03/27/2010 12:00AM

Battle Plan shines in New Orleans Handicap

Louis Hodges Jr.
Battle Plan (right) defeats General Quarters in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap.

NEW ORLEANS - The wait has been worth it for Battle Plan, who, though 5 years old, finally made his stakes debut Saturday and showed why patience can pay off. In a dominating performance, Battle Plan led virtually every step of the 1 1/8 miles in , stamping himself as a new force in the older horse division.

With Javier Castellano aboard, Battle Plan grabbed the lead while going around the first turn, pulled his way to a clear lead down the backstretch, turned back bids from Star Guitar and then General Quarters heading into the stretch, then drew away to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

General Quarters finished second, his fourth straight second-place finish at this meet. Awesome Gem rallied late to finish third, another 2 1/2 lengths back, and Star Guitar tired late to finish fourth in the field of 10.

After letting longshot Big Polk A Dot lead through an opening quarter in 23.65 seconds, Battle Plan took over and set fractions of 47.11 seconds for a half-mile, 1:11.33 for six furlongs, and 1:36.51 for one mile en route to a final time of 1:49.33 on the fast main track.

"I didn't have to push him. He was galloping," Castellano said. "He was relaxed. When I asked him, he took off."

Battle Plan, a homebred of the Overbrook Farm of Chris Young, has won four straight races in a span of over 14 months. His only loss was in his debut in November 2008. He had won two allowance races at Gulfstream Park this winter before coming here for the New Orleans Handicap.

"The owners have been very patient, and he's rewarded them," said trainer Todd Pletcher, who said Battle Plan's next major goal would be the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap in June at Churchill Downs.

Blues Street wins fourth straight in Muniz

Blues Street made it four victories in a row, as he took the with a strong closing move to win by a length and three-quarters.

As Jet Propulsion opened a quick early lead in the $300,000 Muniz, jockey Javier Castellano allowed Blues Street to settle into eighth place, nine lengths off the leader.

Taking a wide trip over the Fair Grounds turf, Jet Propulsion came into the stretch with a three-length lead and looked as though he had enough left to win, but the long Fair Grounds stretch proved too much. A Jet Propulsion weakened, Blues Street and Pick Six made their bids down the lane.

In the final sixteenth, Blues Street pulled away from Pick Six, though Pick Six stayed on for second, a head in front of Transduction Gold, who got a neck in front of Jet Propulsion.

Blues Street's come-from-behind victory was essentially the same race he used to win the prep for the Muniz, the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap, on Feb. 20.

"He got the same kind of trip as last time," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "He settled real well and he loves that long stretch."

Castellano rode Blues Street in Fair Grounds Handicap, and did not want to change his late charging style.

"He really ran his race," said Castellano. "I didn't want to do anything different with him."

Blues Street ($7.60) went the mile and an eighth over the Fair Grounds turf in 1:50.10, and earned his ownership, Anstu Stables, $180,000.

Pletcher indicated that the 6-year-old gelding will be pointed toward the Woodford Reserve at Churchill on the Kentucky Derby undercard.

- Abram Himelstein

Kenner: Cash refund rates

Cash Refund showed his versatility as a sprinter, rating in the early going on his way to running the fastest six furlongs of the Fair Grounds meet to win Saturday's .

Cash Refund wasn't the fastest horse out of the gate and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. got him to settle a length behind Euroears, who broke quickly.

"He settled pretty good for the first three eighths," said Hernandez. "He was just keeping his feet under himself."

As Cash Refund ranged up alongside Euroears on the outside, Kensei put pressure on the inside, and the two horses began to wear Euroears down.

Cash Refund got a head in front of Euroears at the half-mile pole, then steadily built his lead going into the stretch to finish three-quarters of a length in front of Kensei. Euroears re-rallied to finish third, a half-length behind Kensei.

Cash Refund ($3.40) went the six furlongs in 1:09.13.

"We have always felt that he had the talent and the speed," trainer Steve Margolis said. "He showed it today."

For Richard Klein, part of Cash Refund's ownership, the race was proof that Cash Refund is one of the nation's elite sprinters.

"He fought down the lane," said Klein. "If people don't look at him and see one of the top 10 sprinters I don't know what they are looking at."

Klein indicated that Cash Refund would be pointed toward the Aristides at Churchill Downs, with an ultimate goal of the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

- Abram Himelstein

Grindstone: Workin for Hops romps

Odds-on favorite Workin for Hops dominated the field to win the $60,000 Grindstone, coming home five lengths in front as jockey Brian Hernandez wrapped him up early.

In his first try in stakes company, and coming off a three-month layoff, Workin For Hops ranged up alongside early leader Night Vision around the far turn and dueled into the stretch, where he took over to win easily.

Workin For Hops (2.80) improved to three wins and a second from four starts and covered the 7 1/2 furlongs over the Fair Grounds turf in 1:31.53.

Trained by Mike Stidham and owned Estrorace LLC, Workin for Hops earned $36,000 for the victory.

- Abram Himelstein

Crescent City Derby: Heavenville romps

Heavenville was much the best in the $60,000 Crescent City Derby, stalking the pace as the 6-5 favorite before taking over in the far turn to win by 6 1/4 lengths.

With Red Sugar setting quick early fractions, jockey Shaun Bridgmohan kept Heavenville in second place, three lengths back, for the first six furlongs of the 1 1/16-mile race for Louisiana-bred 3-year-olds.

Bridgmohan urged Heavenville forward at the quarter pole, reeling in the leader and pulling away with the win. Dynapac finished second, a length in front of Pioneering Native.

Heavenville (4.60) was timed in 1:44.42 and earned $36,000 for trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Heiligbrodt Racing Stable. It was his first win in his last eight races, and took his bankroll past $215,000.

- Abram Himelstein