02/09/2007 1:00AM

Makeup of Chou Croute remains uncertain


NEW ORLEANS - The $75,000 Chou Croute next Saturday is one of the few stakes opportunities at the meet for older female route horses. One of the best of that group stabled here this winter, Ermine, has gone to California for a Grade 1 opportunity, and the shape of the Chou Croute will be in great part determined by what Todd Pletcher decides to do, since Pletcher has four of the 17 nominees to the Chou Croute. Fair Grounds racing officials hoped to learn from Pletcher this weekend which, if any, of his horses he might send.

One prominent local definitely not in the Chou Croute is Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever, who was not nominated to the race, though she has begun breezing for her 2007 debut. Lemons Forever, who finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff in her most recent start, worked a sharp half-mile Thursday in 47.40 seconds, second-fastest among 42 works at the distance.

"She worked nice and came out of it good," trainer Dallas Stewart said of Lemons Forever's third breeze of the winter.

Stewart said he was pointing Lemons Forever to the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn for her first race of the year.

"She's probably put on 100 pounds," Stewart said. "She had a long year last year."

Another horse exiting the Breeder's Cup Distaff, Baghdaria, is farther along in preparations for her 2007 debut, and was nominated to the Chou Croute. But trainer Tom Amoss also has made eligible for that race Delicate Dynamite, winner of the Truly Bound here in her most recent start. Amoss said Friday he had not yet decided which horse might start Saturday. Baghdaria worked six furlongs on Wednesday in 1:13, her second straight breeze at three-quarters of a mile.

Looking for a spot for Ceasers March

Trainer Bret Calhoun has been shopping for a spot in which to run Ceasers March, a potential standout in the Louisiana-bred ranks, and for lack of a better option entered Ceasers March main-track-only in Sunday's eighth race, an entry-level turf allowance for open company.

Ceasers March, who cost $150,000 at auction, debuted on a sloppy track here Dec. 30 and won a Louisiana-bred maiden sprint by almost 10 lengths, even though he might not have entirely cared for the wet going, according to Calhoun. Ceasers March twice was entered in a Louisiana-bred entry-level route allowance race this week, but the races failed to attract sufficient entries, forcing Calhoun into this spot.

"I could have sent him down to Delta for the stakes race there last week, but I think he's a really nice horse, and we want to take our time," Calhoun said.

Should Monday's race remain on turf, Calhoun may try to get Ceasers March into a main-track route allowance on Feb. 16.

"We'd just like to get a two-turn race into him so we can evaluate our options," Calhoun said.

Blueyed Lass undergoes knee surgery

Blueyed Lass, winner of the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint in December, underwent surgery to remove a bone chip from her knee Friday and is expected to be sidelined until the summer.

Gary Palmisano, advisor to owner/breeder Vicki Krantz, said Blueyed Lass, a 5-year-old daughter of Sky Classic, injured herself in her last start at Delta Downs.

"We hope to get her back started again in midsummer," Palmisano said. "We usually stop on our horses anyway in April and give them a little vacation when the weather's nice and the grass is green."

King of Mardi Gras proves good hunch

A diverse group of New Orleans music business folks started off their Mardi Gras celebration early in the day Friday when they watched their horse, King of Mardi Gras, win the fourth race at Fair Grounds. King of Mardi Gras, who paid $5.40 as the favorite, was a hunch bet on the day when New Orleans begins a 12-day series of parades and parties leading up to Mardi Gras day itself, Tuesday Feb. 20. The horse was claimed for a group of music enthusiasts, who race as the NO MSG Racing LLC stable, by Al Stall in December for $14,000.

"We knew we wanted the horse when we saw him win up at Churchill Downs," said Matthew Goldman, media director for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and one of the partners. Though it was the stable's first horse, the owners willingly dropped it into a spot where it would be claimed. The partnership collected 60 percent of the $26,500 purse, and the horse was claimed for $12,500, giving the stable a modest profit on its investment.

"They won some money, and learned not to fall in love with the horse," said Stall.

- additional reporting by John Swenson