December 11, 2023

Grass racing at Fair Grounds resumes on Road to the Derby Kickoff Day

Spooky Channel wins the Sycamore Stakes (Photo by Coady Photography)

Grass racing at Fair Grounds will return on a limited basis beginning Dec. 26, when the $100,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial and $100,000 Blushing K. D. S. will be among nine stakes scheduled on the post-Christmas card. Field sizes on the turf will be initially capped at eight.

“Going forward from there, we will monitor the condition of the course and run a limited number of turf races as the course allows,” executive director of racing Gary Palmisano Jr. said earlier this month. “If all goes well, as is expected, the racing office will look to add turf races to the new condition book, which starts Jan. 5.”

The Diliberto Memorial, over 1 1/16 miles, marks the return to action of multiple Grade 3 winner Spooky Channel, who was last seen in the fall of 2021 winning back-to-back outings in the Remington Green S. and the Sycamore (G3) at Keeneland. Other notables include local division mainstays Spanish Kingdom and Captivating Moon, English Tavern, and the streaking Gentle Soul, who will be making his stakes debut if he draws in as the first also-eligible.

The Blushing K. D., also at 1 1/16 miles but for fillies and mares, includes the speedy pair of Mo Clare’s and A Mo Reay, while Island Hideaway, Carpe Vinum, and Oliviaofthedesert are also likely to attract support.

The 13-race card is capped by the $100,000 Tenacious S. for older horses at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Chess Chief, whose five career wins have all come at Fair Grounds, including the 2021 edition of the Tenacious, takes a much-needed drop in class for trainer Dallas Stewart. Multiple Grade 3 winner Mr. Wireless enters off an allowance win at Churchill Downs on Nov. 11 in which Chess Chief finished fourth, while Grade 3 veteran Forza Di Oro could make a splash in his first start since joining the Brad Cox barn.

Others to watch for include Intrepid Heart and three horses cross-entered in both the Tenacious and Diliberto Memorial: Captivating Moon, Gentle Soul, and Happy American.

Fillies and mares will get first crack at the stakes spoils on Saturday when five go to post in the $100,000 Joseph E. Spanky Broussard Memorial over one mile and 70 yards. The slight favorite could be the Minnesota-bred Charlie’s Penny, who landed the 2021 Silverbulletday S. in her last outing over the New Orleans track.

The $100,000 Richard Scherer Memorial, a six-furlong dash for older horses, has attracted a crack field. Returning from a one-two finishing in the Nov. 24 Thanksgiving Classic are Surveillance and Heart Rhythm, while Phoenix (G2) upsetter Manny Wah aims to earn his first win over the Fair Grounds main track in his seventh try. Miles Ahead enters off a nose win in the Louisville Thoroughbred Society S. in September, Bango has numerous stakes wins in Kentucky to his credit, and the Grade 3-placed Tulane Tryst has been working fast in advance of his first start since early May.

The $100,000 Sugar Bowl S. for two-year-olds at six furlongs marks the stakes debut of Corona Bolt, who won at first asking by a length over next-out winner Communication Memo at Churchill Downs on Nov. 19. The Brad Cox trainee will be joined by stablemate Distorted Pro, recent Advent S. runner-up Alto Road, and multiple Louisiana-bred stakes winner Late September.

Twice as Sweet, who captured the Smart Halo S. at Laurel last out for Godolphin and trainer Brendan Walsh, will look to make it two in a row in a competitive renewal of the $100,000 Letellier Memorial for juvenile fillies at six furlongs. Looking to make an impact in their stakes debuts are recent Churchill graduates Dazzling Blue and Neutralize.