02/15/2012 1:08PM

Fair Grounds: Private Prayer in for tag in turf sprint

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Even if Pat Devereux Jr. sends out Private Prayer to a mild upset of the Friday feature at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, the Kentucky native probably won’t be in the win photo.

“I’m only in the picture if we have no other representation,” said Devereux, an old-school private trainer for the Coteau Grove Farms of Keith and Ginger Myers. “That’s the way the trainers did it back in the day.”

Devereux has been around the racetrack since helping out his dad, the late Pat Devereux Sr., at Keeneland and other stops on a long forsaken circuit, where the elder Devereux made a name for himself as a prototypical hardboot and as the trainer of Royal Harmony, winner of three straight runnings of the Fayette Handicap at Keeneland (1969-71).

Private Prayer, with Richard Eramia to ride from post 3, is one of eight 3-year-olds in the lone allowance of a 10-race Friday card, a $49,000, first-level turf sprint with a $50,000 claiming option. Private Prayer, a Louisiana-bred gelding by Lemon Drop Kid, is one of two multi-winners in the field, having won a maiden race in May and an allowance race in September. My Man Dan (Corey Lanerie, post 7) is a three-time winner for Devereux’s old boss, Steve Asmussen.

Devereux, 53, had been working for three years as the Evangeline-based assistant to Asmussen when he accepted the private job last year for Myers, a health-care executive from Sunset, La. The arrangement has proven beneficial, with Devereux winning at a 28 percent clip (28 for 101). Among Devereux’s other prior racetrack jobs were lengthy stints as assistants under Bert Sonnier and Ernie and Dee Poulos, a couple of stabs at a solo career, and two jobs as a veterinary assistant.

Private Prayer, he said, “isn’t a stakes horse, but after they’ve won a couple when they’re 2, there’s not a whole lot of places to run if they’re not stakes horses. He’s in for the $50,000, and he’s training well, so I thought this would be a good time to run him.”

My Man Dan, also in for the $50,000 option, is listed as a lukewarm morning-line favorite in the 5 1/2-furlong feature, with other logical contenders including Thunder Harbor, Pure Tactics, and Pacific Nights.

The Friday feature is the ninth on a program that starts at the usual 12:40 p.m. Central. Three Friday twilight cards (5 p.m. post) remain on the schedule, for Feb. 24, March 16, and March 30.

◗ There is no stakes race this Saturday at Fair Grounds, but a slew of important races will be run next Saturday, Feb. 25, when the $300,000 Risen Star anchors a Louisiana Derby Preview card that includes six stakes.