03/27/2013 4:25PM

Fair Grounds: New Orleans Handicap features rematch of Graydar, Bourbon Courage

Barbara D. Livingston
Graydar (above) defeated Bourbon Courage by three lengths when they met in the Donn Handicap seven weeks ago. They meet again Saturday in the New Orleans Handicap.

The home-and-home series between new rivals Graydar and Bourbon Courage comes to New Orleans when the 4-year-old colts square off again Saturday in the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap, one of three highly intriguing Grade 2 races on the Louisiana Derby undercard at Fair Grounds.

When entries were drawn Wednesday, Graydar was assigned post 8 and Bourbon Courage got post 2 for the New Orleans Cap. The 1 1/8-mile race comes seven weeks after Graydar, based in south Florida all winter, led throughout to defeat runner-up Bourbon Courage by three lengths in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

“Of course we respect Graydar a lot,” said Kellyn Gorder, who shipped Bourbon Courage from his Fair Grounds base for the Donn. “But we’re not scared of him. We’re kind of looking forward to the rematch on our turf. We hope there’s a little bit of other speed that’ll give us something to run at. Our horse has been training really well coming up to this race.”

Edgar Prado has the mount back on Graydar for Todd Pletcher, while Javier Castellano returns aboard Bourbon Courage. Other major contenders in this 88th running of the New Orleans Cap are $2.5-million earner Flat Out (post 1, Junior Alvarado) and another surging 4-year-old, Mark Valeski (post 7, Jimmy Graham). In all, eight older horses are entered.

The New Orleans Cap goes as the eighth of 13 Saturday races.

In the two other Grade 2 races:

◗ $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (race 7): Castellano has the call from Pletcher and Repole Stable on Unlimited Budget, the likely favorite in this richest of the three Grade 2 races. The unbeaten filly will break from the outside post when facing six other 3-year-old fillies in this 1 1/16-mile race, which is worth 100 points to the winner in the new system being used toward eligibility into the May 3 Kentucky Oaks.

Flashy Gray (post 5, Alvarado), who was the 2-5 favorite when second in the Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park three weeks ago, will be looking to redeem herself. She closed as the 6-1 favorite in the only Kentucky Oaks Future Wager pool offered this year by Churchill Downs.

The Fair Grounds Oaks has produced five Kentucky Oaks winners from its last eight runnings.

◗ $400,000 Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap (race 10): All jockey Jon Court wants from Optimizer is the same kind of effort the colt gave in dominating his last two races over the Fair Grounds turf course, the Grade 3 Col. Bradley in January and the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap in February.

“He’s been pretty impressive over it,” said Court. “We’re looking for the same response Saturday.”

Optimizer, shipping back from Oaklawn for D. Wayne Lukas, got post 5 as the solid favorite for the 1 1/8-mile Muniz. The only horse to contest all three Triple Crown races last year, Optimizer has become a different animal in winning 4 of 8 starts on grass.

◗ Three other stakes, all for Louisiana-breds, also are on the card. They are the $60,000 Costa Rising Stakes (race 3), the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks (race 6), and the $75,000 Crescent City Derby (race 11).