03/19/2013 1:06PM

Fair Grounds: Trainer Stall has full plate as meet winds down

Tom Keyser
Cease, who has earned more than $450,000, will make his second start off a layoff in Thursday's $51,000 allowance.

Al Stall Jr. has a lot going on these days at Fair Grounds. Less than two weeks away from shipping many of his better horses to Kentucky while leaving others behind to compete at Louisiana Downs, the married father of two still has work to do and decisions to make in New Orleans while he agonizes over the two positive medication tests he has under appeal to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Stall and his clients have yet to commit to nominating the two most accomplished 3-year-olds in a star-filled shed row, Departing and Sunbean, to the Triple Crown. The deadline to make a $6,000 late nomination is Saturday.

Both Departing, bred and owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, and Sunbean, a Louisiana-bred homebred for Brittlynn Stable, are being pointed to the Fair Grounds showcase, the $1 million Louisiana Derby, on March 30.

Stall declined to comment Monday on what his clients will do in terms of late nominating by Saturday, saying he simply intends to have the colts “on their game” for their next starts. There is an outside chance that Sunbean could be excluded from the Louisiana Derby if it overfills beyond the 14-horse maximum, but, “that’s something beyond our control, so we can’t worry about that right now,” Stall said.

The medication positives, both for small amounts of methacarbomol dating from races last fall at Churchill Downs, clearly are a source of major agitation for Stall. He said he is “frustrated beyond words” that there are reduced race-day threshold limits in effect in Kentucky for a Class C drug that is widely used as a therapeutic muscle relaxant under the trade name Robaxin.

Threshold limits for some medications were reduced to “zero tolerance” last fall amid sweeping statutory changes in Kentucky, with methacarbomol having a threshold limit of 1 ng/ml.

Stall said he was informed by stewards at Turfway Park that the tests for methacarbomol for Sign were 2.1 nanograms (parts per billion) per milliliter and 1.5 ng/ml for Upon Reflection. Both horses were disqualified from purse money, and the second offense within a one-year period earned Stall a 10-day suspension and $500 fine. All the rulings have been appealed to the commission.

In the meantime, racetrack life goes on. Stall will be front and center Thursday at Fair Grounds when saddling a couple of his better horses for allowance races: Cease, a multiple graded stakes-placed earner of more than $450,000, will make his second start off a layoff in the eighth race, some 2 1/2 hours after Tread, an eye-catching winner of a recent maiden race, makes her third career start when stepping up to a first-level allowance in race 3.

Cease “may have needed the race back,” Stall said, referring to a fifth-place finish for the 6-year-old gelding in a main-track allowance March 1. “He’s going back to the grass, and hopefully he’ll run like we know he can.”

Cease, with Brian Hernandez Jr. to ride, was assigned post 1 in the featured eighth, a $51,000 allowance with multiple conditions. The race is scheduled for “about” 1 1/16 miles on the turf and drew a field of 11, although not all will start because of main-track-only designations.

Tread, a 3-year-old filly by Arch, earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure for a six-length maiden score on the Feb. 23 Risen Star undercard. She will have Shaun Bridgmohan aboard as a huge favorite when facing just four others in the $47,000 race at six furlongs.

“I’m very happy they let the race go with just five [starters],” Stall said. “If the filly runs well here, maybe we’ll think about something bigger for her during Derby week at Churchill.”

First post for the nine-race Thursday card is 1 p.m. Central.

◗ Trainer David Carroll said Abstraction, the winner of a two-turn maiden race by nearly 10 lengths last week at Fair Grounds, is a possible candidate for the April 20 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne. Abstraction, by Pulpit, earned a 92 Beyer when making just his second career start in the March 13 race. The colt was bred by his owner, My Meadowview Farm.

◗ With the Louisiana Derby and its sensational undercard looming, the coming weekend of racing will be relatively quiet at Fair Grounds. The Saturday feature will be the $60,000 Red Camelia Stakes for Louisiana-bred fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf.