Updated on 09/16/2011 6:56AM

Bob loves bayou country

Dave Bauman/Horsephotos
Came Home's win in the San Rafael earned a 106 Beyer, the top speed figure by a 3-year-old around two turns.

NEW ORLEANS - Forget all the talk about winter turning to spring. It's downright freezing here. It was so cold Sunday night that by Monday morning at Fair Grounds, the main track was frozen, looking like an ice blended mocha at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Track maintenance had to pound the ice out of the dirt, and the track finally opened for training at 9:10 a.m. The biting wind made this the Big Chill, not the Big Easy.

Bundled up against the cold, with a down jacket and a knit cap, trainer Dallas Stewart looked like he was ready to cheer on the Packers on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. But Stewart was filled with warmth, because on Sunday he had snuck in an important workout for Bob's Image, who will take on the heavily favored Repent in this Sunday's $750,000 Louisiana Derby.

Bob's Image is coming off a second-place finish to Repent in last month's Risen Star Stakes. It was his third straight sharp effort at Fair Grounds. After finishing fifth in his first two starts, at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, Bob's Image has turned it around at Fair Grounds, winning a maiden race and an allowance before the Risen Star. He has continued to bloom. Sunday, Bob's Image breezed five furlongs in 59.60 seconds with exercise rider Diane Poulin. It was the best time of 27 at the distance, and was two seconds faster than the second-fastest work.

So, the question was asked, What about Bob?

"He worked great. He likes this track," Stewart said. "He's a good-feeling horse. After his first two races, we thought about running him for $50,000. We didn't. We thought he might come around. But I can't say we thought he'd be at this level. Stranger things have happened.

"Look at Charismatic," Stewart added, referring to the 1999 Horse of the Year, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness after being risked for a claiming tag earlier in the year. "This game is a roller coaster. You better have your belt buckled tight."

The road to the Derby winds this week through the bayou. The first three finishers from the Risen Star - Repent, Bob's Image, and Easyfromthegitgo -- all are expected to run in the 1 1/16-mile Louisiana Derby, along with Charioteer, French Assault, It'sallinthechase, Publication, and White Flame.

The Louisiana Derby runners, Repent in particular, will be trying to raise their Derby stock, just as Came Home, Request for Parole, and Private Emblem did last weekend in key 3-year-old stakes races.

Came Home easily handled his rivals in Santa Anita's San Rafael Stakes, winning by three lengths. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 106 - the best two-turn figure of any member of this crop - and earned a trip to next month's Santa Anita Derby. Came Home's only misstep came before the race, when he balked while being loaded into the gate.

"They rushed him into the gate in the Breeders' Cup," said his trainer, Paco Gonzalez. "Since then, I've had to school him a lot. This was the first time he raced with the gate in front of the public. Every one of his other races has been out of the chute."

Easy Grades, who finished second in the San Rafael, will meet Came Home again in the April 6 Santa Anita Derby. But he may need a new rider. Eddie Delahoussaye, who rode Easy Grades, is scheduled to ride Affluent the same day in the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park.

"We'll probably have to shop around," Ted H. West, who trains Easy Grades, said Monday from Santa Anita. West said Easy Grades "came out of the race perfect."

"I wasn't necessarily looking to win with Came Home in there. I just wanted a promising effort," West said. "With a better trip, the result might have been a lot closer."

Werblin, who ran third, is off the Derby trail, according to trainer Eduardo Inda. "He's not going to run in the Santa Anita Derby or Kentucky Derby," Inda said from Santa Anita. "He's going to sprint." Inda said he would consider the next month's Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland, or the Bay Shore at Aqueduct.

David LaCroix said he did not train Fonz's hard enough for the San Rafael, in which he finished fifth. "Blame me, not the horse," LaCroix said.

Pelirrojo, who was sixth in the San Rafael, was "a little off" in his left front leg Sunday morning, trainer John Sadler said. Sadler said Pelirrojo was to have a nuclear scan Monday afternoon at Santa Anita. "He wasn't bad, but he wasn't 100 percent," Sadler said from Santa Anita. "We're trying to figure out what it is."

Request for Parole got a 94 Beyer Speed Figure for his nose victory over Perfect Drift in Saturday's Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park. Their trainers said each would return in the Lane's End Spiral Stakes on March 23.

Private Emblem got a 98 Beyer Figure for his victory in a division of the Southwest Stakes Saturday at Oaklawn Park. The other division's winner, Paloma Parilla, got an 84.