02/08/2012 2:57PM

Fair Grounds: Evening card starts on best foot


In contrast to the way the “Carnival” party figures to unfold Friday evening, a 10-race card at Fair Grounds will start off quickly. Easily the best race of the day has been slotted as the first, perhaps as a subtle means of getting racing-savvy partiers to the New Orleans track in time for the whole show.

Twilight first post is 5 p.m. Central as Fair Grounds continues its attempt to attract a different demographic, much the way its parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., began offering night racing programs nearly three years ago at its flagship track in Kentucky. This is the third of six such twilight cards at Fair Grounds this winter, and with Mardi Gras approaching, the ontrack party theme is “Carnival,” featuring Topcat and DJ Spin.

The first race, the nominal feature, is a $51,000, second-level allowance scheduled for 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. A field of 10, including one main-track-only designee, has been entered in a race halfway populated by layoff runners whose form looks good enough to get them home the fastest, assuming their fitness is similarly strong.

Maybe the most capable of those five returnees is Dos Lunas, a graded stakes-placed filly bred and owned by Kim and John Glenney. Having switched barns a few times since Glenney retired from training last spring, Dos Lunas now is trained by Neil Pessin, who in a brief earlier stint sent out the filly to an eye-catching allowance triumph over the Churchill turf last summer.

The other fillies and mares entered off layoffs of more than five months are Dandyna, Sakakawea, Bloemer Girl, and Elusive Jozi. Of those, Sakakawea is likely to show the most speed, while Bloemer Girl, a minor stakes winner in just her third and most recent start in January 2011 over the Santa Anita turf, would be the least surprising.

If the time off takes a toll on the layoff horses, then either of two inside-drawn runners, Notassharpasuthink and Palazzo Babe, look logical enough to move up off recent races to prevail.

Later races of interest Friday include two high-end claiming events (races 2 and 9) and a $46,000 maiden special-weight sprint (race 3). The 10th and last race, a $10,000 main-track sprint for Louisiana-breds, is scheduled for 9:45 Central.

Subsequent twilight cards are scheduled for Feb. 24, March 16, and March 30.