Updated on 09/17/2011 9:52AM

Double-barreled Pletcher


NEW ORLEANS - South Florida-based trainer Todd Pletcher plans to invade Fair Grounds stakes races the next two weekends, first with Balto Star, then with the 3-year-old Indy Dancer.

Balto Star, en route by plane to New Orleans on Wednesday, will start Sunday in the $125,000 Whirlaway. Indy Dancer will run a week later in the Risen Star Stakes.

Balto Star jumps into a deep field in the Whirlaway, which was elevated to Grade 3 status this season. If all the probable starters - including a pair of Southern California shippers - are entered, the 1 1/16-mile Whirlaway will go with a field of 10, a big number for a handicap race in this era.

Balto Star is a Grade 2 winner, but his last race was far from his best. He finished eighth in the Appleton Handicap Jan. 4 at Gulfstream, but Pletcher said Balto Star didn't care for a turf course that "had some give in it.

"Obviously, he's doing well right now if we're going to put him on a plane," Pletcher said. "His dirt form is proven, but we have to see how he likes the Fair Grounds surface. This race will tell us whether to come for the New Orleans Handicap or not."

The 5-year-old Balto Star is a reformed speedball. With maturity, he has learned to relax during his races, but his natural route speed inevitably places him close to the lead, and his presence in the Whirlaway assures an honest pace.

Also expected to start is Bonapaw, the Fair Grounds sprint king who will stretch his speed around two turns for the first time since early in his career. Mineshaft, another possible starter, won the Diplomat Way from a forward position and could add more fuel to the pace.

"With the speed, it should be a fairly run race," trainer David Carroll said Wednesday morning as he schooled Connected in the paddock.

Connected won the Louisiana Handicap with a late run and would benefit from overheated fractions.

"Connected breezed five furlongs nine days out," said carroll, "and I was very happy with the way he worked."

Others likely to run are Easyfromthegitgo, Deferred Comp, Discreet Hero, and Fighting Indians. Lord Jim is expected to arrive from California on a plane that also could carry Mercenary.

Rising cast for Risen Star

Indy Dancer, 2 for 2 in his brief career, impressively won a Gulfstream allowance race last month and may be Pletcher's top Triple Crown hopeful at this point. But the Risen Star should test him.

Besides a promising cast of local and regional horses, the Grade 3 Risen Star probably will include the Bobby Frankel-trained Peace Rules, who could ship from Southern California.

Fair Grounds racing officials still hope to sweeten the race with other nationally prominent shippers, and though the starting gate here can hold 14 horses, there's a chance the race will overfill.

As of Wednesday, there were at least 12 horses considered possible, including the two best Fair Grounds prospects yet to start in a stakes race, Seattle Hoofer and Badge of Silver.

Trainer Dallas Stewart remains undecided about the status of Saintly Look, an easy winner of the Lecomte Stakes here on Jan. 25. Stewart said a work this weekend will help him determine whether to try the Risen Star or await the Louisiana Derby on March 9.

Badge of Silver had his major work for the Risen Star on Monday, when he breezed seven furlongs in 1:28.60.

Badge of Silver cruised to a fast victory in his debut at Keeneland last April, but came out of the race with a fractured cannon bone and didn't start again until Jan. 23, when he won a six-furlong allowance race here by seven lengths. Badge of Silver was timed in 1:09.70 over a sluggish surface, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 108.

His work Monday focused on rating and relaxing, and according to Werner, Badge of Silver performed brilliantly. Breaking off about 15 lengths behind a workmate, Badge of Silver reached his flank by the far turn and stayed there until the eighth pole.

When Robby Albarado let Badge of Silver out a notch he quickly ran away from his workmate, opening up about six lengths by the finish.

Werner said Badge of Silver's willingness to rate impressed Albarado. "He got off and said, 'I like this.' We both knew how fast he is. This time, we wanted to work on his mind."

Werner said Badge of Silver will breeze once more before the Risen Star.

- Saturday's stakes is the $75,000 Pan Zareta for filly and mare sprinters, and it too is attracting a fairly full field. Nine horses were expected to be entered in the Pan Zareta, headed by three co-highweights: Distinctive Code, Fuse It and Run, and For Little Bit.

- Keep an eye out for Destiny Calls and Eva's Gold, who ran one-two in the first of two training races here Wednesday. Destiny Calls, who's trained by Gary Palmisano, won the race by six lengths, while Eva's Gold finished decently while under little urging.