01/19/2012 5:29PM

Fair Grounds: New players look dangerous in Louisiana Handicap

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NEW ORLEANS - Fast Alex beat Gleam of Hope by a nose in the Dec. 17 Tenacious Handicap, but there are new players Saturday in the $100,000 Louisiana Handicap, the next local step on the road to the New Orleans Handicap on April 1.

Todd Pletcher has sent Alma d’Oro in for his Fair Grounds debut. Steve Asmussen-trained Thiskyhasnolimit has been working steadily in California for his first start since July. Glenwood Canyon almost always finishes around the money, and Stay Put should improve following a turf comeback race last month. It looks like the Tenacious one-two might have to run better to duplicate last month’s result, but that, too, is possible.

Fair Grounds-loving Fast Alex, fourth in the 2011 New Orleans Handicap, was making only his second start since June and third since March when he edged Gleam of Hope in the Tenacious.

“He won, but he got a little tired last time,” said trainer Greg Geier. “He’s had three works since then, and he should be even better now.”

Gleam of Hope, meanwhile, has been a grass horse for much of his career, but his main-track performance last month suggested the 5-year-old has room to grow on dirt, and Gleam of Hope has posted brilliant morning drills since his run in the Tenacious.

Thiskyhasnolimit won only once last year, taking the Texas Mile in April, but he may bring some measure of early speed to a race lacking obvious front-runners.