Updated on 09/17/2011 8:48PM

'Pioneer' steps up in price


NEW ORLEANS - Pioneer Boy, a multiple stakes winner who returned as a claimer last November after a 15-month layoff, goes for a claiming price again Monday in the feature race at Fair Grounds, a $40,000 optional claimer for 4-year-olds and up at six furlongs on the main track.

won the Grade 3 $200,000 Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap at Pimlico in 2003 and added a restricted stakes victory at Canterbury Park later in the year before pulling up in distress in the Dave's Friend at Laurel in August 2003. He was turned out, then returned for a $50,000 claiming price at Aqueduct last November, finishing fifth. He shipped to Fair Grounds, where he handled a field of $25,000 claimers last month.

Owner Michael Gill and trainer Gamaliel Vazquez will send Pioneer Boy, a 7-year-old Pioneering gelding, out against tougher competition this time with Corey Lanerie in the saddle.

Nightlifeatbigblue appears to be the biggest threat off his last start, a game neck victory in an entry-level allowance race at Fair Grounds three weeks ago. Nightlifeatbigblue led and was caught in the stretch in that race, but battled back to regain the lead. A 4-year-old Formal Gold colt, he has a touch of class in his running line, with a third-place finish in last year's Grade 3 Risen Star Stakes. Trainer Bobby Barnett has tuned him up for this assignment with two fast works since his last start, and jockey Eddie Martin Jr., a perennial force at Fair Grounds, is rounding into form after a disastrous slump over the first half of the meet.

True Genius drew the rail, which has been the best part of the track recently, and may improve off his second-place finish to Pioneer Boy in his last race. A 6-year-old trained by Tom Tomillo, True Genius is an honest type who doesn't win often but usually brings home a check.

Several horses in the race are coming off layoffs following victories. Dr. Tony has been off since a solid score in a $10,000 claimer at Hawthorne on Dec. 29. Orphan Brigade was given a freshener following his November victory at Churchill Downs and will try to add to the impressive numbers being posted by trainer Tom Amoss here.

Tricky Devil failed as the odds-on favorite in his last start but has been working aggressively. Every Advantage appears to be overmatched.