03/12/2010 12:00AM

The Program settling in for La. Derby


NEW ORLEANS - Conveyance already has won the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, and Lookin At Lucky was to go off favored in the Rebel Stakes there Saturday. Bob Baffert's Southern California synthetic-to-dirt shippers are making hay in Arkansas, and Baffert also will try to take down the March 27 Louisiana Derby here at Fair Grounds.

Baffert already has shipped The Program from Santa Anita to Fair Grounds, and The Program has trained three days over the local dirt track while stabled in the barn of trainer Bret Calhoun. A Harlan's Holiday colt owned by the Thoroughbred Legends Stable, The Program is a two-time winner from eight starts who most recently finished third behind Alphie's Bet and Setsuko in the Sham Stakes on March 6 at Santa Anita. The Program has made six starts around two turns, but has never raced on anything but synthetic surfaces.

"That's what we're there for," Baffert said, when asked about The Program's dirt debut. "All my horses are bred for dirt. I thought he'd run better the other day. It's a good pot down there. We'll see how he fits with those horses."

Baffert said he shipped The Program to Fair Grounds so far in advance of the Louisiana Derby because of The Program's temperament.

"He's sort of a handful, and you've got to get him used to the area there, used to his surroundings," Baffert said.

Martin Garcia is scheduled to ride The Program, one of nine fairly solid starters for the $750,000 Louisiana Derby. The list of prospective starters includes Stay Put, Ron the Greek, Discreetly Mine, Drosselmeyer, Fast Alex, Mister Marti Gras, A Little Warm, and Mission Impazible. Both Discreetly Mine - the Risen Star Stakes winner here - and Mission Impazible are trained by Todd Pletcher. A Little Warm also is based in Florida and would be making his two-turn debut for trainer Tony Dutrow.

Stay Put, a closing fifth in the Risen Star, put in his second-to-last work for the Louisiana Derby, going five furlongs in 1:00.20, the third fastest of 42 works at the distance here Friday. With jockey Jamie Theriot up, Stay Put broke off several lengths behind a workmate Friday morning, and while unable to catch her, still finished strongly, according to trainer Steve Margolis.

"He'll have one more work in seven or eight days," Margolis said.

Backtalk decision after next drill

Meanwhile, a Wednesday workout will help determine the next stop for the 3-year-old colt Backtalk, trainer Tom Amoss said.

Backtalk, winner of the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes last summer at Saratoga, won his 2010 debut in the Feb. 26 Sportsman's Paradise Stakes at Delta Downs. Amoss said that there are three options for Backtalk's next start: the Louisiana Derby, the Arkansas Derby, and the Illinois Derby.

Euroears looks strong in mornings

Euroears was run off his feet by Cash Refund in the Gaudin Stakes on Jan. 23, but things might be different come the $100,000 Duncan Kenner Stakes here March 27.

Euroears has gotten his mojo back, at least in the morning, since a fading sixth in the Gaudin. Euroears worked three times in February, twice earning bullets, and on March 5, he breezed five furlongs in a blazing 58.60 seconds. Jockey Jamie Theriot has told trainer Bret Calhoun that Euroears feels like his old self again.

"He just seems to be really good right now," Calhoun said.

Calhoun toyed with the idea of sending Euroears to Oaklawn Park for the Count Fleet, but he has other horses for that race and knows that Euroears likes the Fair Grounds racing surface.

"I don't want to take a chance and put him on a track we don't know about," Calhoun said.

Bridgmohan closing in on riding title

Shaun Bridgmohan is holding firm atop the Fair Grounds jockey standings as he seeks his first Fair Grounds riding title.

Partway through Friday's card, Bridgmohan continued to hold a seven-win lead, 65-58, over James Graham. John Jacinto, who has caught fire the last two Fair Grounds racing weeks, is in third place, just one win behind Graham. One more win behind Jacinto comes two-time Fair Grounds leading rider Jamie Theriot.