02/14/2013 1:24PM

Fair Grounds: Shift of Sarah Lane's Oates to dirt would aid Ante Up Annie


Considering what turf racing has been in 2013 at Fair Grounds – that is, virtually non-existent – it will come as little surprise if the Saturday feature, the $60,000 Sarah Lane’s Oates Stakes, will have to be transferred from the turf to the main track.

This particular instance would not bother Dallas Stewart. Not at all. Stewart trains Ante Up Annie, one of the eight Louisiana-bred 3-year-old fillies in the field, and her chances figure to improve dramatically with a switch to dirt.

“Looking at the forecast last weekend, that was kind of the idea, that we’d like to get a little lucky and have it go on the dirt,” Stewart said early Thursday from the New Orleans track. “It rained overnight again, and obviously the grass course is really taking its time coming around. In the meantime, we’ll try to win a race.”

Ante Up Annie, with Brian Hernandez Jr. to ride, comes well-drawn in post 3 in the Sarah Lane’s Oates, which will be run at a mile and 70 yards if in fact it goes on the dirt. Owned by the Valene Farms, Ante Up Annie has been impressive in statebred company at the 2012-13 meet, winning a Dec. 22 maiden race before capturing a Jan. 13 first-level allowance, both around two turns on dirt.

“She’s a big, strong, beautiful filly, and she’s really gotten good with more distance,” Stewart said. “We had her up at Saratoga and Churchill last year, and it seemed like every other 30 days she’d have a 30-day setback. But now she’s ready to go and doing really well.”

The main competition for Ante Up Annie on the dirt likely would come from Cat Who Dat, Yes Sir, and Ashley B. If the race somehow stays on turf, then Mucho Mans Gold, with leading jockey Rosie Napravnik up for trainer Bret Calhoun, would take plenty of beating after winning a Jan. 27 grass allowance by daylight.

The Sarah Lane’s Oates, named for the mare who won 21 races and earned nearly $900,000 in the late 1990s as a turf standout for trainer Andy Leggio, goes as the seventh of 11 races on a card that starts at the normal 1 p.m. Central. Post time for the feature is 3:55.

Next Saturday at Fair Grounds will be one of the biggest days of the four-month meet. Six stakes will be run on the Louisiana Derby Preview Day program, led by the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes for 3-year-olds.