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Long story shortish: Repent
NEW ORLEANS - After several weeks of waiting and wondering, Fair Grounds got its final answer in the mini-saga of Repent. One of the leading 3-year-olds in the country, Repent, accompanied by the 3-year-old filly Take Charge Lady, shipped from Gulfstream Park to Fair Grounds Tuesday afternoon.
* will certainly be the favorite in Sunday's Grade 3 Risen Star, while Take Charge Lady is likely to be favored Saturday in the Grade 3 Silverbulletday.
Trainer Ken McPeek suggested last month that Repent might leave Florida to make his seasonal debut in the Risen Star rather than at Gulfstream. But up until the time Repent shipped, McPeek declined publicly to fully commit his colt to the Risen Star, citing unresolved details in shipping arrangements.
McPeek put an end to the waiting Tuesday, shipping both horses by plane after each worked a half-mile in 48.20 seconds at Gulfstream. Repent and Take Charge Lady, both owned by Select Stable, were comfortably bedded down at Fair Grounds Wednesday morning and were scheduled to have their first exercises over the local surface Thursday.
"I think Repent likes shipping," said McPeek's assistant, Helen Pitts. "It gives him something new to look at."
McPeek said the decision to ship Take Charge Lady in for the Silverbulletday came early this week. "We decided Sunday or Monday," said McPeek, who will saddle Harlan's Holiday in Saturday's Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream before coming to Fair Grounds for the Risen Star.
"We had to pay for him and it didn't cost any more to send her. She's ahead of schedule, which is one reason she's running here rather than at Gulfstream [in the Davona Dale]. She would have had to have another breeze before that race."
Based on his 2-year-old form, Repent is one of the pro tem leaders in the 3-year-old division. After losing his career debut last August at Ellis Park, Repent won a Turfway Park maiden race by a nose, won the Kentucky Cup Juvenile by 1 1/2 lengths, and finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He wound up his year by overcoming repeated trouble to win the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill.
Repent has turned in a string of solid works at Gulfstream, including a five-furlong work last week that unexpectedly went in 58 seconds. Repent's Tuesday work left McPeek much more at ease than did his work last week. "He's ready to run," McPeek said. "We just have to fool around with him until the race."
Lake Lady ready for Silverbulletday
Lake Lady, winner of the Tiffany Lass and Thelma stakes this meet, had her final tune-up for the Grade 3 Silverbulletday Wednesday, working four furlongs in a bullet 48 seconds. Trainer Steve Asmussen timed Lake Lady's final quarter-mile in less than 24 seconds. "That's just her," Asmussen said.
The work left jockey Donnie Meche gushing. "She was very comfortable all the way," Meche said. "She accelerated every step.
"Mr. Steve told me to drop her head and let her angle to the wire, and she really impressed me."
Lake Lady is by Salt Lake and has a sprinter's pedigree, but she won the one-mile Tiffany Lass by 1 1/4 lengths and has learned to rate behind horses. Asmussen is confident that the extra sixteenth mile Saturday is within her scope.
Also working Wednesday for the Silverbulletday was Chamrousse, trainer Niall O'Callaghan's undefeated filly who is to make her stakes and two-turn debut. Chamrousse breezed a half-mile by herself, a move O'Callaghan timed in about 49 seconds.
Charmed Gift and Academic Angel are the other confirmed starters in the race.
Sky Terrace, French Assault work
Several local hopefuls for the Risen Star worked here early this week, most notably Sky Terrace, who breezed a half-mile in 48.80 seconds on Tuesday. Sky Terrace finished a troubled second in the Lecomte Stakes, his first start of the year, and might be the second choice behind Repent.
Wednesday, French Assault had his final work for the race. The work was officially timed as five furlongs in 1:03 but, according to trainer Keith Desormeaux, was designed as a half-mile work. French Assault, who finished second to Repent in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile, has not raced since a second-place finish in the Houston Texan Juvenile in early December.
"It was just what I was looking for," Desormeaux said. "I'm not saying he's at 100 percent for this race, but he's good enough for us to see it he's competitive with these horses."
Jeremiah Jack out of Risen Star, Derby
Jeremiah Jack, winner of the Houston Texan Juvenile in early December and a close fourth in the Lecomte, has been forced out of the Risen Star with an entrapped epiglottis. The condition was detected after a five-furlong workout Monday and was to be surgically corrected on Thursday, trainer Tom Amoss said. If all goes well, Jeremiah Jack will miss about a week of training following the procedure.
"It puts us out of the Risen Star and the [Louisiana] Derby," said Amoss.
If Jeremiah Jack trains forwardly after coming back from the surgery, Amoss said he would consider a stakes race at Oaklawn Park for the gelding's next start.
Strut the Stage training at Fair Grounds
Strut the Stage, one of the best 3-year-old turf horses in North America last season, arrived Monday afternoon at Fair Grounds and worked four furlongs here Wednesday in 50 seconds. Strut the Stage is being pointed to the Explosive Bid Handicap here March 24 or a stakes race at Keeneland.
Strut the Stage won 4 of 7 starts last year and lost a heartbreaker when he was nailed on the wire by Startac in the Grade 1 Secretariat in August. His final start of the year came in September, when he finished a troubled sixth against older horses in the Grade 1 Canadian International.
Mark Frostad, who trains Strut the Stage for Sam-Son Farm, said the colt had been back in training since early December and has logged a series of workouts at Sam-Son's training center near Ocala, Fla. "We just put him away after that to try and have a fresh 4-year-old," Frostad said.
* City Fear, a Carson City colt trained by Louie Roussel, ran the stretch like he was shot out of a cannon in Wednesday's first training race. A $165,000 yearling whose third dam is Davona Dale, City Fear should not take long to start paying dividends.
* A $50,000 claiming turf sprint rates as the nominal feature Friday. The seventh race marks the career debut of Elrose, a half-sister to Silver Charm.
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