11/06/2009 12:00AM

Sider breaks fast with a 34-1 shot


NEW ORLEANS, La. - No one else from Fair Grounds seemed to be hauling horses to Delta Downs for the races there Thursday night, so trainer Al Sider loaded up What An Honor, a $10,000 maiden claimer, onto his own trailer and drove the four hours from New Orleans to Delta himself.

The first race went off, What An Honor crossed the wire second at odds of 2-5, and Sider, on the backstretch a few minutes later, thinking he'd picked up a decent check, suddenly found out he'd been disqualified to ninth. And then he had to drive home, getting in around midnight. What fun.

Twelve hours later, things were looking up - way up. This time, Sider was in the first race at Fair Grounds, another low-level maiden claimer. And this time, his horse, Jenni Redi Made, was not odds-on but 34-1. And this time, after Jenni Redi Made had scored a major upset in the first race of the 2009-2010 season here, Sider's number wasn't blinking.

"Well, I'm off the duck early," Sider was heard saying to a friend. "The little man doing good."

Sider grew up in the Mid-City neighborhood just blocks from Fair Grounds. His father was a trainer here, and Sider has been coming to this racetrack all his life.

"It's exciting," Sider said of his meet-opening win, and if he was not jumping up and down, well, four hours of sleep will take the edge off exultation.

Jenni Redi Made led all the way under Trey Agilar. A race later, it was Cisco Torres guiding Cole Music to a front-running victory. A veteran rider, Torres got off to a hot start here last meet and was leading rider when he got hurt in a morning training injury in December that took him out of action until the spring.

"Knock on wood, if I can stay healthy, everything will be okay," said Torres, who arrived only Friday morning after riding Thursday at Churchill Downs.

The crowd felt decent, and business seemed brisk here on a much earlier opening day than the traditional Thanksgiving kickoff. New Orleans is a football town, and New Orleans is a racing town. The unbeaten Saints are the talk of city, sports-wise. And for the 138th year, the words "Fair Grounds" are on peoples' lips again, too.

New York cuts into Autrey's stable

Trainer Cody Autrey just knocked kingpin Scott Lake from his annual perch atop the Delaware Park training standings, edging Lake 58 winners to 55 at the 2009 meet, which ended Oct. 26. So is there any chance Autrey could slay another giant at Fair Grounds, maybe give Steve Asmussen a run for the training title this season?

"No chance," Autrey flatly said during training hours Friday. "One time, two years ago, I think, I was four in front of him one day, and I woke up the next morning, and I was one behind. And I'd won a race that day, too."

Autrey won 49 races here two seasons ago and 46 last year, but his win total could drop this Fair Grounds meet. Autrey, for the first time, will run a 30-horse New York string this winter at Aqueduct, and that will cut into his Fair Grounds string.

"Usually, we have 50 here, and right now it's 30 to 35," Autrey said. "We've got a few horses at Churchill we'll be bringing down."

Not only are Autrey's ontrack numbers down - though he has 44 stalls here - but he also will not keep stock at the Evangeline Downs training center this season. Still, Autrey said he plans to remain active at the Fair Grounds claim box and expects to claim at least 20 or 25 horses at the meet. Staying in action, after all, is what his operation is all about.

Euroears slowly regaining his form

Euroears might have been the best horse of the 2007-2008 Fair Grounds meet, when he won four races and three stakes. After capturing the Duncan Kenner that season, Euroears had won all six starts in his career, his ceiling unknown.

But since the 2008 Kenner, little has gone right for Euroears. He suffered a serious leg injury before he could race again, and after one start in November 2008, Euroears had to repair the metal-work that had been implanted during his first surgery. After training in New Mexico earlier this year, Euroears rejoined trainer Bret Calhoun's barn and made the races in August. He finished eighth in his first start back and sixth next time out but had major excuses both times, Calhoun believes. On Oct. 15, in a Hoosier Park allowance race, Euroears won for the first time since the 2008 Kenner.

Now he is back at Fair Grounds, and apparently thriving. On Sunday, Euroears drilled a half-mile in 48.20 seconds, the fastest of 83 works at the distance.

"And he really wasn't asked at all," said Calhoun.

Calhoun plans to enter Euroears in the Thanksgiving Handicap this month. It looks like Euroears might be getting back to his old self. That race should tell more.

* The nominal feature here Sunday is race 9, an entry-level turf-sprint allowance for fillies and mares, and Calhoun may be tough in here, too. He sends out Better than Swiss, who looks all right, and Turtle Creek Babe, who looks even better.