywood Hit for the Bonapaw. He’s never run on the turf before, but that’s what we’ll find out Saturday – how he likes the grass. He’s had a good career on synthetic courses (including a runner-up finish in Keeneland’s 2010 Grade III Phoenix Handicap when beaten a half-length for the win.)
“I have two nominated to the Blushing K.D.,” Stidham added, “but I’ll probably only run (John Chandler’s) Francisca. “I’ll probably look around for something shorter for (Stone Farm’s) Cat Lore.”
Francisca and Cat Lore finished second and third, respectively, in the $75,000 Pago Hop Stakes on the grass here Nov. 24.
THANKSGIVING ’CAP WINNER DELAUNAY GETS SUNDAY BREEZE
Maggi Moss’s Delaunay, hero of Fair Grounds’ tradition-rich $100,000 Thanksgiving Handicap on opening day of the season, breezed a half-mile in 51.40 Sunday morning.
Delaunay is nominated to Saturday’s $75,000 Bonapaw Stakes over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, but only one of his 11 lifetime wins has come over that surface.
Now conditioned by nine-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Tom Amoss, Delaunay was claimed by Moss last spring at Churchill Downs for $40,000.