03/10/2011 4:53PM

Fair Grounds' New Orleans Ladies good spot for Ravi's Song


First came At the Half, a foal of 1991 who won five of her first six starts, including a sweep of the Pocahontas and Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs. At the Half had multiple foals, but the only one who could run much was named Lu Ravi. Lu Ravi, a 1995 model, won 11 of 26 starts and finished second eight times while capturing multiple graded stakes, but she, too, has produced only one decent runner as a broodmare. That’s Ravi’s Song, who at 5 may be on the cusp of reaching her full potential. She will try to win her second straight Fair Grounds stakes when she faces six foes in the $100,000 New Orleans Ladies on Saturday.

Carl Bowman trains Ravi’s Song for Mrs. Yushio Fujita. Bowman also trained Lu Ravi and At the Half. It’s not often these days that the same trainer has looked after three generations of stakes winners.

Ravi’s Song is 5, and that she has made just 11 starts speaks to the problems Bowman has had keeping her going the right direction.

“If she’ll stay sound, and I can get her in a series of timely races, and she continues doing well, she will improve remarkably,” Bowman said.

Ravi’s Song already has turned in one strong performance this winter. At the top of the stretch in the Feb. 12 Pelleteri Stakes, Ravi’s Song was last of eight, racing behind tepid fractions, but she found several more gears through the straightaway and won the Pelleteri going away. It was not the first time Ravi’s Song flashed a turn of foot.

“I’ve seen her before just make an absolutely incredible explosive move,” Bowman said.

Ravi’s Song has worked twice since her recent stakes win, and Bowman said he expects a solid follow-through performance.

“She’s trained superbly down here this winter,” he said.

Another stretch runner, Dundalk Dust, could be Ravi’s Song’s main rival. Dundalk Dust went 2 for 2 last fall after being switched to dirt, taking the Falls City in her 2010 finale, a race in which Ravi’s Song was fourth. Dundalk Dust, turned over to trainer Neil Pessin for the winter, has posted six timed workouts – including two at six furlongs – preparing for her 2011 debut.

“We worked her hard enough to get her ready to run, but she’s not 100 percent because we’ve got other things down the road for her,” Pessin said. “I think she’s good enough and ready enough to win, and I’d be a little disappointed if she didn’t win.”

Fighter Wing and Patience Drive both will have first run on the closers, and horses with their running style had a major edge last racing week at Fair Grounds.

Willcox Inn looks fit for Grindstone

The Grindstone Stakes, along with most of a Fair Grounds racing program March 5, was washed away by heavy rain, but the race is back on Saturday’s card, and the extra time could make a significant difference for likely favorite Willcox Inn.

Willcox Inn hasn’t started since rallying for third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on Nov. 6. Coming up to the originally scheduled Grindstone, trainer Mike Stidham estimated Willcox Inn to be at about 90 percent fit. The one-week delay allowed Stidham to work Willcox Inn six furlongs in 1:14.60 Monday. Factor that, and add a few more routine gallops, and Willcox Inn might be sitting on ready for the Grindstone, a 7 1/2-furlong grass race for 3-year-olds.

Willcox Inn, who finished third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity on Polytrack in his race before the BC Juvenile Turf, was one of eight horses entered in the Grindstone, but despite the compact field, Willcox Inn might still get a favorable setup for a late run. Great Mills and Moonbie are stretch-out sprinters who have shown solid one-turn early speed, and Aces N Kings, a six-time winner and the field’s top earner, drew the rail and was the first-call leader going seven furlongs in his most recent start.

If most of the pace players show, Willcox Inn might have to outfinish fellow closer Mavericking to win. Mavericking won his maiden on turf opening week of the meet, then finished second in a pair of turf allowance races before being freshened for the Grindstone. Trainer Neil Pessin thought Mavericking was racing greenly in his two most recent starts, but a series of fast morning works suggest Mavericking has his head in the game now.