Mucciolo: Fair Grounds graded stakes plays

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March 23rd, 2018

A quartet of Grade-2 races will be held at Fair Grounds on Saturday, led by the lucrative $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) which kicks off the final round of major prep races for the 2018 Kentucky Derby. I will preview the big events:

New Orleans H.

Five will challenge exciting Mineshaft H. (G3) victor THE PLAYER in the nine-furlong test and it seems difficult to go against the favorite. Buff Bradley trainee responded in a big way wearing blinkers for the initial time in advance of this, leading at every call en route to a facile score, and multiple graded hero shows a pair of strong five-furlong moves in the interim. The chestnut looks like a logical wire-to-wire ‘player’ once again.

Dual Grade-2 star GOOD SAMARITAN has trained in lights-out fashion this season and regular pilot Joel Rosario coming here to ride is a huge positive. Four-year-old has the best turn of foot in the field, though the pace scenario doesn’t look favorable for the Mott pupil.

The Player gets the nod.

Muniz Memorial H.

A field of 11 will go postward in the nine-furlong grassy test. SYNCHRONY gave MR. MISUNDERSTOOD his first ever defeat on the turf with a superb tally in the Fair Grounds H. (G3) most recently. Michael Stidham trainee gets the rail and could improve in just a second run in 10 months and Synchrony has shown marked improvement since moving to the lawn four races back.

Mr. Misunderstood still shows a sublime 9-8-1-0 mark on the green, with three of those wins coming at Fair Grounds. Gelding was five lengths clear of third in the Fair Grounds and is a must use with Geroux in the silks.

FORGE was a big second to champion World Approval in his seasonal debut and is a major contender with even slight improvement today for Bill Mott. Blue-blooded five-year-olds gets an upgrade to John Velazquez, as well.

I’ll take a shot with Forge as the value play.

Fair Grounds Oaks

A nice field of nine sophomore fillies will hope to use this affair as a springboard to the Kentucky Oaks (G1). CLASSY ACT, WONDER GADOT and PATRONA MARGARITA, who finished second, third and fourth in the Rachel Alexandra (G2), will face-off once again.

I am intrigued by ESKIMO KISSES. Chestnut filly has won two in succession, including an 11-length allowance romp at Oaklawn last out. Kenny McPeek trainee did win over a sloppy oval which might have aided her, but she brought improving form into race and kept moving forward without Lasix for the first time in a lifetime-best showing. The price should be right but I’ll go a different direction.

Patrona Margarita is my choice. The juvenile Grade 2 needed her last race and improves enough to get it done today.

Louisiana Derby

Ten will vie in what came up a very competitive race. The top-three finishers of the Risen Star (G2) – BRAVAZO, SNAPPER SINCLAIR and NOBLE INDY -- come back and are joined by Southwest S. (G3) romper MY BOY JACK. I think one of these has to come out on top, though finding which one is a challenge.

My Boy Jack figures to get a contested and healthy pace to rally into late, but he has to prove that his Southwest score was more than a product of his thriving over the ‘off-going.’

Snapper Sinclair draws outside of the other pace in this field, which could be a huge benefit. In addition, the move to pilot Jose Ortiz is a major upgrade.

Bravazo has shown nice improvement in two races in 2018 and loves a good fight. D. Wayne Lukas trainee gets a tricky rail draw, but the extra distance should aid his chances with a pedigree that hints that he will stay this distance, and beyond.

Noble Indy, from the Pletcher barn, is lightly raced with just three under his belt. Talented colt gets blinkers today, and if the equipment change helps, son of Take Charge Indy would be no surprise.

I will tepidly make Snapper Sinclair my selection in a well-matched cast.