11/30/2010 2:36PM

Lovell takes shot at a big day at Fair Grounds


The only trainer with horses in as many as four races Thursday at Fair Grounds is not Steve Asmussen, not Tom Amoss, not Bret Calhoun: It is Michelle Lovell, whose barn has quickly become one to follow over the winter in New Orleans.

Lovell, a former jockey who began training in 2003, entered horses in races 2, 3, 8, and the featured fifth, an entry-level Louisiana-bred allowance carded for one mile on grass. Lovell’s entrant, No Rules Now, one of 12 in the field’s main body, looks like a main contender, and at least two of her other Thursday runners may be live. Mr. Exploiter (race 2) hasn’t been out since April, but he makes his first start for Lovell, who has a positive return on investment with long-layoff comebackers, and has turned in a series of encouraging local works. Truly Lucky (race 8) and Jim N Peg’s Gal (race 3) exit winning performances at the Keeneland meet.

Lovell sent out a handful of starters at Keeneland, winning with 3 of 12 there, and finished second in the Louisiana Downs trainer standings this summer and fall with 37 winners. In her first season with regular starters at Fair Grounds, 2008-2009, Lovell went 6 for 45, but last year she placed ninth in the training standings with 19 winners during the meet, and handicappers will note that Lovell’s operation produced a $2.51 ROI at Fair Grounds last season.

During this meet’s opening week, Lovell won with two of the five horses she started, and No Rules Now could boost her win total in the Thursday feature. No Rules Now was claimed by Bill and Denise Morrison for $12,500 out of his winning career debut, a dirt sprint July 2 at Louisiana Downs, and Lovell apparently had a plan: Turf. No Rules Now was rained off grass July 29 but finished a closing second in a turf sprint Aug. 20. On Sept. 17, making his first two-turn grass start, No Rules Now rallied solidly behind a slow pace to finish second by a half-length in a conditioned $25,000 claiming race. He has posted four works at Fair Grounds, and his late-running style may suit this turf course more than the one at Louisiana Downs. If that’s the case, No Rules Now can run down Hud’s Rebel, a first-time turf-router who, if his form holds, may have the lead when the field turns into the long Fair Grounds stretch.