12/22/2009 12:00AM

Graded stakes on tap for War Echo

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Race by race, War Echo is beginning to resemble the filly who was gearing up for the Fair Grounds Oaks this past spring. Back then, trainer Steve Asmussen was preparing to challenge Rachel Alexandra, who was trained at the time by Hal Wiggins. Now, both horses reside in the Asmussen barn, and, if War Echo continues to improve, Asmussen will be more focused on keeping them apart than bringing them together in 2010.

War Echo on Saturday won her second straight start, capturing the $100,000 Daily Racing Form Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths. She earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 96, the same number produced by her winning performance in the Feb. 7 Silverbulletday Stakes. An expected Fair Grounds Oaks meeting between War Echo and Rachel Alexandra never happened, since War Echo got hurt while training toward the race. After a poor comeback race in September, War Echo has come around steadily.

"She came out of it fabulous," Asmussen said. "We're very excited. It's onward and upward, and I think that puts us back to where we were when we got off track in the Silverbulletday."

Asmussen pointed out that War Echo's first two post-injury starts came in one-turn miles. Saturday's race was at 1 1/8 miles around two turns, and War Echo, a strapping daughter of Tapit, suits true route racing more than speedier middle distances, Asmussen said. Asmussen said he thought War Echo would be "aimed at graded stakes from here" but was unsure where she would next start.

Meanwhile, that other 3-year-old filly, Rachel Alexandra, is nearly ready to take the next step on her road back from an extended vacation following the Sept. 5 Woodward Stakes. Rachel Alexandra was to have "a little bit of a gallop on Thursday," Asmussen said, kind of a test run before Rachel begins galloping in earnest next week.

General Quarters set for return

General Quarters, a darling of the 2009 Triple Crown trail, will make his first start since a ninth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds. General Quarters was one of seven horses entered in a six-furlong allowance race open to third-level allowance horses or $62,500 claimers.

General Quarters is the only horse trained by Tom McCarthy, a retired schoolteacher who claimed General Quarters for $20,000 in the horse's career debut on May 30, 2008. General Quarters won the Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa, and two races later captured the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. He finished a distant 10th in the Kentucky Derby, however, and was ninth in the Preakness before going to the sidelines with a chipped knee that was surgically repaired.

General Quarters posted five workouts at Churchill Downs before drilling six furlongs in 1:12.80 last Saturday at Fair Grounds. McCarthy, who brought General Quarters to New Orleans aiming for a start in the New Orleans Handicap, has given the mount to Jose Riquelme.

Sprint stakes winners impress

Saturday's nine-stakes marathon card produced two especially fast sprint performances: She's Our Annie won the Esplanade Stakes running 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.97 and Flashy Wise Cat won the Louisiana Champions Day Sprint with six furlongs in 1:09.86. She's Our Annie got a 99 Beyer, while Flashy Wise Cat got a 103. The Fair Grounds main track did not produce especially fast times on Saturday's card.

She's Our Annie exited her win in good physical condition, trainer Jinks Fires said Monday. She's Our Annie, a winner of five straight races since finishing third in her career debut, has battled foot problems and came out of a comeback race last month at Churchill Downs with an abscessed hoof. But - knock on wood - the 3-year-old filly's feet seemed fine after her front-running Esplanade win, which came under Jon Court. But for the second time in a row, She's Our Annie did not change leads on cue in the stretch.

"The jockey had so much hold on her, we think that's why she didn't change this time," Fires said. "We never did let her run. I told [Court] we'd missed so much training don't let her do too much, and that's what he did."

She's Our Annie will make her next start in the American Beauty Stakes on Jan. 16 at Oaklawn Park. Fires plans to try the filly in route racing later in the Oaklawn meet.

Flashy Wise Cat, meanwhile, will run back in a Fair Grounds sprint race, either on turf or dirt, but in a spot yet to be finalized, trainer Troy Young said Monday. Young, who is based at the Evangeline Training Center in central Louisiana, said Flashy Wise Cat also looked good after his Saturday win.

Flashy Wise Cat made his first seven starts at Evangeline Downs, winning three times, but he now has won two races at Fair Grounds by a combined 8 1/4 lengths. Young said he and his father, owner Lee Young, would not shy at tackling open stakes competition this winter in New Orleans.

Star Guitar getting a little rest

With his next start not scheduled to come until Feb. 6 in the $200,000 Premier Night Championship at Delta Downs, Louisiana-bred kingpin Star Guitar will have some easy mornings in the upcoming days. Perhaps they will even be as easy as his victory last Saturday in the Champions Day Classic.

Star Guitar coasted to a 7 3/4-length victory in the $100,000 Classic, his fifth win in a row and eighth straight victory over statebred-restricted competition. Trainer Al Stall said Star Guitar came out of his win in good physical condition and would have his first work back in a couple weeks. Star Guitar won the Premier Night Championship by seven lengths last winter.