03/04/2011 5:09PM

Fair Grounds spot for Roussel-trained Holiday Ballad


While Fair Grounds horseplayers have been zigging, Holiday Ballad has been zagging. Sent away in back-to-back races as part of a 6-5 entry with his Louie Roussel stablemate Sicomoro, Holiday Ballad put forth a couple of dull performances. But when Roussel turned him back from two turns to try six furlongs in his most recent race, Holiday Ballad, a single betting interest, charged home second when overlooked at nearly 17-1 in that Feb. 13 sprint.

Holiday Ballad, with apprentice Denny Velazquez to ride, was assigned post 1 in the Sunday feature at Fair Grounds, a $51,000 first-level allowance at six furlongs. Five other older sprinters were entered, with Macjoey and leading rider Rosie Napravnik likely to be favored.

Roussel bought Holiday Ballad for $85,000 out of the WinStar Farm dispersal last November. For his prior connections, the gelding began his career by winning once in four tries, taking a maiden-claiming race at Saratoga by a nose last summer.

For Roussel, the 65-year-old veteran who returned to training in 2008 after a four-year hiatus and has more than 750 career victories, Holiday Ballad is winless in four starts, but a pattern of strong morning works and the encouraging last race stamp him as a major threat to end that skein Sunday.

Macjoey, trained by Steve Asmussen, was the 2-1 second choice in the same Feb. 13 race that Holiday Ballad exits. Always part of the pace, the colt beat a steady fade down the stretch to finish fifth after the eventual winner, Siente El Trueno, began to assert his superiority.

Favorably drawn in the outside post, Macjoey once again should be prominent from the outset Sunday. To redeem for that disappointing last out, he’ll likely have to get the best of Alaco Castle and Hawaiian Dream before dealing with Holiday Ballad.

The feature goes as the eighth of 10 races on a Sunday card that starts at 12:40 p.m. Central.

◗ There will be racing Monday at Fair Grounds, as usual, but also on Tuesday, when Mardi Gras is celebrated in New Orleans and beyond. Otherwise, Fair Grounds has eliminated Thursdays for the final month of its four-month meet and will go to a four-day race week (Fridays through Mondays). The meet ends March 27.