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Updated on 09/15/2011 2:29PM
French Assault eyes Texan Juvenile
NEW ORLEANS - French Assault, a good sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, had a strong workout Tuesday at Fair Grounds and is likely to make his next start in the $150,000 Sam Houston Texan Juvenile on Dec. 1.
* came into the Breeders' Cup as a huge longshot, but loomed up into contention turning for home before flattening out in the stretch - though he did hang on to finish in front of the highly touted Officer. After remaining in New York after the Breeders' Cup, French Assault shipped to New Orleans and Tuesday's breeze was his first here for trainer Keith Desormeaux. With jockey E.J. Perrodin up, French Assault worked a half-mile in 47.60 seconds, which pleased Desormeaux.
"He broke off good, relaxed in the middle, and finished up good," Desormeaux said. "He seemed to really like the track. I really liked the work."
French Assault, a French Deputy colt owned by Adam Richey and James Strode, has been racing steadily since May. In early September he won the $100,000 El Joven at Retama Park by more than 11 lengths, and later that month, racing in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile, he finished second to Repent, who went on to be second in the Breeders' Cup. Despite the long campaign, Desormeaux says French Assault is thriving. "He's glowing right now," he said.
Desormeaux said that if French Assault does indeed run in the Texan Juvenile, he would probably make the 6 1/2-hour van ride to Sam Houston Race Course just before the race. Last year's Texan Juvenile was won by Fifty Stars, who went on to win the Louisiana Derby here.
Long-sidelined Valhol nears start
Owner Jim Jackson and trainer Dallas Keen must be holding their breath, because Valhol is once again closing in on a start. Unraced since the New Orleans Handicap on March 4, Valhol is being pointed to the Dec. 2 Tenacious Handicap here, and after breezing Tuesday he is only one work away from the race.
That's good news for Keen and Jackson, who have watched Valhol battle physical problems since a promising start to his campaign. Valhol won the Diplomat Way Handicap here in January and was third in the New Orleans Handicap in his next race. But shortly after that race he injured a splint bone while galloping, and the bone eventually had to be removed.
Valhol, still most famous for being disqualified from the Arkansas Derby after his rider carried an electrical device, resumed training this summer. He had gotten up to five-furlong breezes, Keen said, when he took seriously ill with pneumonia and had to spend three weeks at the New Bolton Clinic in Pennsylvania.
Keen said Valhol has shown no long-term effects from his illness. Pneumonia can cause scarring on the lungs, which can affect performance, but Keen said recent ultrasound tests on Valhol's lungs have looked good, and if his work on Wednesday goes well he'll remain on target for the $75,000 Tenacious, Fair Grounds's first race for older handicap horses.
Two allowance races top Friday card
In the Fair Grounds condition book, a classified allowance race was to be Friday's featured event here, but that race did not come close to filling. So in its place, a pair of first-level allowance races - one for older horses going long on turf and one for 2-year-olds at one mile on dirt - are the best races on the card.
The race for 2-year-olds, the eighth, drew a field of six, including two horses from the Steve Asmussen barn and the Mike Stidham-trained No Trouble, who has run in stakes his last two starts.
Mountain Ruler, an Is It True gelding owned by Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, appears to be the more talented of Asmussen's entries, and won his maiden last time out at Keeneland after finishing 11th in his sprint debut on Sept. 2 at Arlington.
"He had worked well and we were very disappointed in him first time out," Asmussen said. "He ran like he was lost. But he's a great big thing, and maybe I made a mistake, and he's not a sprinter. I know he's by Is It True and all, but he needs a little more ground."
When Mountain Ruler ran seven furlongs at Keeneland he improved immensely, coming from off the pace to win by two lengths. No Trouble, meanwhile, is working to get back to the first two races of his career, when he won his debut by four lengths and finished second on a muddy track to the graded stakes-placed Dubai Squire. No Trouble was sixth in the Grade 2 Arlington-Washington Futurity and fourth on grass in the Manila Stakes at Arlington in his last two races, and worked a solid five furlongs here Nov. 8.
Don Juan ready for winner's circle
None of Wednesday's three training races here produced fast times, and there probably was not an exceptional horse among the 20 that ran, but Don Juan gave the impression that he won't remain a maiden long after he launches his career.
A Storm Bird colt trained by Todd Pletcher, Don Juan, who cost $200,000 as a 2-year-old, broke a couple of steps slow but was not rushed by jockey Curt Bourque, who let the colt settle into stride. Don Juan fell far off the early pace but began picking horses up on the turn with Bourque sitting chilly. He cut the corner athletically and reached the lead at about the sixteenth pole, and though beaten at the wire by Da Charm, he was not being seriously asked in the stretch. Assistant trainer George Weaver said Don Juan was about a work away from a race.
"I think he'll actually be quick coming out of the gate," Weaver said. "He's pretty athletic."
Weekend: Two stakes for 2-year-olds
Stakes racing resumes this weekend with a pair of 2-year-old sprints, the Old Hickory for colts on Saturday and the Pontalba for fillies Sunday. At least six horses are likely to run in the Old Hickory, headed by the Louisiana-bred standout, Walk In the Snow.
Racing officials here had five probable starters for the Pontalba, headed by Keeneland maiden winner Flick and the undefeated Carson's Baby. Flick worked a half-mile here Wednesday in 48.80 seconds.
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