Updated on 09/17/2011 9:50AM

Mystery Giver looks ready


NEW ORLEANS - Handicappers will have no trouble finding horses to include Saturday in the $150,000 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap. Finding horses to leave out is another story.

Nine were entered in $150,000 Fair Grounds BC, a turf race at about 1 1/8 miles, and none of them is an obvious toss-out. The two favorites, Royal Spy and Mystery Giver, have chinks in their armor, throwing the race wide open. Not even horses like Devil Time, a troubled seventh in his last race, and Skate Away, who moves from age-restricted to open racing, are without a chance if the more obvious horses fail to show their best.

Mystery Giver won this race last season and probably has more talent than his rivals, but Mystery Giver hasn't raced since Dec. 7 and needs to add consistency to his ability. Mystery Giver, an Illinois-bred, has won 7 of 17 starts and almost $440,000 for his owners, Team Block, but in the past, disappointing efforts have followed his rousing wins.

Mystery Giver last raced in the Great State Challenge Turf and ran a big race, rallying from far back at the top of the stretch to finish second, beaten a half-length. From there, Mystery Giver moved to his winter quarters at Fair Grounds, where Richie Scherer takes over his training, and despite battling a minor problem with his foot and a chronic lack of enthusiasm for eating oats, Mystery Giver has posted a series of impressive dirt workouts.

"He's training real well," Scherer said. "I think he's sitting on a big race. I hope he is."

Royal Spy just ran a big race. His connections are now hoping for two in a row. Royal Spy led all the way here in winning the Colonel Bradley on Jan. 5, but stretches out another half-furlong on Saturday.

"He's doing great, but this is a bit of a distance for him," said trainer Tom Amoss. "At the same time, what makes Royal Spy dangerous is his tactical speed."

Speed horses to oppose Royal Spy are in short supply. On paper, only Foster's Landing, who ships in from Gulfstream Park, is capable of challenging for the early lead. Still, the Fair Grounds turf course is known for cutting down speed horses, and closers should have a fair shot despite what figures to be a soft pace.

Dynameaux rallied well to finish second in the Bradley, while Freefourinternet, who's also back Saturday, was only a neck behind him. Holy Conflict steps up in class from conditioned allowance races but has been very sharp in a pair of local wins.

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