11/03/2009 12:00AM

La.-breds to figure prominent in early cards


NEW ORLEANS - It felt quiet, really quiet, out on the normally bustling Fair Grounds track Tuesday morning. Not long after 9, with plenty of time left to train, the racetrack was nearly deserted. Even right after the renovation break, at 8:30, traffic remained relatively light. Partly, this was because Tuesday is the slowest training day of the week. Partly, it was because Fair Grounds launches an 84-day meet Friday, an earlier start date than ever. Even during the long era of Fair Grounds's Thanksgiving opening, Kentucky horsemen didn't arrive in full force for a couple weeks. This year, there are even fewer Kentucky outfits with horses here for opening day.

But you wouldn't know that from the sheer number of horses entered on the two racing programs drawn so far. Friday's nine-race card drew 102 entries, an average of 11.3 per race. There were 116 entered for Saturday's 11 races, an average of 10.5 per race.

Those are good numbers, and even lacking the Kentucky people, Fair Grounds racing secretary Jason Boulet knows he has some 2,000 horses stabled in central Louisiana - Boulet's home country - on which to draw in a pinch.

"These first few weeks, Louisiana-breds will play a prominent roll," Boulet said.

Boulet said Fair Grounds would mix as many open races as possible into the November racing programs. Four of Friday's nine races carry a Louisiana-bred restriction as do four of Saturday's 11. And horsemen with Louisiana-breds have good reason to enter, with Louisiana-bred maiden special weight races at Fair Grounds offering a $45,000 purse.

Plenty of open horses, those of the filly and mare grass-route variety, were entered in Friday's feature, with 10 set to start in the $60,000 Blushing K.D. Saturday's pair of 2-year-old sprint stakes, the Pontalba for fillies and the Old Hickory for colts, did less well, with six entered in each race.

Several recent work tabs have come up heavy, with 146 horses working Sunday, and 141 on Saturday. Just 42 timed workouts were recorded Tuesday, but the morning's work had quality: Friesan Fire, last year's Louisiana Derby winner, went five furlongs in 1:01.60, his third work since shipping into the Fair Grounds barn of trainer Steve Asmussen last month.

Drilling three furlongs in 36.80 seconds on Tuesday was Secret Getaway, who was working for the first time since being taken out of training in mid-summer. Secret Getaway finished second in the 2009 New Orleans Handicap.