01/31/2012 1:20PM

Fair Grounds: Turf form the big test in co-features


Lacking so much as an allowance, the Thursday card at Fair Grounds will unfold with a pair of $30,000 starter-allowances as the co-featured attractions when the first of nine races leaves the starting gate at the usual 12:40 p.m. Central.

Both starter events are for 3-year-olds on the turf, although their paths diverge from there: Race 6 is for colts and geldings at a mile, while Race 8 is for fillies at 5 1/2 furlongs. Both races are limited to horses who have won a maiden race for a claiming price or a statebred restriction and have not proceeded to win another race. The good news for horseplayers: Neither race appears to have a standout favorite.

Early speed seems in abundance for the sixth race (post time, 3:11), and considering that a couple of the faster youngsters will be trying two turns for the first time, that might set things up for Whistle Included, assuming that this son of Include can handle the grass. Trained by Steve Asmussen for the Vinery Stables of Dr. Tom Simon, Whistle Included already has shown an ability to stay, having finished fourth and third in back-to-back route tries. Shaun Bridgmohan takes the call on Whistle Included, who was assigned post 7 in a field of 8.

Other possibilities include Good New Shoes, a romping winner of a maiden-claiming dirt route for Michelle Lovell in his Jan. 13 debut at Fair Grounds; Simon Ridge, trying the stretchout for jockey Miguel Mena and trainer Wes Hawley, both enjoying a productive winter; and Rockford Drive, another flashy last-out winner.

The eighth race (post, 4:15) drew 10 fillies, more than half of whom stand a legitimate chance on paper. Our Eleanor owns a stakes placing from limited prior starts and has come a lukewarm 3-1 program choice for Mike Stidham, but she, like several others in here, will be making her first start over grass. Likewise, Paoli, Young and Lovely, and Ms Tough Stuff are making their turf debuts, while Just Like Juliet was well beaten the only time she tried it. Clearly, this one has the makings of a scramble.

Features-wise, Fair Grounds has been amid something of a dry spell since six stakes were run Jan. 21. The next race of note is set for next Saturday, Feb. 11, with the $75,000 Tiffany Lass.