03/05/2008 12:00AM

Blackberry Road in it for the cash


NEW ORLEANS - When Blackberry Road starts in Saturday's Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, he will be the only member of the field to have raced in all three legs of Fair Grounds's series of stakes for 3-year-olds. He finished second to Z Fortune in the Lecomte and a troubled fifth, beaten 3 1/2 lengths, to Pyro in the Risen Star.

Blackberry Road has made six consecutive starts in graded stakes company since winning his maiden at Churchill Downs last June. Although he has $99,000 in graded stakes earnings, trainer David Carroll realizes the $600,000 Louisiana Derby might be Blackberry Road's best remaining chance to add to that amount and guarantee himself a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

"He's doing very well in training, but it's a very deep field," said Carroll. "We're hoping for a clean trip to earn a big check."

Blackberry Road has been hampered by tough luck trips in his two starts at the meet.

In the Grade 3 Lecomte on Jan. 12, Blackberry Road ran wide, but was still clearly second best. In the Risen Star on Feb. 9, he looked to be making a move in the stretch, but never found room to go through.

"Terrible racing luck," said Carroll. "He had nowhere to run; blocked at the critical moment. You don't mind as much when you get outrun; you can live with that better."

In search of a better trip, Blackberry Road's connections have put Robby Albarado in the saddle, replacing Calvin Borel.

Tagg expects fresh Tale of Ekati to run well

Majestic Warrior, the winner of the Hopeful Stakes, is not the only important 2-year-old of last year making his 3-year-old debut on Saturday in the Louisiana Derby. Tale of Ekati, the Belmont Futurity winner, will be racing for the first time since a fourth-place finish behind War Pass and Pyro in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park.

Trainer Barclay Tagg said the Louisiana Derby was pretty much the only option for Tale of Ekati's 2008 debut, unless he had wanted to take on War Pass in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park two weeks ago, or start off going 1 1/8 miles in the Fountain of Youth, neither of which was ideal.

Instead, the 1 1/16 miles of the Louisiana Derby made the most sense.

"He's trained very well," Tagg said. "I think he'll run well."

Tagg gave Funny Cide three races at age 3 before his victory in the 2003 Kentucky Derby. The calendar works against that for Tale of Ekati, who likely will have two preps before this year's Derby.

"I'd like to get three preps if I can, but only if they're spaced properly," Tagg said. "They took the Holy Bull away as an option."

Funny Cide began his 3-year-old campaign in Gulfstream's Holy Bull, which this year will be run April 12. He then went to the Louisiana Derby and Aqueduct's Wood Memorial before the Kentucky Derby.

Multiple handlers guide Silver Lord

Silver Lord's path from an unruly youngster to contender in Saturday's New Orleans Handicap has led him through a series of trainers.

Before Silver Lord ever started, trainer Ron Moquett sent his wayward protege to Keith and Cheryl Asmussen to learn the in and outs of the starting gate.

"He was a problem child, some anger management issues," said Moquett. "We had done all we could do for him at the track, so we sent him to Keith Asmussen, and he finished off his training on the farm."

Silver Lord raced once for Cheryl Asmussen, finishing second in a maiden race at Retama in October 2007. He then won his maiden for Moquett at Churchill Downs last November.

After that race, Silver Lord was sent to Fair Grounds, where Steve Asmussen, son of Keith and Cheryl, was the trainer of record for his next three races, including a victory in the Louisiana Handicap and a second-place finish to Grasshopper in the Mineshaft.

The training arrangements have had Silver Lord going back and forth between Oaklawn, where Moquett is based, and Fair Grounds, where he has been running under Asmussen's name.

"This is the first time he'll be running under my name in New Orleans," said Moquett. "We've been working in partnership with the Asmussens with him."

Moquett shipped Silver Lord here last week, giving him 10 days at Fair Grounds and a chance to get a work in over the surface before the New Orleans Handicap.

Said Steve Asmussen: "After the Mineshaft, Corey Lanerie, Ron, and I discussed that Silver Lord was flat, and that's why Ron shipped him down here early. There was a comfort in sending him to me because he had been with my dad."

One more sprint for Euroears before going long

Euroears is looking to complete a perfect meet here. He came to Fair Grounds after winning his first two starts, and ran his record to 5 for 5 by winning an allowance and two sprint stakes.

Euroears is entered in Saturday's Duncan F. Kenner, a six-furlong sprint on the main track, and he looks to be getting stronger and more versatile.

In his last work, a four-furlong breeze in 49.80 seconds last Sunday, Euroears showed that he may finally be learning to harness his speed.

"He's become so relaxed in his training that he'll go a slow as you want," said trainer Bret Calhoun. "The rider can do what he wants with him, whether or not he gets hooked by another horse."

Euroears was hooked in his first stakes, the Gaudin Memorial on Jan. 12. That speed duel lasted the entire race, with Euroears prevailing by three-quarters of a length over Stormin Baghdad.

In his last effort, Euroears sat in third until the turn, then took off at the top of the stretch to win by a length.

Regardless of the outcome, Calhoun said Euroears will stretch out to two turns, probably for the Texas Mile on April 26 at Lone Star.

Better late than never for California shippers

Bobby Frankel's contingent of horses for the Louisiana Derby undercard arrived Wednesday, a day later than planned, after a flight from Southern California was canceled because of mechanical problems.

The charter was originally due to arrive Tuesday, carrying Frankel's two horses, along with Yankee Bravo, who is a Louisiana Derby contender, and Daytona, the morning-line favorite for the Mervin Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap.

"No big deal, it's a short trip," Frankel said of the delay.

After the plane arrived in New Orleans on Wednesday, it was to fly to West Palm Beach to pick up Tale of Ekati and other south Florida shippers. Their arrival was rescheduled for Thursday.

Frankel's two entrants are his first in stakes company here this season.

Le Grand Trois will try Euroears in the Kenner. He exits a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes.

"He was down in the inside and didn't like it," said Frankel. "He's got a good post for this race."

His other entry is Proudinsky, who will go in the Muniz Handicap, the biggest turf race of the meet.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman