02/27/2013 1:09PM

Fair Grounds: Cease fresh for return on Friday's starlight card

Tom Keyser
Cease will make his first start of the year in Friday's $51,000 allowance.

Cease went off at just 7-1 when he ended his 2012 campaign last fall in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. That subtle bit of data seems to say plenty about the capabilities of Cease, who wound up finishing a well-beaten sixth behind Shackleford, Take Charge Indy, and Bourbon Courage.

Duly rested and regrouped by trainer Al Stall Jr., Cease will make his first start since the Clark on Friday evening at Fair Grounds in a surprisingly strong allowance that highlights a nine-race program. First post is 5 p.m. Central, with the eighth-race feature set for 9:10.

Stall actually entered a stable coupling in the $51,000 race, which covers 1 1/16 miles on the main track and sports a lengthy list of conditions, including a “three-other-than” restriction. However, Stall said he “more than likely” will scratch Unlatch in favor of the Maxxam Gold Cup the following night at Sam Houston, while leaving Cease to run in New Orleans.

Cease, a 6-year-old War Front gelding bred and owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, has earned more than $490,000 from 15 career starts. Last year was easily his most productive as he won the Maxxam Gold Cup in early March and later finished third in the Grade 1 Woodward and second in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup.

“He’s just making a comeback race after a little breather,” Stall said. “I don’t think we want to push him into anything like the New Orleans Handicap [on March 30]. That looks like it’s coming up the handicap race of the year so far, with Graydar, Bourbon Courage, and Mark Valeski. We’ll just kind of see how he does Friday and go from there.”

Cease has had seven recorded workouts since Jan. 12. He will have Jesse Campbell aboard when facing a solid set of opponents, including the uncoupled Paul McGee duo of Worldly (Jimmy Graham) and Majestic Harbor (Miguel Mena).

Worldly, a royally bred son of A.P. Indy, will have his blinkers removed following a disappointing one-race experiment when fifth in a Feb. 2 allowance. That was the same race in which Majestic Harbor finished second after battling red-hot winner Cool Street to the bitter end.

Other considerations include It Happened Again (Rosie Napravnik), third in the same Feb. 2 allowance as a lukewarm favorite, and Prime Cut (Shaun Bridgmohan), who goes from turf to dirt after rallying to win a second-level allowance nearly five weeks ago.

This will be the sixth of eight starlight racing programs at the 2012-13 meet. The final two are set for the next two Fridays, March 9 and 16.

◗ The co-features for Saturday afternoon are a pair of $75,000 stakes at 7 1/2 furlongs on grass, but with wet conditions continuing to plague the Fair Grounds turf course, those races might undergo substantial revision. They are the Black Gold for 3-year-olds and the Allen LaCombe Memorial for 3-year-old fillies.