12/19/2009 12:00AM

Combined cards make huge day


Last Saturday's loss is this Saturday's gain at Fair Grounds Race Course.

Heavy rain washed away the last four Louisiana Champions Day stakes on the Dec. 12 program in New Orleans. Those races were for a nine-stakes extravaganza on a 13-race card.

Fair Grounds is starting early (first post, noon) to accommodate the extra action, and has put up a couple additional wagering options, as well: a daily double linking races 8 and 9, the Champions Day Classic and the Daily Racing Form Stakes, plus an all-stakes pick four spanning races 6-9.

On center stage for the mammoth card is trainer Steve Asmussen, who entered horses in 11 of Saturday's 13 races. Asmussen put two in the inaugural Daily Racing Form, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race, but will scratch the mare Pleasantly Blessed.

Asmussen's DRF Stakes runner, War Echo, has a chance to make noise in the 2010 distaff division. An impressive winner of the Feb. 7 Silverbulletday Stakes here last meet, War Echo was poised to take on Rachel Alexandra in the Fair Grounds Oaks when she was injured. She was out of action until September, and then was beaten more than 24 lengths in her comeback race, pressing a hot pace in a minor Belmont stakes before fading badly. But War Echo bounced back with a solid win in a second-level allowance race Nov. 19 at Churchill Downs, a step in the right direction.

"She was just run off her feet after the layoff," said Asmussen. "She had trained moderately, not brilliant for that race, but then she trained better. The conditioned race she won was extremely iffy company, but she did it right. She's a great big mare, and I just think it's going to take awhile to get back. We expect a big race from her Saturday, but it's not going to be her top race."

War Echo has worked twice since shipping into Fair Grounds. She has tactical route speed, and may take up a stalking spot just behind possible pacesetters No Use Denying and Fighter Wing. Her main challenge could come from stretch-running Unforgotten, who knocked heads with Grade 1-type horses for much of 2009 before posting her first win this year in the $125,000 Treasure Chest Stakes on Dec. 4 at Delta Downs.

:: WARRIOR: (DRF Plus)