02/16/2013 3:38PM

Fair Grounds: Dijarvo still trying to get onto local turf course


Things have gotten to the point where handicappers see a race carded for turf at Fair Grounds and automatically assume it will be run on dirt. Because of persistent rain and a course that won’t properly dry, there has been one day of grass racing in February and just 10 grass races since the calendar flipped to 2013.

Given those numbers, and the fact that races Saturday were off turf following morning showers, it’s a decent assumption that the featured eighth race Monday will get moved from turf to dirt. One can almost hear the connections of the 4-year-old filly Dijarvo saying in a resigned, sarcastic tone, “Of course it will.”

Dijarvo, a turf-sprint stakes winner in France before being imported to the United States late in 2011, has tried since November to get in a second-level turf-sprint allowance at Fair Grounds. Every one of her intended starts has been rained onto dirt, and finally, trainer Andrew McKeever left her in one of those off-the-grass races on Jan. 25. That didn’t work at all, with Dijarvo checking in a distant fifth. At least she got to stretch her legs and remember what afternoon racing was like, and that start could have Dijarvo set for a competitive showing if, against the odds, she gets in a grass race Monday.

If not, there are plenty of dirt horses waiting to take advantage. The principals in that group are Fontanne and Painted Woman, who are in the main body of the field, and Givhan’s Ferry, who was entered main-track only.

Fontanne has finished eighth and ninth in her two turf races, but has performed significantly better on dirt – Fair Grounds dirt in particular. Trained by David Carroll, Fontanne won a $50,000 maiden claimer last March 19 by seven lengths, and returned from a long layoff to blitz first-level allowance foes by five lengths on Jan. 18, the only two wins of her career. She has had one month to recover from that strong comeback performance, and though Fontanne has no history of pairing up top races, she never has made two starts in a row at Fair Grounds.

Graded-stakes-placed Painted Woman hasn’t raced since May, when she ran poorly in the Miss Preakness Stakes, but trainer Steve Asmussen has won with almost 30 percent of his long-layoff comeback runners in the last two years.

Givhan’s Ferry has much more recency, having last raced Jan. 25. She finished second to the decent filly Ire that day, and two races earlier was third to My My My Maria – a subsequent stakes winner – and Ire.