Fair Grounds set to start season with full schedule

Aerieal view of the New Orleans Fair Grounds horse race track in 2012. Photo courtesy of the Fair Grounds.
Aerieal view of the New Orleans Fair Grounds horse race track in 2012. Photo courtesy of the Fair Grounds.

Fair Grounds set to start season with full schedule

NEW ORLEANS — A blitz of marketing during the offseason appears to have paid off to the New Orleans Fair Grounds Race Course as the beginning of its 2012-13 season gets under way Thursday.

Fair Grounds Vice President Eric Halstrom said the upcoming meet will feature six of the country’s top 15 trainers — a figure in which the establishment has taken a fair amount of pride.

“We did a lot of work in recruiting this year,” Halstrom said this week. “We brought in some of the best professional trainers with good horses. We have a very positive outlook for the meet.”

The Fair Grounds season begins at 11 a.m. Thursday and wraps up with the 87th running of the Thanksgiving Handicap, a six-furlong sprint that carries a $100,000 prize.

Overall, the 2012-13 meet represents the Fair Grounds’ 141st thoroughbred racing season, which culminates March 30 with the milestone 100th running of the tradition-rich Louisiana Derby.

Some of the top trainers with barns at the New Orleans facility this year include Ron Faucheux, Steve Asmussen — currently the national leader in wins for the year — and Bret Calhoun, who said that once a full crop of trainers, horses and jockeys fills the Fair Grounds’ barns, the New Orleans track will, as usual, be one of the winter’s best.

“It’s a good purse structure, and everybody looks forward to this meet,” said Calhoun, a Texas-based trainer who won 22 percent of his races and earned more than $4.4 million in 2012. “The conditions have been good so far. It should be a good surface all winter. We like to focus on this track (in the winter) because it fits well with us. It has a little bit of everything.”

Calhoun will have about 50 mounts stabled in New Orleans during the Fair Grounds’ 2012-13 season, and track officials peg him as one of the top five trainers in the country.

The upcoming meet will also include the return of prominent trainer and New Orleans native Wayne Catalano, who will have stables at the Fair Grounds for the first time in a decade.

Race Course Communications Manager Jim Mulvihill said most of the horses, trainers and jockeys participating in the 2012-13 New Orleans meet will spend the entire season headquartered at the Fair Grounds barns, although some of the top competitors might occasionally venture out to other top races across the country during the winter. In addition, a few of America’s top mounts from other regions will drop in on the Fair Grounds here and there during the upcoming local meet.

Perhaps the mount with the most potential locally in 2012-13 will be Faucheux’s Gantry, who’s coming off an 11th-place finish in the Breeder’s Cup Sprint. Gantry will also defend his local Thanksgiving Handicap crown Thursday after a surprising victory in the 2011 event. On Thursday, the 5-year-old will once again be ridden by jockey Richard Eramia.

Gantry runs as one of the top performers for Faucheux, an up-and-coming trainer who won 42 races in 2012 and pulled in more than $1.1 million in earnings for the year. Faucheux has earned so much respect at the NOLA course that for the 2012-13 meet, he’s been moved to a more favorable stable in the barn area.

Faucheux, who will have about 25 horses quartered in New Orleans this meet, said Monday that he’s optimistic about the upcoming Fair Grounds meet based on the fair amount of success he and his mounts found last year. A Crescent City native, Faucheux loves to spend time at his “home” course.

“For me, it’s all about leading up to this meet,” Faucheux said. “Being from New Orleans, it’s obviously the biggest meet for me. Winning here last year was the high moment of my career.”

Faucheux said he tries not to have specific goals for each individual season, only to “get a little better every year.” While 2012-13 represents his fourth go-round at the Fair Grounds, he said this meet will really be the second in which he’s had a competitive stable of mounts.

“I’m just very excited to be back here,” Faucheux said. “There’s no place better for training than the Fair Grounds. It’s special here. The surface is really good, and I think we’ll be a lot better than last year.”

As far as the Fair Grounds’ riders go, the course’s top seven jockeys from 2011-12 will return for this year’s meet, including two-time defending champion Rosie Napravnik, who amassed 111 victories last year and continues to build a national reputation.

Thursday’s entries

First Race - $18,000, Maiden Claiming $15,000, 2 yo, F (fillies) Six Furlongs

Brighams Love (J Riquelme) 120

Hammond (C Bonnet) 117

Hurricane Krystal (J Jacinto) 120

Ms Yona Who (C McMahon) 117

Dessert Diva (J Patin, Jr.) 117

Cat Who Dat (K Clark) 117

Sheisbossy (B Williams) 120

Sarah’s Yamaka (R Eramia) 117

Native Little Lady (I Diego) 117

Tommy’s First (T Agilar) 120

Second Race - $17,000, Claiming $5,000, 3 yo’s & up One Mile Seventy Yards

Gowden Mile (J Melancon) 121

Fantastical (R Napravnik) 121

No Flattery Needed (J Theriot) 121

Mystical Friend (J Graham) 118

Conner Can (C McMahon) 118

Dynamic Royal (K Clark) 121

Dapple Down (K Melancon) 118

Alvin and David (C Hernandez) 121

Wajir On Me (M Mena) 121

Kela’s Heat (B Williams) 118

What Secret (I Diego) 118

Kasos Pride (R Eramia) 118

Third Race - $39,000, Maiden special weight, 2 yo, F (fillies) Five And A Half Furlongs

Skipawaywithbing (J Jacinto) 120

Under the Radar (J Melancon) 120

Meghan Claire (E Martin, Jr.) 120

Ante Up Annie (M Mena) 120

Taralicious (J Theriot) 120

Lydian Empire (C McMahon) 120

Sweet Ide (K Clark) 120

Dreamglider (L Goncalves) 120

Yes Sir (J Graham) 120

Winsky Alexandra (I Diego) 120

Another Shoes (R Eramia) 120

Chocolat City (R Napravnik) 120

Sarahsintomischief (C Hernandez) 120

Pukwudgie (C McMahon) 120

Fourth Race - $20,000, Optional claiming $10,000, 3 yo’s & up Five And A Half Furlongs

Storm Half (J Riquelme) 117

Swifty Uneaux (T Agilar) 118

Hard Case (J Jacinto) 120

Macabe’s Gold (J Graham) 122

Easy Jazz (K Clark) 117

Outta Tune (R Napravnik) 120

Tide Rising (C Hernandez) 120

Hudson’s Creed (R Eramia) 118

Fifth Race - $43,000, Allowance, 3 yo’s & up Six Furlongs

Viva La Zippy (C Bonnet) 118

Masculino (J Graham) 118

Hud’s Rebellion (R Eramia) 118

Tensas Cold Front (M Guidry) 118

Yonaguska Storm (J Jacinto) 118

Raiseanothergator (R Napravnik) 118

Freddie One Bite (L Goncalves) 118

Battle Act (K Smith) 120

My Orthodoc (M Mena) 120

Osidy Again (C McMahon) 120

Sixth Race - $41,000, Allowance, 2 yo Six Furlongs

Nubin Ridge (M Mena) 119

Come Maw Man (T Agilar) 119

Hero Force (J Jacinto) 119

He’s a Tree Shaker (K Clark) 119

Kwik n’ Smokey (I Diego) 119

I’m in a Zone (J Graham) 119

Sequoyah Wells (L Goncalves) 119

One King’s Man (C McMahon) 119

Deacon Dave (K LeBlanc) 119

Pure Pegasus (R Eramia) 119

Seventh Race - $39,000, Maiden special weight, 2 yo, F (fillies) Five And A Half Furlongs

Miss Your Smile (C McMahon) 120

One Broadway Queen (K Clark) 120

Caroline Dehere (I Diego) 120

Vegas Baby Vegas (L Goncalves) 120

Mohijo (R Napravnik) 120

Gimme Yo Number (M Mena) 120

Lucky Fungo (C Hernandez) 120

Stevie C (R Eramia) 120

Rollin in Paradise (J Melancon) 120

Mrs. Patrykus (J Jacinto) 120

I’m in to Score (J Graham) 120

I Jus Wana Hav Fun (M Guidry) 120

Gigi’s Rebel (R Eramia) 120

Eighth Race - $47,000, Allowance, 3 yo’s & up, F & M (fillies and mares) Seven And A Half Furlongs

How Pleasant (C McMahon) 120

Miss Addison (R Eramia) 120

Archerette (R Napravnik) 117

Scarlet Tribute (C Hernandez) 117

Number One Gal (I Diego) 117

Divine Lorretta (J Graham) 117

Cloud Scapes (M Mena) 117

Harlan Showgirl (M Guidry) 117

North by Northlite (L Goncalves) 117

Myriad (J Jacinto) 117

Deferred (J Theriot) 119

Malibu Holiday (K Clark) 117

Hoodatcrook (J Larrosa) 114

Fasig Girl (B Williams) 117

Candy Paint (J Riquelme) 117

Portend (J Graham) 120

Ninth Race - $100,000, Stakes, 3 yo’s & up Six Furlongs

Black Rhino (J Graham) 110

Cash Refund (M Mena) 117

Shrill (M Guidry) 114

Gantry (R Eramia) 121

Solar Charge (L Goncalves) 113

Delaunay (R Napravnik) 121

China (J Jacinto) 114

10th Race - $60,000, Stakes, 3 yo’s & up One Mile

Lovely Vin (R Napravnik) 115

String King (J Graham) 122

Benwill (L Goncalves) 115

Kissimmee Kyle (M Guidry) 124

Heavenville (R Eramia) 118

Classy Deelites (K Clark) 118

Kiss My Kriss (J Theriot) 118

Idefromthebayou (K LeBlanc) 118

Blackntansatlarrys (M Mena) 118

Top Cat Boogie (R Toups) 115