07/15/2008 11:00PM

Pair of turf stakes for juveniles get ball rolling


Saturday's pair of $50,000 five-furlong turf stakes for 2-year-olds at Louisiana Downs, the Princess and Minstrel, could be the start of something big. The races are the first in a progression of stakes at the meeting for aspiring grass performers, culminating in the $150,000 Happy Ticket for fillies and the $150,000 Sunday Silence on Super Derby Day, Sept. 20. The journey could extend beyond even that day given the recent addition of Breeders' Cup races for 2-year-olds on grass.

"Both races came up competitive," said the Louisiana Downs stakes coordinator, Tommy Sibille, from his busy office Wednesday morning as entries for Saturday were being taken. "We would like to have a couple for the filly race, but overall we are pleased with the response."

Heading up the Minstrel is bit of a surprise entrant: the John Gelner-trained Not Grounded. A Louisiana-bred by Stormy Atlantic, Not Grounded comes off a sharp victory in the colt-and-gelding division of the $128,000 D. S. "Shine" Young Futurity on July 4 at Evangeline Downs.

"He came back from the race good," said assistant trainer Scotty Gelner of Not Grounded's quick turnaround. "We had this race in mind for a while with him, since he is by Stormy Atlantic, who has some nice turf influence.

"We are going to go Saturday and then give him some time off. Maybe point him toward some of the bigger Louisiana-bred stakes this fall."

Also in the Minstrel is Voodoo Doctor. A Florida-bred son of Songandaprayer, he is trained by Eddie Kenneally and comes off a win at first asking over the Churchill Downs main track on June 15.

The favorites in the Princess are far less certain, as few in the field have turf experience. Texas Royal Whiz is the only filly in the field to have run in a stakes, having reported home eighth in the Golden Lassie at Prairie Meadows in her last start, which followed an impressive maiden score at Lone Star Park in late May. A Chapel Royal filly, Texas Royal Whiz is trained by the omnipresent Steve Asmussen.

Smokin Again looks the most qualified of the local contingent, having earned her diploma in her second start after a solid runner-up performance in her debut, a race originally slated for the turf but moved to the main track because of rain. She is by Smoke Glacken and is conditioned by Charles Hukill.

Skirting Disaster, trained by Sturges Ducoing for Louie Roussel, is a daughter of the Awesome Again sire Toccet. She also graduated in her second start, disposing of statebreds in a maiden special here on July 3.