Updated on 09/16/2011 7:37AM

Horses can't train on a frozen track


NEW ORLEANS - There was an oddity on the Fair Grounds backstretch Thursday morning - ice.

A rare hard freeze in New Orleans on Wednesday night canceled training at Fair Grounds on Thursday morning, and with similar temperatures forecast for Thursday night, training could be lost on Friday, as well. Nobody's panicking yet, but a long cold snap would compromise the schedules trainers have set for their horses.

"I think everybody's been pretty understanding," said Fair Grounds director of racing Mervin Muniz. "I haven't heard any complaints."

Since the Fair Grounds racing surface does not contain any anti-freeze agents, the track is at the mercy of cold weather. "It was frozen all the way around this morning," said track superintendent Paul Gregoire. "It was full of moisture from all the rain we had here Tuesday. We try to crunch up the ice, but that sun has got to hit it to thaw it out."

Even when it gets cold in New Orleans, temperatures rarely remain below freezing during the day, so the frozen track does not threaten racing programs. But barns here Thursday morning were full of tacked up horses making turns around the shed row, getting in what exercise they could.

"I don't like missing a day, but it's not the end all," said trainer Tom Amoss. "The horses, I think they love it."

Jeremiah Jack flourishes going two turns

Among the Amoss-trained horses catching what cardio-pulmonary exercise they could Thursday morning was Jeremiah Jack, who could be favored in the Jan. 26 Lecomte Stakes, the first of Fair Grounds's series of 3-year-old route stakes.

Jeremiah Jack recently returned to training here after getting a break at a farm "across the lake," which in New Orleans means on the north side of massive Lake Pontchartrain, horse-farm country. Jeremiah Jack has won his last two starts, a two-turn allowance race at Keeneland and the $150,000 Houston Texan Juvenile on Dec. 1, where he beat favored French Assault by five lengths.

"His race in Houston gave us some hope that he might be the kind of horse to run in the Louisiana Derby," Amoss said. "With no route races on the horizon, we sent him to the farm for three weeks."

Amoss said that Jeremiah Jack was scheduled to breeze this weekend and would work three times before the Lecomte.

Jeremiah Jack debuted in a $50,000 maiden-claiming race at Churchill Downs last spring, finishing third, but earning a good speed figure that piqued Amoss's interest and led to the colt's private purchase by owners Clay Querbes and Stewart Madison. It took Jeremiah Jack four starts for Amoss to win his maiden, and over the summer the colt hardly looked like a Louisiana Derby hopeful.

But Amoss said a switch to two-turn racing helped move Jeremiah Jack forward. "What you didn't see [this summer] was his ability to get two turns successfully," said Amoss. "He uses his speed to get position and he can go a route of ground."

Griffinite may run at this meet

Trainer Dick Lundy, who has a string of horses at Fair Grounds for the first time, is scheduled to arrive here for his first extended stay of the meet on Friday. Lundy's arrival from New York, where he has been overseeing another winter string, is likely to signal increased activity in his stable, which includes close to 20 horses, many of which are owned by Ernie Paragallo.

Among the horses in Lundy's Fair Grounds string is *, who recently arrived here from California, where he shipped in and finished a disappointing 10th on in the Grade 1 Malibu on Dec. 26. Griffinite was wiped out at the start of the Malibu, and Lundy said the colt never had a chance to run his race after the trouble.

Griffinite came out of the Malibu in good shape and, though plans haven't been set, might make his next start at Fair Grounds. "There's a good chance there will be a spot for him there," said Lundy.

Lake Lady makes stakes debut

Sunday's $75,000 Thelma Stakes for sprinting 3-year-old fillies should be an excellent race, if for no other reason than it gives fans a further chance to see exactly how good Lake Lady might be.

Lake Lady, who makes her stakes debut for trainer Steve Asmussen, heads a prospective field of about eight starters in the Thelma. Also likely to run are Flick, winner of the Pontalba Stakes here on opening weekend, stakes winners Purple Princess and Vicki Vallencourt, and perhaps Charmed Gift, who turns back in distance after two straight wins at two turns.

Flick is the only horse to have beaten Lake Lady in her three-start career, and even Tom Amoss, Flick's trainer, calls Lake Lady "clearly the horse to beat" in the Thelma. After her debut loss, Lake Lady won her next two at Churchill Downs, crushing maidens by more than eight lengths and allowance horses by almost 12 lengths.


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