03/08/2012 4:29PM

Fair Grounds: Hammers Terror moves to turf


Nothing against grass racing, the historical backbone of the sport, but in this country, dirt is king, especially if you’ve got a 3-year-old who can run. Even horses whose connections at bottom believe they’ve got a grass runner on their hands will be given every chance to take to the main track and make a run at the Kentucky Derby or other prizes in the spring. But when reality hits home, turf racing beckons.

So it is with the Black Gold, one of two turf stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday at Fair Grounds. Twelve colts and geldings were entered in the race, and six of them raced in one of the two Fair Grounds dirt stakes for 3-year-olds in 2012. Hero of Order, who was fifth in the Lecomte and fourth in the Risen Star, showed the most among that half-dozen, but he won’t get the most support in the Black Gold, which is carded for about 7 1/2 furlongs on grass. Hammers Terror and Capetown Devil, sixth and seventh in the Jan. 21 Lecomte, both should be well supported in Saturday’s race, and probably for good reason.

Hammers Terror in particular looks like a decent turf prospect. His trainer, Mike Stidham, noted late last fall the fact that Hammers Terror was a turf-bred horse training with gusto on dirt. Hammers Terror, by high-class turf miler Artie Schiller and out of a Lord Avie mare, won a first-level allowance race on Dec. 8 but failed to make much impact in the Lecomte. His two synthetic-surface races early last fall both might have been a touch better than the dirt tries, lending credence to the notion that Hammers Terror will move forward on turf. Blinkers are added for Saturday’s start, and Hammer’s Terror has put together an encouraging work pattern since his race in the Lecomte.

Capetown Devil also had Polytrack success last fall, and his pedigree, by Cape Town and out of a Nureyev mare, also is that of a grass horse. Capetown Devil, trained by David Carroll, broke from post 12 and had a wide trip in the Lecomte, and he may well improve on his performance there.

Lacombe: Jones has pair of winners

The dynamic in the Allen Lacombe Memorial, Saturday’s turf stakes for 3-year-old fillies, differs from the Black Gold, with the best-looking horses in this group having for the most part raced on grass all along. Larry Jones trains two of them. Firehouse Red and Robi Jo both are two-time turf winners this Fair Grounds meet, and both look capable of carrying the day in the Lacombe.

Firehouse Red won her maiden Dec. 2, finished third in her first try with other winners about three weeks later, then came back Jan. 29 to capture an allowance race by 1 1/2 lengths. She’s had more time to prepare for the Lacombe than Robi Jo, but Robi Jo has turned in flashier performances while going 2 for 2 to start her career. Jones rarely wins with debuting runners, but Robi Jo captured a turf sprint on Jan. 22 in her first race, and she was more impressive coming from the back of the pack to run down a talented filly named Car Lore in a Feb. 24 race at the Lacombe distance.

Another Stidham horse, Rainbow Blossom, has a chance while making her first start of 2012. Second to 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Stephanie’s Kitten in her career debut over Arlington’s grass course last summer, Rainbow Blossom came back to win a grass maiden in her second start before failing in a pair of Polytrack races.

◗ Saturday’s program also includes a stakes-class turf allowance, race 6, headed by Dubious Miss and Strike Impact. Tonto Fontenot is the horse to beat if the race is rained onto dirt.