12/29/2011 4:39PM

Fair Grounds: Two-year-old races top strong card


Two divisions of the $50,000 Louisiana Futurity might highlight a sleepy weekday card at Fair Grounds, but Saturday’s 11-race program in New Orleans is far from mundane, and the Futurities take a backseat to a pair of key 2-year-old route allowance races and a stakes-class turf-allowance race for older horses.

The program starts with 2-year-old first-level allowance fillies going a mile and 70 yards on dirt in a prep for the Silverbulletday Stakes on Jan. 21. Race 4 is the male division of the Louisiana Futurity, race 6 the fillies division, and both races included a winner of a Louisiana Champions Day stakes. Race 8 is an excellent first-level route allowance for 2-year-old males, and the prep for the Jan. 21 Lecomte drew a field of 12. To finish the day’s high-end racing, the ninth race is a third-level, one-mile grass allowance (also open to $62,500 claimers) that attracted 10 entrants.

The open 2-year-old filly race − carded as the opener because it drew only six entrants – should serve as a referendum on the distance preferences of morning-line favorite Devious Intent and on the quality of Lady Candidate. Devious Intent finished second in the $150,000 My Trusty Cat and fourth in the $500,000 Delta Princess, but she lost ground from the stretch call to the finish in both two-turn middle-distance races after showing more late spark in a pair of sprints to start her career.

“I tend to believe she’s wanting one turn,” trainer Bret Calhoun said. “It’s possible this is going to be a little too far for her, but we wanted to be sure before we shortened her back up.”

Twice-started Lady Candidate, meanwhile, finished full of run winning a Dec. 1 maiden route race at Fair Grounds by 4 1/2 lengths. She did not run especially fast that day but was geared down once her win was assured in the final furlong and looks like a filly with room to improve.

Summer Applause showed some ability winning a maiden Polytrack sprint last out at Woodbine, and Flame Run figures to set the pace after leading all the way in a Dec 17 maiden sprint at Fair Grounds.

Race 8, the unrestricted 2-year-old two-turn allowance, got twice as many entrants as the filly race and is loaded with potential stakes horses, but no horse made a more impressive recent showing than Rock Harder, who cleared the maiden ranks with a seven-length victory Nov. 27 at Fair Grounds. Rock Harder had made three previous starts on grass and Polytrack, suggesting the performance might have been more than a one-off fluke.

“He just kind of struck me as a grass horse,” trainer Neil Howard said of starting Rock Harder off on turf. “He did OK on it, but the exercise boy was telling me he really liked the way he was doing on the dirt. We thought it was the right thing to do to get on the dirt and tell us which way to go.”Rock Harder has posted two solid-looking morning works since his maiden win, and Howard said the Rock Hard Ten colt “has been training nicely.”

Calhoun has two entrants in this race, Tiz Moe and Fine, both exiting poor tries in stakes races. Tiz Moe had run well in two routes before flopping in the Delta Jackpot, however, and Calhoun said a myectomy had subsequently been performed to keep Tiz Moe from displacing his soft palate.

Tiz Tee Time rallied from 10th to win his career debut going seven furlongs on Keeneland Polytrack and has turned in solid workouts since shipping to Fair Grounds for trainer Phil Sims.

Joinem, one of the better older turf horses based last winter at Fair Grounds, headlines Race 9, the high-end turf allowance. Joinem, a late-running 4-year-old Johar gelding, finished third in the Colonel Bradley and fifth in the Fair Grounds and Mervin Muniz handicaps last season.

Trainer Al Stall has the big favorite, Beanwah’smachine, for the colts and geldings division of the Louisiana Futurity, and the Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile winner will be tough to beat at miniscule odds. Izzie’s Gold, winner of the Champions Day Lassie, might be a touch more vulnerable in the fillies division. She was 42-1 when she wired the Champions Day race, and the Stall-trained Ide Be Tuff E Nuff might make enough second-start improvement to give the favorite a run.