01/31/2013 3:36PM

Fair Grounds: Believe You Can fit for return in Tiffany Lass


An enterprising handicapper with a contrarian streak might be trying to beat 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can, a horse returning from a seven-month layoff as an overwhelming favorite in the $100,000 Tiffany Lass Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Such a handicapper might even experience a “voila!” moment noting the one-month gap, from Dec. 21 to Jan. 17, in Believe You Can’s published workouts.

But beware, would-be favorite-beater: The hole in the work pattern came because Believe You Can has been working a hole in the wind.

Believe You Can’s first timed workout this winter came Dec. 3, when she went an easy three furlongs in 37.20 seconds. Five days later, she burned up the Fair Grounds track with three-eighths in 34.40 seconds, and the story has been the same ever since. Believe You Can’s first five-eighths, on Dec. 21, went in a near-bullet 1:00.80 seconds, at which point trainer Larry Jones asked Believe You Can to please take her foot off the gas. The Tiffany Lass still was six weeks away, and Believe You Can already was nearly race-fit. Jones had never seen one of his horses get ready so fast.

When Believe You Can was allowed to stretch her legs again, she picked up where she had left off, with a bullet five-eighths in 1:00 on Jan. 17 and another bullet five-eighths, this time in 59.20 seconds, on Monday.

Believe You Can’s fondness for Fair Grounds is not in question: She won the Silverbulletday and Fair Grounds Oaks last season before her three-quarter-length Kentucky Oaks victory. She ran below form finishing third in the June 23 Mother Goose, after which Jones and owner-breeder Brereton Jones took the filly out of training. No injury to Believe You Can ever was specified; Larry Jones said Believe You Can didn’t seem like herself in a couple post-Mother Goose works.

Regular rider Rosie Napravnik has the mount Saturday, which further drives down odds, but unless Believe You Can badly disappoints, she’ll win. Her five rivals all are in good form, but none has come close to winning a graded stakes of any sort, much less a race like the Kentucky Oaks.

Cor Cor makes turf debut

Cor Cor, second to brilliant 3-year-old filly Kauai Katie in her most recent race, figures to be solidly favored under Napravnik in the inaugural edition of the $75,000 Battle of New Orleans, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-old fillies. And this favorite could be more readily opposed than Believe You Can.

Cor Cor won her first two starts, a Keeneland Polytrack maiden sprint and the Sandpiper on dirt at Tampa Bay, and while no match for Kauai Katie in the Old Hat at Gulfstream, she beat the show horse by almost seven lengths. What Cor Cor has not done is race on turf. She does not possess an obviously turf-oriented pedigree, nor has trainer Joan Scott even trained Cor Cor on grass.

“We’re just taking a stab at it,” Scott said. “We want to keep her running short right now, and it’s hard to find a spot. We’ll see how she does. I’m excited about running her.”

Cor Cor has been the first-call leader in all her races and figures to go straight to the front from post 1. Horses with breakneck sprint speed often get swallowed up by the Fair Grounds grass course, which plays to a more patient approach. The grass course, however, has barely been used in 2013, and with races off turf again Thursday, the Battle of New Orleans may yet wind up on dirt, and in that case, Cor Cor would merit heavy favoritism.

Sabercat returns in allowance

There are two allowance races of note Saturday: Race 8 is a stakes-class dirt route with interesting comeback runners, while super-talented Bind makes the second start of his own comeback in race 4.

Race 8 marks the return of 2011 Delta Jackpot winner Sabercat, who has not started since finishing 15th in the 2012 Kentucky Derby. Sabercat, trained by Steve Asmussen, has been working steadily at Fair Grounds since late December.

Also in the race is Mr. Bowling, the 2012 Lecomte winner who has not started since April 1, and Cool Street, winner of a maiden race and two allowance races already this meet.

Bind came back from a 19-month layoff with a strong first-level sprint allowance win Dec. 22. Trainer Al Stall keeps Bind at six furlongs Saturday, when he’ll be heavily favored to beat five foes in a second-level allowance.