Up-and-coming three-year-olds will take center stage on Road to the Derby Day at Fair Grounds on Saturday, but a quartet of stakes for older horses will enhance the 12-race program.
It’s not the most lucrative undercard race, but the $75,000 Marie Krantz Memorial for fillies and mares has attracted the biggest star in multiple Grade 1 winner I’m a Chatterbox. After sweeping Fair Grounds’ trio of Kentucky Oaks (G1) preps two years ago, the daughter of Munnings later tacked on wins in the 2015 Cotillion (G1) and the 2016 renewals of the Delaware H. (G1) and Spinster (G1).
Provided the weather doesn’t interfere, I’m a Chatterbox will explore a new avenue Saturday by trying turf for the first time. However, the about 1 1/16-mile Krantz is more of a backup plan than a regularly scheduled stop on I’m a Chatterbox’s agenda. Due to travel restrictions related to the equine herpesvirus (EHV-1), I’m a Chatterbox’s ability to participate in the January 29 Houston Ladies Classic (G3) at Sam Houston has appeared doubtful.
For what it’s worth, I’m a Chatterbox’s dam, Chit Chatter, was stakes-placed once on turf and has also reared Pegasus Again, who was stakes-placed at Royal Ascot.
Another noteworthy taking a rare spin on the grass is Include Betty, a contemporary of I’m a Chatterbox who captured the 2015 Mother Goose (G1) and Fantasy (G3). Unplaced in her only turf start, Include Betty was a distant second in the $50,000 Tiffany Lass on the main track last time.
Among those with serious turf form, multiple Grade 3 queen Cash Control and Kitten’s Roar pose the most serious threats. The pair were separated by a head when running one-two in the $75,000 Blushing K. D. on December 17.
The top four finishers from the $75,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial on December 17, all separated by a neck, will square off again in the $125,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley H. (G3) at about 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
Western Reserve, Greengrassofyoming, Granny’s Kitten, and Chocolate Ride finished in that order, with the latter perhaps eligible to move forward the most in his second start following a layoff of 7 1/2 months. Chocolate Ride has won each of Fair Grounds’ three graded turf stakes at least once, notching the Bradley by three parts of a length last year.
Other leading contenders include Blarp, third in the 2016 Bradley and an allowance scorer over the local sod in late November, and Grade 3 victor One Mean Man, recent winner of the $74,000 Woodchopper.
The $75,000 Louisiana, an early 1 1/16-mile prelude for the New Orleans H. (G2) has attracted a competitive field that includes Iron Fist, Hawaakom, Honorable Duty, Dazzling Gem, Carve, and Seeking the Soul.
The $75,000 Duncan F. Kenner for older horses at six furlongs features a showdown between last-out Thanksgiving H. winner Yockey’s Warrior and Grade 2 veteran Holy Boss.