The stars of Pegasus World Cup Day in late January will enhance the two Grade 2 features for older horses on Saturday’s Louisiana Derby Day program at Fair Grounds.
Art Collector, who turned in the biggest surprise in the short history of the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at odds of 15-1, heads a field of eight for the $500,000 New Orleans Classic (G2) over 1 1/8 miles on the main track. One race later, Atone will seek to follow up his win in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) with a tally in the $300,000 Muniz Memorial (G2) going about nine furlongs on the turf.
Art Collector, a six-year-old by Bernardini, has blown hot or cold throughout his career, but the multiple Grade 1 winner rarely looked better when taking the Pegasus by 4 1/2 lengths. Trainer Bill Mott has had some recent success in the New Orleans Classic, winning last year’s edition with Olympiad and also with Good Samaritan in 2018.
The probable second choice is another six-year-old by Bernardini, West Will Power, who also figures to race prominently. A blowout winner of the Fayette (G2) at Keeneland in October, the Brad Cox charge settled for second in his next two outings, the Clark (G1) and Razorback H. (G3).
Todd Pletcher, a record six-time winner of the race, though not since 2014, relies on Pioneer of Medina, who beat Mr. Wireless by a head in last month’s Mineshaft (G3). Also exiting that affair is Happy American, who took the Tenacious S. and Louisiana (G3) earlier in the Fair Grounds meet. Rattle N Roll, a Grade 1 winner at two and a three-time stakes winner last season, faces a tough but not insurmountable task in his season debut.
Atone, who rallied to win the Pegasus World Cup Turf by three parts of a length for trainer Mike Maker, will have to run down Two Emmys to extend his current win streak to three in the Muniz. Two Emmys, who won the Muniz last season, enters his title defense off of a 4 1/4-length score in the Fair Grounds (G3) over Colonel E.R. Bradley S. winner Gentle Soul.
Also among the field of 10 is the ageless Spooky Channel, who enters in top form having won the Diliberto Memorial in late December, followed by a close third in pursuit of a second win in the John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) at Sam Houston.
The open stakes action kicks off Saturday with the $100,000 Tom Benson Memorial for fillies and mares at about 1 1/16 miles on the turf. She Can’t Sing surprised last year’s renewal at 9-1, but figures as one of the top choices in the wagering on Saturday. The multi-surface talent has been running on dirt of late, taking the Chilukki (G3) in November before running third in the Houston Ladies Classic (G3) last time.
Argentinean star Didia will look to make it 3-for-3 in the U.S. for trainer Ignacio Correas, though the mare hasn’t raced since winning a key edition of the Old Nelson S. at Colonial Downs in August. Godolphin homebred Adventuring is a logical contender and shortens up after running third in the 12-furlong La Prevoyante (G3) at Gulfstream, while 2022 Edgewood (G2) heroine New Year’s Eve will look to snap a three-race losing streak in her first attempt facing older rivals.