12/06/2009 12:00AM

Fair Grounds feature boils down to two

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Fair Grounds has not had an easy time filling open allowance races early this meet, which makes sense, since so many horses are just getting settled in after shipping from Northern venues. Monday's program offers no exception: Neither of two open allowances in the condition book made it into the nine-race program, and featured is race 8, a 7 1/2-furlong filly-and-mare grass race open to $16,000 starter-allowance horses, or $35,000 claimers.

The feature drew nine horses entered for grass, and one more, Ma Rainey, who would start only on the main track. It's not a bad-sized field, and the card as a whole did all right, with 91 horses (including also-eligibles) entered. It's a passing grade for the local horse population, which will be tested this month. This was the first Monday card of the Fair Grounds season, and after racing just three days a week in November, Fair Grounds must fill five days per week during December.

The feature looks much like a two-horse race between Category Seven and Love to Tell. Both 4-year-old fillies were entered under the race's starter-allowance condition, and both exit the opening-day Blushing K. D. Stakes, which was run on the Fair Grounds grass course. Category Seven finished third that afternoon, and Love to Tell, though sixth, was only 1 1/2 lengths behind her. Each filly was making her first start coming back from a layoff, but Category Seven had last raced Sept. 19, where Love to Tell had been away since July 25.

Category Seven had a strong Fair Grounds meet racing on turf last season, winning a couple conditioned-claiming races before finishing second in allowance company. She got even better later this year, winning one turf stakes at Evangeline Downs and nearly taking another at Louisiana Downs.

But Love to Tell might have more upside Monday. At her Fair Grounds best last meeting, she won the Pago Hop by a head, and captured the $125,000 Bayou Handicap by more than two lengths on Feb. 21. Give her a slight edge on Monday.

Big day for smaller names

Sure, there are plenty of name riders hanging their tack at Fair Grounds right now. But Friday was a day for the lesser-known. Apprentice Anna Roberts won a race, as did Kerwin Clark. Trey Agilar landed a winner, and Richard Eramia and Jose Riquelme scored riding doubles.

Riquelme's was the most notable achievement. Riquelme hadn't even ridden at the meet before Friday, when he won with two of four mounts, both leading all the way. Delta Whirl Paid $42.80 winning race 7, and She's a Movie Star returned $23.40 in race 10.