02/20/2009 1:00AM

Proud Spell getting in shape


NEW ORLEANS - Off since running second in the Fitz Dixon Cotillion Stakes in September at Philadelphia Park, champion filly Proud Spell is edging ever closer to beginning her 4-year-old campaign, turning in a second tune-up work on Feb. 16, going four furlongs in 50.20 seconds at Fair Grounds.

"It was more of a leg stretcher," said Cindy Jones, assistant to her husband, Larry Jones. "She started out slow and finished running, just the way we wanted."

The work was the second for Proud Spell, who went three furlongs on Feb. 8, and Jones expected her to breeze again on Saturday.

Proud Spell had an Eclipse-winning year as a 3-year-old, winning two Grade 1 races, the Kentucky Oaks and Alabama Stakes, along with the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks and Delaware Oaks.

Larry Jones indicated her first major goal is the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 4 at Oaklawn Park.

"We don't know what we're shooting for, except the Apple Blossom," said Jones. "She seems very happy, and we wouldn't rule out a race at the Fair Grounds to get her ready for the Apple Blossom."

Good first season for Margolis

Steve Margolis is making the most of his first winter at Fair Grounds, with 11 wins from 50 starts, and 58 percent of his entries in the money.

Given 30 stalls, Margolis, 45, has 29 horses stabled here.

His latest victory was by a first-time starter, Cash Refund, who ran an astounding 1:09.43 going six furlongs in a maiden special weight that was loaded with talent.

"We knew we had a horse with quality, and he was training well going into the race," said Margolis. "But there were at least three or four others who had a license to win."

Cash Refund, a Klein family home-bred, was much the best as he wired the field and won by 6 3/4 quarter lengths. Jockey Brian Hernandez wrapped him up with the race in hand.

"Brian had to hit him once to remind him to finish his task," said Margolis. "Then he geared him down as he neared the finish line."

Margolis indicated that he would look for an allowance race for the 3-year-old Cash Refund.

One of Margolis's other standouts of the season has been Lady Chace, who has won two allowance races and finished second in the Leggio Memorial Stakes.

In her last race, the 4-year-old Lady Chace stayed in as the third-level allowance was moved off the turf, and wired the field, winning by 5 1/2 lengths.

Margolis indicated that Lady Chace would run next in the March 14 Bienville, a $75,000 race at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf.

Costa Rising sharp in return

Costa Rising completed the long journey back from ankle surgery with an impressive victory in a high-priced optional claiming race on Friday.

Off 14 months since winning the Louisiana Classic on Dec. 8, 2007, Costa Rising looked like his old dominant self in the 7 1/2-furlong turf race.

After stalking Lee's Say So through moderate fractions, Costa Rising moved forward in the turn, and took over. He repulsed a late charge by Hallway in the stretch, and won by two lengths.

It was a proud moment for trainer Glenn Delahoussaye.

"I really think as a trainer this is one of my best accomplishments," said Delahoussaye. "To bring him back slowly, and the right way, doing what is best for the horse, has been very satisfying."

Costa Rising had been one of the most accomplished Louisiana-bred horses of late, and Delahoussaye said a race with Star Guitar, the current champion Louisiana-bred, likely looms on the horizon.

"I have the utmost respect for Star Guitar, and I know that sooner or later they are going to butt heads," said Delahoussaye. "When they are both healthy and ready, it will be a great race, and good for Louisiana racing."