03/01/2013 2:41PM

Fair Grounds: Divine Happiness being targeted for Fair Grounds Oaks


NEW ORLEANS – Officially, Divine Happiness will be racing six furlongs in a first-level allowance/optional claiming race for 3-year-old fillies Sunday at the Fair Grounds.

But if the race, the seventh on a nine-race card, goes according to trainer Larry Jones’s plan, Divine Happiness will keep running hard past the finish line.

“Hopefully, we can let her work out a little bit out after the race,’’ Jones said.

Jones is eyeing the Fair Grounds Oaks as a possible goal for Divine Happiness, and a strong gallop-out to 7 or 7 1/2 furlongs would help in her preparation, he said.

Divine Happiness will be making her second start. Running in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race switched from turf to dirt Feb. 12, she cruised to a 9 1/2-length victory. C.J. McMahon remains on board.

Jones had been planning to use the Allen Lacombe Memorial on Saturday as Divine Happiness’s Fair Grounds Oaks prep. But Jones said the racing office informed him that the Lacombe likely would remain on turf, and Divine Happiness, second on the also-eligible list, didn’t appear likely to draw into the field. Sunday’s race became Plan B.

Jones employed a similar gallop-out plan for Hard Spun in the Lecomte at the Fair Grounds in 2007.

The race then was run at a mile with the finish at the sixteenth pole, and Hard Spun, who won easily, kept going strongly to the usual finish line. The Lecomte was the first two-turn race for Hard Spun, and Jones, testing him for Kentucky Derby potential, wanted him to run all the way down the stretch.

Divine Happiness will be facing eight rivals, including Leigh Court, who in her debut scored an impressive come-from-behind victory in a six-furlong maiden race Feb. 1. Josie Carroll trains her.

In the fifth race, Jones will be running the undefeated 4-year-old filly Same Cross.

In her first two starts, Same Cross dominated maidens and first-level allowance rivals at 5 1/2 furlongs in races that were switched from turf to dirt. She’ll face five rivals in this six-furlong second-level allowance/optional claiming race for older females.

“She’s a good one,’’ Jones said. “We’ve been pretty high on her the whole time. Whether she can be a graded-stakes winner or not remains to be seen.’’

The card also includes a second-level open allowance/optional claiming turf race that drew a solid field of seven older horses plus an also-eligible main-track-only entrant. If the race stays on turf, the distance will be about a mile and a sixteenth.

Mike Stidham trains Trend, who has worked steadily since finishing fifth in the Grade 3 Col. E.R. Bradley in his return from a layoff. Major Gain, who was scratched from the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap last weekend, is part of an entry for trainer Louie Roussel III. Bauers Got Hours, who finished third in a race at this level Jan. 27 for trainer Bunky Richards, has shown a fondness for this course.