03/05/2011 4:00PM

Fair Grounds Mardi Gras feature topped by Aide


As a lifelong New Orleanian, Al Stall has a well-established Mardi Gras Day routine. And as a racetracker, that routine includes an afternoon trip to the Fair Grounds.

“The track’s one of my favorite places to go on Mardi Gras,” Stall said. “I go to work in the morning, come home, catch Rex [a major Mardi Gras parade] right outside the house here. Once all the clean-up trucks are past, we’re good to go.”

Stall hopes the 3-year-old filly Aide is good to go for the Mardi Gras Stakes later Tuesday at Fair Grounds. Aide was one of eight 3-year-old fillies entered in the $60,000 Mardi Gras, which is carded for 7 1/2 furlong on turf but owing to heavy weekend rain is a strong candidate for a move to one mile 70 yards on the main track.

Aide hit the national radar with a Breeders’ Cup week two-turn dirt allowance win of almost 20 lengths at Churchill, but went on to finish fourth to Kathmanblu in the Golden Rod Stakes and fifth behind her in the Silverbulletday on Jan. 22. Aide has trained well all along, and acts fine around the barn, but she has pulled too hard on the reins early in her last two starts.

“I did a few little different things training with her, nothing to speak of,” Stall said. “She’s just not acting right in races. She’s trying to run off, and we need to stop that.”

To get back in the win column, Aide will have to race more professionally – and get past a horde of fillies trained by Mike Stidham. Stidham nominated nine fillies to the Mardi Gras and entered four of them. Cryptocandiac won a Fair Grounds grass maiden route in her most recent start; Hey Carmen won a dirt-route maiden last time after two runner-up finishes on turf; and Royal Alluvial was second last out in an off-the-turf entry-level allowance. Leading rider Rosie Napravnik winds up on Cryptocandiac, but Stidham’s best chance – on turf, at least – might rest with Ambient. Ambient finished sixth in the Silverbulletday, her most recent start, but was a five-length Fair Grounds turf allowance-race winner back in mid-December.

◗ Jockey Miguel Mena reached a milestone Friday at Fair Grounds when he won the 1,000th race of his career. Mena hit the mark by guiding Couric to a front-running victory in the ninth race. Through Friday’s racing, Mena was fourth in the Fair Grounds standings with 59 victories.