12/15/2009 12:00AM

Euroears taking detour to Florida

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Lynn Roberts
Euroears, winning the Thanksgiving Handicap, will skip Saturday's Bonapaw in favor of the Mr. Prospector.

Euroears has undergone two leg surgeries and twice had layoffs of more than eight months. So when his name failed to appear in the entries for Saturday's Bonapaw Stakes at Fair Grounds, a race to which Euroears tentatively had been pointed, and since Euroears hasn't posted a published work since winning the Nov. 26 Thanksgiving Handicap, one might have assumed the worst.

But not to worry, trainer Bret Calhoun said Tuesday that Euroears is fine. His connections merely decided to bypass the $60,000 Bonapaw and train Euroears up to a more major target: the Jan. 9 Mr. Prospector Handicap at Gulfstream Park. The Mr. Prospector offers a $100,000 purse, but also is a Grade 3 stakes. Euroears, a 6-year-old horse, has won four stakes, but never a graded race.

The Bonapaw "was coming back a little quick," Calhoun said. "I backed off him a little bit after that last race, took him off the track" to co-owner Jim Helzer's place in Texas. "He's been in some light training up there and will be back at the track soon."

Euroears won his first six starts before suffering a leg fracture in spring 2008. He didn't win again until Oct. 15 at Hoosier Park, but looked much like his old self in the Thanksgiving.

In winning that race, Euroears earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 104. In the Beyer universe, that makes him Calhoun's fastest Fair Grounds starter - but only just. In winning the Louisiana Champions Day Lassie by 12 lengths last Saturday, the 2-year-old Louisiana-bred filly Speedacious got a 103 Beyer, equaling the best figure earned by a 2-year-old of either sex in 2009.

Speedacious was getting over sore shins and not entirely fit, Calhoun said, when she finished second in her career debut Sept. 17 at Louisiana Downs. She won a maiden race by almost seven lengths Nov. 6 at Fair Grounds, and crushed 10 rivals Saturday while winning with her ears pricked.

"She's a gorgeous filly," said Calhoun. "She's going so fast, but she's completely relaxed."

Calhoun said there had been ample inquiries from parties interested in acquiring Speedacious, but owner Carl Moore generally prefers racing to selling, according to Calhoun. Assuming Speedacious remains in Calhoun's barn, she will either be pointed to more Louisiana-bred stakes in February at Delta Downs or will try to make the transition to route racing in open competition, with the Jan. 23 Tiffany Lass at Fair Grounds her target. Speedacious is a daughter of the Storm Cat sire Yankee Gentleman and the Rahy mare, Blushing Triss.

"I don't see any reason mentally or physically or pedigree-wise that she can't go on," Calhoun said.

Star Guitar patiently waits to run

Horses being creatures of habit, Star Guitar must be wondering what has happened to his regular world.

Race-prepped for the Louisiana Champions Day Classic last Saturday afternoon, Star Guitar had to stay in the barn when the skies opened over Fair Grounds, dumping so much rain onto the track that the last four races on the Champions Day card had to be postponed. With no training Sunday, Star Guitar didn't get back to the track until Monday, but after getting in a gallop, Star Guitar found himself back in the barn again Tuesday, when training had to be canceled again because of heavy rain.

But is trainer Al Stall about Star Guitar's state of mind? Not at all.

"I don't think it'll be a problem with him," Stall said Tuesday. "He takes everything in stride. One good thing about him, he gets one shot of Bute, one shot of Lasix, and that's it. His pre-race is not too terribly exotic."

Presuming the weather cooperates this week, Star Guitar will actually get to race Saturday. The four Louisiana-bred stakes abandoned last weekend are back on Saturday's 13-race card, which also features five more regularly scheduled open stakes. The Champions Day races were not re-drawn and have the same horses with the same post positions.

Star Guitar was scheduled to have routine gallops Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, Stall said, and will start heavily favored in the Classic. The three other rescheduled Champions Day races are the Turf, Sprint, and Ladies Sprint.

Major test for War Echo

Of the five open stakes on Saturday, perhaps the most interesting is the inaugural $100,000 Daily Racing Form, which will offer further insight into the still-open question of where the filly War Echo stands right now.

The Steve Asmussen-trained War Echo was one of six horses entered in the 1 1/16-mile dirt race. Last season, War Echo, a three-quarter-sister to Pyro, won the Silverbulletday Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths over her stablemate Four Gifts. She was set to take on Rachel Alexandra in the Fair Grounds Oaks when her spring campaign was cut short by injury. War Echo didn't race again until September, when she finished a distant last of four at Belmont Park. War Echo bounced back with a three-length allowance race score Nov. 19 at Churchill Downs and has worked twice since shipping into Fair Grounds.

Handle shows sharp decline

Betting on Fair Grounds races in November declined sharply from the same month in 2008, according to handle figures provided by the Louisiana State Racing Commission.

Gross November handle totals in all three major categories (out-of-state, ontrack, and total) dropped moderately from last season, but in 2008 Fair Grounds raced only 10 days during November, compared with 13 this year. Total average daily handle fell about 32 percent compared with last year, from $3.57 million to $2.43 million. Daily average ontrack handle fell 29.5 percent from $230,940 in 2008 to $162,737 this year, while out-of-state handle on Fair Grounds races declined 32.5 percent from $3.13 million to $2.11 million.

"Nobody's discouraged by where the numbers are at right now," said Fair Grounds general manager Eric Halstrom. "Part of it's just been we've gone through the worst of the weather, and we've got our best racing coming up."

Fair Grounds pushed its opening up to Nov. 6 this year, about three weeks before the track's traditional Thanksgiving opener. Halstrom said no decisions would be made on when the 2010-2011 meet might start until this season could be evaluated in its entirety.

"We want to let the meet play out before we make any judgments," Halstrom said. "We have to consider whether these days we added at the beginning are better than the days we took away in January and February."

* Training was canceled early Tuesday morning after Fair Grounds received more heavy rain. Training was expected to resume Wednesday morning, but Fair Grounds might not be able to use its grass course again until this weekend.