12/19/2012 4:02PM

Fair Grounds: Lovell looks to the sky for turf miles


Trainer Michelle Lovell has her fingers crossed, and that’s even before she begins wishing for racing luck.

“I just hope the races stay on the turf,” she said.

An 80 percent chance of rain was forecast for Thursday in the New Orleans area, jeopardizing grass racing not only for that afternoon, but also for Friday. Lovell has two of her better horses, No Rules Now and At the Pulpit, entered in the two one-mile turf allowances that anchor a 10-race Friday card, and both stand solid chances if the right weather prevails.

“I’m not sure if we’d stay in if the races come off,” said Lovell, who has consolidated her 27 active runners to Fair Grounds for the winter.

No Rules Now, a winner of his last two starts, would be stretching out to a mile while returning from open races to face fellow Louisiana-breds in the fourth race, a $43,000 allowance with a $20,000 claiming option.

“We haven’t been able to find a sprint for him against statebreds, so we thought we’d try him long,” said Lovell, who works very closely with her husband, Casey, in overseeing the stable. “He’s been a real honest horse for us.”

At the Pulpit, a 3-year-old gelded son of the recently deceased Pulpit, is “a lightly raced horse with some talent, and he shows up for us every time,” said Lovell (pronounced LOVE-ul).

At the Pulpit was beaten just a nose for similar conditions on Nov. 23 and comes well drawn in post 1 among the 10 entered in the sixth race, a $47,000 first-level allowance for open company. Richard Eramia has a return call.

First post Friday is 1 p.m. Central.

Modest-sized Saturday fields

Short to mid-sized field were the rule when entries were drawn Wednesday for the five stakes to be run Saturday on a 12-race “Santa Super Saturday” program. Here is a quick rundown:

◗ $75,000 Blushing K.D. (race 3): The multiple graded winner Daisy Devine looks like an overwhelming favorite among the seven fillies and mares in this 1 1/16-mile turf race. Trained by Andrew McKeever for James Miller, Daisy Devine will be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. for the first time when she breaks from post 4.

Daisy Devine, winner of the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in the spring, is 2 for 2 over the Fair Grounds turf course and 8 for 15 overall, with career earnings of more than $900,000.

The top candidates to fill out the other placings are Forest Uproar and Artemus Kitten.

◗ $75,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial (race 5): Named for the late popular local sportscaster, the Diliberto is one of the more competitive looking stakes of the day, with Dubious Miss, James Street, Strike Impact, and Skyring all likely to take their fair share of play. Seven are entered in the 1 1/16-mile turf race, with Skyring, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, the only 3-year-old taking on older.

◗ $60,000 Sugar Bowl (race 6): Tour Guide (post 5, Hernandez), a smashing winner of an allowance sprint on the second Stars of Tomorrow card at the Churchill Downs meet last month for Bret Calhoun, should be odds-on in this six-furlong race for 2-year-olds. Just six were entered.

◗ $75,000 Bonapaw (race 8): The old pro Chamberlain Bridge is among the nine older horses entered in this 5 1/2-furlong turf race. Other threats in a well-matched field include Hollywood Hit, Cash Refund, Zeb, and Icon Ike.

◗ $60,000 Letellier Memorial (race 9): The female counterpart to the Sugar Bowl drew eight 2-year-old fillies, with perhaps Coastal Sunrise, the lone stakes winner in the group, ruling a slight favorite over the likes of allowance winners Finding More and Brotherhood Singer.

Hurricane Ike headed for handicaps

Trainer Mike Stidham told Fair Grounds officials he intends to point Hurricane Ike to the series of handicaps that dot the stakes schedule, those being the Jan. 19 Louisiana Handicap, the Feb. 23 Mineshaft Handicap, and the March 30 New Orleans Handicap.

Hurricane Ike, owned by Dawn and Ike Thrash, was a neck winner of the Tenacious Handicap last weekend.

“Assuming he continues to do well, we’ll shoot for that handicap series here with him,” said Stidham.