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Good and Lucky to flaunt his speed
NEW ORLEANS - Master Command won the Mineshaft Handicap last time out with an easy lead that he never relinquished. He will be heavily favored to repeat that performance Saturday in the Grade 2, $500,000 New Orleans Handicap, but he is likely to find some company on the front end in Good and Lucky, who has two handy runaway scores in the slop at this Fair Grounds meet.
"It's a tough race, but he's done nothing wrong on this racetrack," said Good and Lucky's trainer, Josie Carroll, "so I thought it was time to step up and take a shot."
Good and Lucky wired the heavily favored Flanders Fields in the Woodchopper Handicap Dec. 30.
"Flanders Fields came back and won the other day," Carroll pointed out, "and Good and Lucky followed that up with another big win. The horse is doing well, and I think he's moving forward. He likes to be near the lead, and we'll play the race as it comes up."
Good and Lucky wasn't necessarily a speed horse until he got to Fair Grounds, Carroll noted.
"He is usually relaxed, but the last two races the jockey just had so much horse," she said. "He obviously really likes this racetrack. I assume he'll be near the lead."
Costumer Designer ships in
Carroll also will saddle Costumer Designer in the $100,000 Bienville Stakes Saturday at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf.
"Owner George Kirkorian just sent her to me for this race," she said. "She just got in yesterday. She loves this distance. I think they felt that she didn't like the downhill course at Santa Anita. She ran a couple of subpar starts there and they felt she really wasn't comfortable on that."
Florida horses arrive
A truckload of horses just off the plane from Florida for Saturday's Louisiana Derby Day card arrived at the Fair Grounds backstretch just after the close of training Wednesday morning.
The first horse down the ramp was the Todd Pletcher-trained filly Octave, who snorted and shook her head as she pranced into Barn 4. Octave, second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall, will make her 3-year-old debut in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks.
She was followed off the van by Master Command, winner of the Mineshaft Handicap in his last start and the favorite for the New Orleans Handicap.
"They had a lot easier trip than J'ray," said Pletcher's assistant Anthony Tamburino, who brought that horse in to win the Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap. "She had to take a 16-hour van ride."
The other Florida shippers were Soaring By, Birdbirdistheword, and Imawildandcrazyguy for the Louisiana Derby, and Einstein, Naissance Royale, and Heat of the Night for the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Handicap.
Liquor Cabinet arrives by van
With the temperature in the teens in New York, and precious few options on shipping a horse from there to Fair Grounds, trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. put Liquor Cabinet on a van for a marathon 24-hour ride here for Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 New Orleans Handicap. Liquor Cabinet arrived on Wednesday morning.
"He breezed really well yesterday at Aqueduct," Dutrow said Wednesday morning, referring to Liquor Cabinet's half-mile work in 48.31 seconds on the inner track, "and then we put him on the van. To fly there, he'd have to go to JFK, fly to Memphis, then van 15 hours. I'd rather put him in a box stall.
"My brother Chip will take care of him there until I get there on Saturday."
Liquor Cabinet, who won the Aqueduct Handicap on Jan. 20, figures to be the second choice in the New Orleans Handicap.
Get Ready Bertie sharp for Oaks
Trainer Steve Flint is confident that his filly Get Ready Bertie is better equipped to handle the pace scenario in the Fair Grounds Oaks than she was for her third-place finish last time out in the Silverbulletday.
"We thought the pace would be much faster in the Silverbulletday," said Flint. "We feel we're a little better prepared this time. If they try to slow down the pace this time we can be a little more forward.
"This filly came out of that race with a different mindset. She's been much more aggressive in the mornings, and we need her to be more aggressive because obviously she has to be more forwardly placed.
"I like the way she still made her big run because we'll be going a mile and an eighth if we make it to the Kentucky Oaks, and there speed doesn't play as big a part as stamina."
The Carbon Unit in deep
On paper, The Carbon Unit appears hopelessly outclassed in Saturday's Mervin Muniz after his eighth-place finish in his U.S. debut last month, but trainer Eric Heitzmann is confident that The Carbon Unit, a 5-year-old Irish-bred son of Catienus, will give a much better account of himself this time.
Heitzmann backed up that confidence by sending The Carbon Unit out for a sharp half-mile work in 47.60 seconds Wednesday, the fastest move of the day at the distance.
"He won a stake in Ireland at the Curragh going a mile and a quarter," said Heitzmann, adding The Carbon Unit is better than his last race shows.
"I only got him at the end of December, and I didn't get a lot of training into him before that race," he said. "He lunged at the start and got caught chasing the field. He was about eight lengths out of it passing the grandstand the first time, and he didn't lose that much more ground during the course of the race.
"I've kept his nose to the grindstone since then, and he's doing super. I know we're in it pretty deep, but he should give a good account of himself."
Irish jockey Pat Shanahan, who rode The Carbon Unit in Europe, was named to ride but developed bronchitis and was replaced Wednesday morning by Joe Talamo, the leading rider at Fair Grounds.
Pimms O'Clock vs. Ju Ju Beast again
Pimm's O'Clock and Ju Ju Beast finished a nose apart behind Nowandforevermore last out, and when Nowandforevermore returned to finish fourth, beaten less than two lengths, in the Dixie Poker Ace last Sunday, it made this rematch Friday in a first-level allowance grass sprint that more interesting.
Ju Ju Beast led most of the way before yielding to Nowandforevermore, then was nosed for second on the wire, but that was his first race since Nov. 22, and Josie Carroll, who trains him, believes he'll hold on better this time.
She also entered Doing, an uncoupled stablemate of Ju Ju Beast, who finished fourth in the same race.
- additional reporting by Jay Privman