February 22, 2024

Stakes-laden Fair Grounds card offers plethora of wagering opportunities

Fair Grounds Turf Racing
Fair Grounds Turf Racing (Hodges Photography/Amanda Hodges Weir)

by John Mucciolo

A six-pack of stakes races will take place at Fair Grounds on Saturday, four of which are of the graded variety. I will give a look at each graded tilt:

Risen Star (G2)

Lecomte S. (G3) hero INSTILLED REGARD (8-5) has done little wrong since stretching out to two turns for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and he is the obvious one to beat. The $1.05 million Arch colt is coming to hand at the right time of year and should be dead fit following a trio of works preparing for the Risen Star.

A nice field awaits him, however, and I expect a very competitive race. PRINCIPE GUILHERME (7-2) and SNAPPER SINCLAIR (8-1), both from the Steve Asmussen barn, finished second and third, respectively, in the Lecomte and each have reason to improve. Principe Guilherme ran well despite picking up his initial defeat, while the latter will be making just his second two-turn run on the dirt.

Trainer Todd Pletcher’s NOBLE INDY (5-1) is unblemished from two career races and defeated a highly-regarded colt, Mississippi, in a recent Gulfstream Park allowance victory. The son of Take Charge Indy gets go-to pilot John Velazquez in the silks once again.

Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) fourth HIGH NORTH (15-1) and trainer Michael Stidham’s unbeaten SUPREME AURA (8-1) are also worth note.

I will play superfectas using Principe Guilherme on top and Instilled Regard in the second and third slots.

Rachel Alexandra (G2)

An accomplished group of eight sophomore fillies will travel 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. Morning-line choice MONOMOY GIRL (8-5) draws outside and fell a neck shy of being unbeaten in her juvenile campaign last out in the Golden Rod (G2). The Brad Cox-trained filly has an abundance of early foot and class, and comes in with strong morning drills for the affair.

Grade 2 heroine WONDER GADOT (4-1) is a classy filly who was a neck second in the Silverbulletday S. last out. The Mark Casse trainee looms large in a second try on the local dirt surface. Also from this barn is Grade 1 lass HEAVENLY LOVE (6-1), though her fifth-place performance last out was uninspiring. She has back class and is eligible to rebound.

I am going outside of the box and take a chance with PATRONA MARGARITA (6-1). The Bret Calhoun pupil was a smashing winner of the Pocahontas S. (G2) in her first run going long, and her five local works this year should have her ready off the bench. The late runner lands in a spot where a fast and contested pace seems probable.

Mineshaft H. (G3)

I see the Mineshaft as something of a two-horse race with CEDARTOWN (8-5) and THE PLAYER (5-2), and I will give top billing to the latter.

The Buff Bradley charge failed as the 4-5 favorite in the Louisiana H. preparing for this run, but he makes a second go off the layoff and will also be equipped with blinkers for the initial time.

I am intrigued by FIRST PREMIO (8-1) for the exotics. The Team Valor International colorbearer makes his first try on the dirt and has been consistently solid since arriving in the United Stakes last campaign.

The Player has class and figures to sit an advantageous trip just off the early leaders while away from the rail. I will play him on top of the other pair that was previously mentioned.

Fair Grounds H. (G3)

A dozen will vie on the green, and the race goes through MR. MISUNDERSTOOD (3-1). The four-year-old gelding is a sublime eight-for-eight on the turf in his lifetime, with a trio of those tallies coming over the Fair Grounds lawn. I am not creative enough to try and beat him and will look for some price runners underneath in the vertical gimmicks.

ONE MEAN MAN (12-1) was third in this race in 2017 and makes a third run off the layoff for trainer Bernie Flint. GRANNY’S KITTEN (8-1) is a graded winner on this turf oval and has every right to improve in a second try since April.