05/18/2011 11:52AM

Louisiana Downs: Two-year-olds get going

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One of the most anticipated programs of the young Louisiana Downs meeting is set for Friday afternoon. A pair of optional-claiming allowances join the year’s first 2-year-old action on a nine-race card that gets under way at 1:25 local time.

The beginning of the 2-year-old season is welcomed for a number of reasons. It gives the area’s horsemen a look at the latest talent pool and how their youngsters stack up. Many of the state’s stakes programs are also weighted toward the youngest division.

The racing secretary at Louisiana Downs, David Heitzmann, is especially pleased to see the beginning of the juvenile season.

“It takes some of the pressure off some of the other divisions with regard to filling races,” he said. “Talking to our starter and some of the gate crew in the mornings, we thought our 2-year-old count would be up some, and that looks to be the case.”

The fact that two of the three highlights of Friday’s card are restricted to Louisiana-breds is not lost on Heitzmann either.

“It is what it is. Yes, with all the Louisiana-breds that we have, it can be difficult sometimes to go out and recruit open company. But by the same token, you keep reading about the other states’ foal count in decline while the numbers here in Louisiana keep going up. It says a lot about the purse structure and all the slots money at the state’s tracks.”

The first of the optional-claiming allowances is third race of the day at a mile on the grass and carries an entry-level condition or $17,500 claiming price. Mauriceville and Kelly’spremonition, each a winner over the local turf two weeks ago on opening weekend, will be seeking to double up. Isheajet, a late-running sort idle since the final week of the Fair Grounds meeting in March, will be hoping to take advantage of a potential headed pace duel between Mauriceville, who drew the rail, and the speedy Majhood.

The afternoon’s seventh race, a nonwinners of two other than or $20,000 claiming affair for state-bred fillies and mares, drew a field of eight. The 7 1/2-furlong turf chase appears to be a showdown between Native Holly, winner in allowance company at Fair Grounds in her last start, and the consistent Sweet Eugeena, who will be seeking her fourth win from 14 starts for trainer Brian House.

Cleverly situated in the feature race slot as the afternoon’s eighth race is the maiden allowance dash. Ten aspiring youngsters will go 4 1/2 furlongs and each will be making his career debut.

Veteran trainer Robert Schultz, who has 30-year history of sending out live 2-year-olds locally, has De Shivers starting for his wife, Alamae. A son of A. P. Delta, he has a steady string of works and will be ridden by Jansen Melancon.