Catching My Eye: Fair Grounds' Opening Weekend, Louisiana-breds

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November 23rd, 2022

If you haven't been following the Louisiana circuit, you might not be familiar with a lot of the names entering into the first few weeks at Fair Grounds. Many of the bigger-name barns are still in Kentucky, as Churchill races through Nov. 27.

With Louisiana Champions Day coming up on Dec. 10, I’ll be keeping my eye on the Louisiana-breds.

Friday, Nov. 18

Mau Mau beat a decent field in Friday’s third race and ran back to his top Brisnet Speed figure. He is a half-brother to Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) place-finisher Olympiad.

Though Mau Mau is winless on the turf, he had been entered again and again on that surface throughout much of the year. Shane Wilson recognized his dirt ability, claimed him in September, and immediately switched surfaces. He gave him one maintenance work at Fair Grounds, tapped newcomer Jose Rodriguez to ride, and got the win, finishing the final three furlongs in 31.98, which is about a second faster than the next best time of the field.

Mau Mau relished the long homestretch at Fair Grounds. Olympiad loved the track for the same reason, and it looks his brother could have a big meet.

The three-year-old filly A G’s Charlotte took a big step forward winning Friday’s Big World S. for Louisiana-breds. Not only was that her first stakes win, it was her trainer Patricia West’s as well. She also earned her career-best Brisnet Speed figure with a 92—11 points higher than her previous top.

If you look at the fractions, you’ll see why I am excited about betting her back out of this race. She ran the fastest second and final fractions—both times showing off her ability to accelerate out of the turn and sustain that momentum.

West’s other winner on the day was first-time starter Norah G at 9-1. After breaking slow from post 10 and having her lane taken away from her, she gave the field four lengths. Still, this two-year-old ran past the entire field to win by 3 1/4 lengths. A debut 85 Brisnet Speed rating has me wondering if West will enter Norah G in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie on Dec. 10.

If Norah G. does enter the Lassie, she’ll run into Free Drop Maddy, who earned an 87 Brisnet Speed figure winning the Donovan L. Ferguson by nearly seven lengths. Bret Calhoun’s filly had more in the tank, no doubt, but she took advantage of a perfect trip while the place and show finishers both had excuses that kept them from bearing down on her at any point of the race. I’d be interested in beating Free Drop Maddy in her next effort, knowing that was her fifth race, and another step forward is less likely than the second start for Norah G.

Saturday, Nov. 19

Miss Shipman looked professional in her last outing at Keeneland, but the seven furlongs proved too long and she faded. On Saturday at Fair Grounds, 5 1/2 furlongs hit her right between the eyes. Racing wide after breaking from the far outside post, she measured up the tiring lone speed, Master Som, and dove at the wire to earn the nose win. I like this off-the-pace sprinter going forward.

Brian’s Iron Mike had things go his way winning the six-furlong Monte Man, but still, this three-year-old has definitely arrived on the older male Louisiana-bred scene. Drawn on the rail immediately inside the need-the-lead favorite, jockey Joe Stokes broke out to cut off that foe. Stokes saved ground, keeping Brian’s Iron Mike on the rail and then lucking out that the forward horse didn’t close it off at any point in the homestretch.

Earning a new top speed figure, exiting a second-place finish to the Scott’s Scoundrel S. winner Who Took the Money, and galloping out like he would’ve run another round, this Allen Landry trainee could be interesting at a price in a sprint or route on Louisiana Champions Day.