01/23/2013 2:32PM

Fair Grounds: Four stakes will make for an interesting Saturday card

Shigeki Kikkawa
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas runs Optimizer in Saturday's Grade 3 Col. E.R. Bradley at Fair Grounds.

Coinciding with the unofficial “reopening” of the Fair Grounds turf course this week, the New Orleans track will feature three turf races among its four stakes on a terrific 12-race Saturday card.

Two of those grass races – the Marie Krantz Memorial and the Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap – are rescheduled events after being postponed last Saturday, when wet conditions rendered the course unusable. In fact, until this week, only one race had been run over the turf course since Jan. 1.

The Bradley shapes up as a particularly interesting race, and officials carded it accordingly as the anchor of the Saturday program when entries were drawn Monday. The 1 1/16-mile Bradley drew nine older horses led by Optimizer, Strike Impact, Unlatch, and Dubious Miss. First post Saturday is 1 p.m. Central.

Working backward, this is a rundown of the four Saturday stakes:

◗ Grade 3, $125,000 Col. E.R. Bradley (race 9, 4:55 post): No jockey-trainer combination has been hotter in the Midwest recently than Jon Court and D. Wayne Lukas, who teamed to sweep Kentucky Derby prep races last weekend with Oxbow in the Lecomte at Fair Grounds and Will Take Charge in the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park. They will be back for this “about” 1 1/16-mile race with Optimizer (post 7), the much-traveled 4-year-old who most recently was third in the Dec. 15 Hollywood Turf Cup.

James Street (post 2, John Jacinto), fifth as the favorite in the Diliberto Memorial last month, is the 120-pound favorite under the handicap conditions. The other weight assignments range from 117 to 113.

Another 4-year-old, Unlatched (post 4, Brian Hernandez Jr.) is something of a wild card after starting his career by winning 3 of 4 starts, all in one-mile turf races. He won the Woodchopper on opening weekend of the Fair Grounds meet in his most recent start.

◗ $75,000 F.W. Gaudin Memorial Stakes (race 8, 4:25): Delaunay and Gantry will renew their sizzling rivalry in a six-furlong race that drew seven older horses. Delaunay, trained by Tom Amoss, has been sensational in earning triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in his last three starts, including two victories over Gantry, who won three sprint stakes here last winter, including the Gaudin. Hamiltonian, Laurie’s Rocket, and Flashpoint help make for an outstanding renewal.

◗ $75,000 Van Berg Stakes (race 7, 3:55): Ten well-matched 3-year-olds are entered in the inaugural running of this 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint. Party Lad, a last-out winner of a Gulfstream Park allowance, could be a slight favorite when shipping in for jockey Joe Bravo and trainer Mike Pino.

◗ $75,000 Marie Krantz Memorial (race 3, 1:57): Daisy Devine is the most accomplished horse on the entire program, but her race has been relegated to early on the card because of how lopsided it appears. Spotting her five opponents 8 to 12 pounds when carrying highweight of 125, she will break from post 1 with Jimmy Graham aboard as a huge favorite in this “about” 1 1/16-mile race. A victory by the heavy favorite would get her past $990,000 in earnings.