01/24/2013 3:39PM

Fair Grounds: Daisy Devine an overwhelming favorite in Krantz Memorial

Coady Photography/Keeneland
Daisy Devine will be a heavy favorite in Saturday's $75,000 Marie Krantz Memorial Stakes.

One day in the not too distant future, Daisy Devine once again will pick on someone her own size. But for the time being, trainer Andrew McKeever is content with keeping his star turf mare against relative lightweights.

Five weeks removed from a facile tally at 1-5 in a minor stakes at Fair Grounds, Daisy Devine will return Saturday to the turf course at the New Orleans track as a huge favorite once again, breaking from post 1 in the $75,000 Marie Krantz Memorial Stakes, the first of four Saturday stakes.

“She’s really effective here in New Orleans, so there’s no sense in moving her around,” McKeever said Thursday by phone in reference to the 5-year-old mare’s 3-for-3 record over the local course. “The primary goal is the Jenny Wiley,” a Grade 1 race at Keeneland in April, “so we’re just trying to get through the winter as best we can.”

Daisy Devine, owned by James M. Miller, is a multiple graded winner with 9 wins from 16 starts and earnings of $946,281. She will have regular rider Jimmy Graham aboard again Saturday, when she will spot her opposition 8 to 12 pounds while toting 125.

Just five other mares will face her, including a newcomer to the McKeever barn, Totheendoftheearth, a first-level allowance winner last summer at Belmont Park for prior connections. From other stables, Artemus Kitten and Zapper Belle both are stakes winners at Fair Grounds, albeit not in graded events. Zapper Belle is one of two uncoupled horses in the race trained by Dan Peitz, with the other being Ausus.

Because of its apparent lopsided nature and short field, the Krantz was carded early as the third of 12 races, with post time set for 1:57 p.m. Central.

The Krantz is named for the matron of the family that once owned Fair Grounds. She died in 2003.

Party Lad ships in for Van Berg

Trainer Mike Pino hasn’t run a horse in New Orleans since he was a winter mainstay at several Fair Grounds meets, ending with the 2004-05 session. Currently with his stable split between Parx Racing in Philadelphia and Palm Meadows in south Florida, Pino has sent Party Lad to Fair Grounds as the likely favorite in the inaugural running of the $75,000 Van Berg Stakes (race 7, 3:55).

The Van Berg, to be run at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf, drew a field of 10 3-year-olds. Party Lad earned a field-high Beyer Speed Figure of 85 in moving his career mark to 3 for 4 in his last start, a first-level turf-sprint allowance on the Gulfstream Park turf. Joe Bravo will be aboard when breaking from post 9.

“There weren’t any races for him at Gulfstream,” Pino said Thursday from Philadelphia. “We were just looking for a logical spot. He’s a pretty quick little colt.”

Pino has trained a number of top grass horses during a 30-year career, led by Ten Keys ($1.2 million in earnings), Perfect Officer ($672,000), and Libor Lady ($368,000).

Probably the chief threats to Party Lad are the uncoupled Bret Calhoun pair, Strong Response and Strike the Note, as well as recent local winners Animal Style, Evan’s Calling, and Agave Cat.

The Van Berg came from a “Name the Stakes” contest held last year by Fair Grounds and is intended to honor the father-son Hall of Fame tandem of Marion and Jack Van Berg. In fact, Jack Van Berg is expected to be on hand with more than 30 friends and family members to present the winner’s trophy.