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Publication to fly West Coast flag
NEW ORLEANS - Though his transportation plans hit a snag Tuesday, Publication will make it to New Orleans for Sunday's Louisiana Derby after all. Publication, based at Bay Meadows with trainer Terry Knight, will fly from Oakland to Memphis, then on to New Orleans early Thursday on a FedEx plane.
The lone shipper from the West Coast, the lightly raced Publication makes his first start since he finished fifth Dec. 15 in the Hollywood Futurity. Last fall, Publication finished fourth, beaten just more than four lengths, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
His travel itinerary came together after a day of scrambling. Knight said he found out Tuesday that a Tex Sutton charter flight on which Publication had been booked three weeks ago was canceled, forcing him to seek other arrangements, which eventually were finalized Wednesday afternoon. His entire trip Thursday will take about nine hours.
Russell Baze will ride Publication for the first time in the Louisiana Derby.
Publication's major training for the Louisiana Derby ended Sunday when he worked five furlongs in 59.80 seconds, galloping out six furlongs in 1:12.40 seconds. "That was very good considering he's not a dynamic work horse, especially going by himself," said Knight.
The Louisiana Derby probably will have a field of eight, with locally based Kid Tristan now likely to skip the race. The rest of the prospective field includes Repent, Bob's Image, Easyfromthegitgo, French Assault, It'sallinthechase, White Star, and Charioteer.
Valhol back at the track
Three days after getting hit on the leg in the New Orleans Handicap, was back on the racetrack Wednesday morning, apparently no worse for wear. The swelling on the lower part of Valhol's right front leg had subsided, and a set of X-rays taken Monday came back clean.
"We'll go ahead with a little caution and make sure we're right," said trainer Dallas Keen.
The diagnosis of a minor injury rather than something serious provided at least small consolation to Keen and owner Jim Jackson, who were very disappointed with Valhol's eighth-place finish in the New Orleans Handicap. But at least they will apparently not have to wait out another layoff, of which Valhol has had several in his career. "We'll live to fight another day," Keen said.
Keen said there were no specific plans for Valhol right now, but that the gelding might run next at the Lone Star meet.
Summer Delight joins Oaks
Summer Delight, a recent allowance winner here, will join the cast for Saturday's $350,000 Fair Grounds Oaks, trainer Al Stall Jr. said Wednesday morning.
Summer Delight has won twice in four starts, and she is unbeaten on the Fair Grounds main track. She lost her debut at Arlington last fall, and never fired in a turf race at Fair Grounds in January. In her last start, Summer Delight, a Quiet American filly was a 1 1/2-length winner over Miss N Texas, who is entered back in an allowance race here on Thursday.
The Oaks features heavily favored Take Charge Lady, who won last month's Silverbulletday Stakes in a runaway. But Stall is hoping that Take Charge Lady regresses, and that his stretch-running filly moves forward in the 1 1/16-mile race.
"I know mine can make the distance," Stall said. "She just won a nonwinners-of-one going two turns, which should set her up perfectly. She's a hard-trying filly.
"The other filly," Stall added, referring to Take Charge Lady, "ran big here, shipped back to Florida, then is shipping back here. Plus, she ran over a hard track, and it might rain here on Saturday. The circumstances are different. So, there's a chance she'll regress. It's worth a chance, for $350,000, if the other one doesn't run her race."
Chamrousse to try again
Chamrousse, a distant third to Take Charge Lady in the Silverbulletday, will try again in the Oaks. She won twice sprinting before finishing nine lengths behind Take Charge Lady in the 1 1/16-mile Silverbulletday.
Niall O'Callaghan, who trains Chamrousse, said he is going back for more for two reasons: Chamrousse is stabled here, and the secondary awards in the Oaks are lucrative.
"I wouldn't ship in to run against Take Charge Lady," O'Callaghan said. "I could go to Oaklawn for the Honeybee, but that's only $75,000. If you win, you get $40,000. Here, running second is a big pot."
The Oaks field is expected to include Chamrousse, Charmed Gift, Lake Lady, Lotta Rhythm, Persimmon Ridge, Summer Delight, Take Charge Lady, and That's Our Queen.
O'Callaghan also will run White Flame in the $750,000 Louisiana Derby, again taking on a heavy favorite in Repent. White Flame, an allowance winner Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park, has been training at Payson Park in Florida. He was scheduled to fly here on Thursday.
"We want to find out if he's good enough with this group," O'Callaghan said. "If he is, that won't be a bad day to find out. If he pops, he'll pop for big money."
Eventful work for French Assault
French Assault, who finished fourth in the Risen Star Stakes in his last start, had a far more eventful workout than expected on Wednesday while preparing for the Louisiana Derby.
Though French Assault broke off alone, another horse, trained by Spanky Broussard, jumped in with him midway through his five-furlong breeze, and stayed with him all the way to the wire in a spirited duel. French Assault was timed in 1:02.20.
French Assault was the last of the Louisiana Derby runners to work this week, and so will have fewer days to recover from his work. Repent, Bob's Image, and Easyfromthegitgo finished in front of him in the Risen Star.
Bonapaw's bags packed
Bonapaw's Dubai odyssey begins Thursday morning, when the region's leading sprinter will be picked up at Fair Grounds and flown to Gulfstream Park. There he will stable for two days and be inspected by U.S. Department of Agriculture officials before flying on Saturday to Dubai for the $2 million Golden Shaheen on March 23.
According to Bonapaw's co-owner, Dennis Richard, the flight from Florida to Dubai, which includes a layover in England, will take between 18 and 22 hours. "Right now, he looks magnificent," Richard said. "We just need to make sure to keep him hydrated on the way."
Dennis Richard, who owns with his twin brother, Jim, can see to that himself. He and Norman Miller, Bonapaw's groom and exercise rider, will accompany Bonapaw on his long journey, while more of the Bonapaw entourage, including jockey Gerard Melancon, will travel March 18 and 19. Bonapaw's trainer, Tucker Alonzo, will not make the trip.
Richard said Bonapaw would work once over the Nad Al Sheba racetrack, partly for conditioning and partly to get Bonapaw accustomed to the track configuration. The six-furlong Golden Shaheen is run over a straight course.
The Richards, who own tire stores in New Orleans, have never had a horse of Bonapaw's quality. Bonapaw has won three sprint stakes at this meet, and shipped successfully around the Midwest for major sprint races last spring. His biggest win was a blowout victory in the Grade 3 Count Fleet at Oaklawn Park last April.
"Win, lose, or draw, we're going to have a hell of a time," said Dennis Richard. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Eight still turf course limit
Fair Grounds turf races will continue to be restricted to eight starters for an indefinite period, director of racing Mervin Muniz said this week.
In an effort to preserve the inner portion of its grass course, Fair Grounds moved its inner turf rail out an additional 10 feet late last month, and the narrowing of the course necessitated the cap on starters in turf races. Previously, 12 horses were allowed to run in overnight turf races, and 14 were permitted in stakes.
Fair Grounds had planned to move the rail back in for the March 2 Bayou Breeders' Cup, but when only seven horses were entered for that race - which eventually was rained off turf - the rail was left in its present position.
Crap Shooter takes training race
Crap Shooter, a flashy chestnut Unbridled colt trained by Dallas Stewart, showed good speed and clocked a quick time in the last of three schooling races here Wednesday morning. Crap Shooter made all the running in the five-furlong race and never was asked for much run by his rider.
The second-place finisher in the race, the Andy Leggio-trained Ole Rebel, gained ground in the stretch and was beaten only a length, finishing at least 10 lengths ahead of the rest of the field.
* Ken McPeek, the trainer of Take Charge Lady, said his filly would be nominated to the Illinois Derby and Arkansas Derby, "just to take a look," but said Take Charge Lady likely would remain in races for fillies and head to Keeneland's Ashland Stakes, and the Kentucky Oaks, following the Fair Grounds Oaks.
- additional reporting by Jay Privman