03/23/2011 1:15PM

Fair Grounds: Star Guitar looks almost unbeatable in Costa Rising

Lynn Roberts
Star Guitar is the biggest favorite on a Friday Fair Grounds card with five $75,000 stakes.

Every great act deserves a decent warm-up. That’s the mindset of most racetracks in regard to their showcase events, and it’s why Fair Grounds has carded five $75,000 stakes on Friday, the day before the $1 million Louisiana Derby and other major races take center stage Saturday at the New Orleans track.

Star Guitar, easily the biggest favorite of the day – and surely the most popular Louisiana-bred of his era – helps lead off the action as the 1-5 morning-line choice in the first of the five stakes, the Costa Rising.

Star Guitar, a winner of 16 of 22 races and nearly $1.2 million, figures to dominate the 1 1/16-mile Costa Rising, which comes early in the day as the third race.

“It’s hard to knock him, that’s for sure,” said trainer Al Stall Jr. “He’s consistent, and he loves to train. We’re good to go, glad this race is on the schedule.”

Otherwise, the Crescent City Derby is perhaps the most notable of the stakes, all of which are for Louisiana-breds. One of the nine 3-year-olds in the field, Populist Politics, has been cross-entered in the Louisiana Derby, but trainer Tom Amoss said he intends to run the colt Friday.

Populist Politics is one of six in the field who raced most recently in the Feb. 26 Gentilly Stakes, which was run at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Man of Strife won the Gentilly by a neck over hard-closing Populist Politics, while none of the other returnees were disgraced, including Tonto Too, who was making his turf debut when finishing fourth, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths. In his prior start, Tonto Too was sharp in winning a two-turn allowance over dirt.

The distance Friday remains the same as the Gentilly – but the Crescent City Derby will be run instead on the main track, which trainer Jeff Thornbury hopes will make all the difference.

“Looking at the numbers, I think our horse is heading the right way,” said Thornbury. “I think the 1-horse [Man of Strife] could be the one to beat, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

The Crescent City Derby goes as the eighth of 12 races on a program that starts at the usual 12:40 p.m. Central. In the other Friday races:

◗ Crescent City Oaks (race 10): Lovenotlost and the very consistent Tensas Punch get a rematch after finishing a nose apart as the respective one-two finishers in the Feb. 26 Sarah Lane’s Oates over the grass. Tensas Punch was a solid favorite that day and figures to come favored again as they switch back to dirt as part of a full field of 3-year-old fillies. Clearly the sleeper is Lawson’s Lady, who earned a field-high 83 Beyer Speed Figure when being claimed by Amoss from her last start, a maiden-claiming sprint.

◗ Bayou St. Johns (race 7): Five of the nine older turf sprinters in here come out of a Feb. 26 allowance won by Hud’s Rebel. That allowance race was on dirt, and now they go back to grass, but it looks like the main players will remain the same, with the respective 2-3-4 finishers – Chief Jay, Foreign Production, and My Star Runner – all capable of victory. The intriguing newcomer is Kissimmee Kyle, getting a turn-back in distance from trainer Stall.

◗ Red Camelia (race 5): Heiligbrodt Racing Stable steps up with a formidable entry in Military Miss, an easy winner of her last two at Delta Downs, and Hisse, an earner of nearly $380,000. Seven other fillies and mares oppose them, with Skipping Town and Harlie’s Dreams having the best shots at a mild upset.

“I think our filly can really move up off her last race,” said Pat Devereux Jr., trainer of Harlie’s Dreams.