01/20/2012 4:01PM

Fair Grounds: Ready to Unleash takes on Cat Lore in turf sprint


NEW ORLEANS – Considering it immediately follows a six-stakes bonanza, the Fair Grounds Sunday program came up pretty strong – provided one doesn’t harbor an aversion to turf sprints. Three of them form the backbone of a nine-race menu, with “about” 5 1/2-furlong dashes (all for females) carded for maidens and at the first two allowance classes.

The grass-sprint festival begins with race 4, a first-level allowance restricted to 3-year-old fillies and also open to $50,000 claimers. If the race should be rained onto dirt, which is possible but not likely, main-track-only Flame Run belongs in the mix. On turf, it should come down to Ready to Unleash and Cat Lore.

Ready to Unleash had a solid three-race, late-summer and early fall campaign last year, winning her maiden going six furlongs on turf in a Kentucky Downs dash. Trainer David Carroll entered her for grass on a Dec. 28 race that wet conditions moved to the main track, where Ready to Unleash checked in second by a length to Always Here Too, who was to contest the Silverbulletday Stakes on Saturday.

“I was surprised how well she ran there, since she doesn’t train that well on dirt,” Carroll said.

On grass, Ready to Unleash possesses a nice little burst, one that could propel her to victory if Cat Lore does not prove superior. Cat Lore, from the Mike Stidham barn, made her career debut Dec. 8 at Fair Grounds, bursting clear in the stretch run of a turf sprint to post a 6 1/2-length win. She has trained well since and strikes her connections as having enough class to repeat at a higher-class level Sunday.

“We like her a lot,” said Stidham’s assistant, Hilary Pridham. “She acts like she’s going to be a nice filly.”

Not to be discounted in race 4 is the Neil Howard-trained filly Ingenue, who makes her first start since winning a spring 2-year-old dash last April at Keeneland.

Race 6 is the second-level allowance race, which also is open to $40,000 claimers, and it should have Notassharpasuthink as a clear favorite. Second to the high-quality turf-sprinter Flash Mash in a race at this class level Dec. 2, Notassharpasuthink was rained out of an intended start a couple weeks ago, and trainer Tom Amoss will be closely monitoring the weather again this weekend. Asked if breaking from post 1 in a large field concerned him, Amoss said: “My biggest concern is not post, but weather.”

Dirt might enhance the chances of Accessorize, who won a first-level allowance race on the Fair Grounds main track Dec. 23.