08/02/2012 3:59PM

Louisiana Downs: Master Rick will need his old peak form in Prelude

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Master Rick could be tough to handle Saturday in the Prelude Stakes at Louisiana Downs . . . if he recaptures his spring form.

“That’s exactly what we’re hoping to do,” said trainer Steve Asmussen.

Master Rick is part of a large field of 3-year-olds competing for more than just the lion’s share of the $100,000 purse Saturday. The Prelude winner also earns a fees-paid berth into next month’s Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby, a perk worth $6,000.

The Prelude drew 10 and serves as the richest of four stakes worth $250,000 on Saturday’s card, each race is designed as a stepping-stone to stakes on the track’s Super Derby Day program Sept. 8.

Master Rick had a powerful spring at Oaklawn, where he won his maiden by more than five lengths then came back and captured the $98,000 Northern Spur with a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 99. Over the summer, he finished ninth in the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont and fifth in the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill.

“Master Rick ran a couple of excellent races at Hot Springs, and got off track in the Peter Pan,” said Asmussen, who trains the horse for Richard L. Davis. “The Peter Pan got us out of rhythm. I think confidence was a bit of an issue [in the Matt Winn]. Hopefully, we’ve got him back where he needs to be right now. We’re wanting to get back on form in the Prelude. He’s obviously a plenty-talented 3-year-old.”

Master Rick defeated Grade 1 winner Drill in the Northern Spur on April 14, and before that was an explosive winner of a maiden special weight at 1 1/16 miles March 17. In the Prelude he will break from post 3 under Gerard Melancon, and he could get a tracking trip behind the undefeated Tensas Cold Front, who comes off a 15-length win in a first-level allowance, and Top Cat Boogie, who has won three Louisiana-bred stakes in his last four starts.

Mr Bluegrass Music also figures to be prominent after winning a first-level allowance sprint at Prairie Meadows on July 8. The race was his first start in four months, and he covered six furlongs in a rapid 1:09.60.

“That was against older horses, too,” said trainer Rick Jackson.

Mr Bluegrass Music won his debut over Master Rick last October at Remington Park and placed in two subsequent stakes, including the $60,000 Gazebo at Oaklawn in March. He has made one start at two turns, finishing 11th in the $315,000 Springboard Mile at Remington last December.

“There were plenty of excuses for him,” Jackson said of the Springboard. “He’s definitely bred to go two turns, and I feel like he’ll run a big race Saturday. I sure hope so. The horse is really starting to mature a lot. He’s sort of getting his mind on running.

“We’re down here because we want to see where we’re at with him.”

Chris Landeros, aboard at Prairie, is in to ride from post 9.

Maiden leads Sunny’s Halo

Themistocles might be a maiden, but he will start as a top choice in the $50,000 Sunny’s Halo, a 7 1/2-furlong turf race for 2-year-olds that should produce starters for next month’s $150,000 Sunday Silence.

Themistocles was third in his debut May 31 at Louisiana Downs, then came back in the track’s $50,000 Minstrel at five furlongs on turf June 23 and finished a fast-closing second to the well-regarded Desert Ransom. Themistocles earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 65, which is the best last-race number in the Sunny’s Halo. The race will mark his route debut.

“I’m confident he’ll handle the two turns,” said trainer Mike Burgess. “Everything he’s done so far tells me that’s exactly where he wants to run.”

Leading rider Richard Eramia has the mount.

◗ Platinum Song moves to the grass off a dirt stakes win for the $50,000 Donnie Wilhite, a 7  1/2-furlong turf race for 2-year-old fillies. She is by a young stallion who is getting 30-percent debut turf winners. Glen Murphy, aboard Platinum Song when she won the Texas Stallion Stakes, has the mount for trainer Danny Pish.

◗ Pish will also send out Heavenville in the $50,000 Barksdale for 3-year-olds and up at a mile on the grass. Heavenville was second in the race a year ago, beaten a length by Go Tiger Jack, who is defending his title. The field also includes the 2010 Barksdale winner Lee’s Spirit.