Weekend Lineup: Louisiana Derby Preview Day At Fair Grounds Features Four Graded Stakes - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Weekend Lineup: Louisiana Derby Preview Day At Fair Grounds Features Four Graded Stakes

Trainer Brad Cox’s Victory Formation tallies a three-length triumph under Flavien Prat in the Smarty Jones

The highlight of this weekend's racing action is the Louisiana Derby preview day at Fair Grounds, which includes a pair of 50-point prep races on the Roads to the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks.

A field of 14 3-year-old colts with Derby aspirations have signed on for the Grade 2 Risen Star, led by undefeated Victory Formation, winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn for trainer Brad Cox. Five other Risen Star runners besides Victory Formation have already banked points: Curly Jack (17), Two Phil's (8), Angel of Empire (4), Sun Thunder (4), and Determinedly (3).

The G2 Rachel Alexandra drew a smaller field of six sophomore fillies, but two in the field enter the race with extremely high expectations. Hoosier Philly is undefeated through three starts for Tom Amoss, while Chop Chop flashed talent for the Cox barn with a second in the G1 Alcibiades but a bad trip in the Breeders' Cup left her at the rear of the field.

In total, Fair Grounds' Saturday card offers six stakes races, four graded.

Another big Saturday card is on offer at Laurel Park, with six stakes, two of which are graded. The highlight of the card is the G3 General George, led by Factor It In on a two-race win streak.

Other significant stakes action around the country on Saturday includes the $125,000 Heavenly Prize Invitational at Aqueduct, the G3 Royal Delta at Gulfstream, the G3 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn, five $75,000 stakes for Texas-breds at Sam Houston, and the Wishing Well Stakes down the hill at Santa Anita.

Sunday's action is highlighted by the G1 February Stakes in Japan, which drew North American-based Shirl's Speight, winner of the G1 Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland last spring. Trained by Roger Attfield, Shirl's Speight will be the first foreign entrant in the February Stakes, and faces a strong field in the one-mile dirt contest.


5:42 p.m. – Grade 3 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park

The speedy West Will Power headlines a strong field of 10 older horses entered in the $600,000 Razorback over 1 1/16 miles. West Will Power, who will be making his 2023 debut in the Razorback, has a 2-2-0 record in four starts for Cox, highlighted by a front-running 6 ¾-length victory in the $350,000 Fayette Stakes (G2) at 1 1/8 miles Oct. 29 at Keeneland. West Will Power exits a runner-up finish in the $750,000 Clark Stakes (G1) at 1 1/8 miles Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs. West Will Power was beaten three-quarters of a length by Proxy after leading throughout most of the race.

Southern California-based Ginobili returns to Oaklawn after a sparkling four-length victory in the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes at one mile Jan. 14. The Fifth Season was the first major local two-turn prep this year for the Oaklawn Handicap.

Law Professor returns to Hot Springs after finishing ninth in last April's $400,000 Oaklawn Mile (G3) for Southern California-based trainer Michael McCarthy. Now with New York-based trainer Rob Atras, Law Professor exits a 7 ½-length victory in the $150,000 Queens County Stakes at 1 1/8 miles Jan. 7 at Aqueduct.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas bids for his 50th career Oaklawn stakes victory with millionaire Last Samurai and recent addition Caddo River.

In his last start, Last Samurai finished fourth, beaten seven lengths, in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) for older horses at 1 1/8 miles Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park. Last Samurai has done his best work at Oaklawn, where he has a 2-2-0 record from seven starts and earnings of $814,700.

Caddo River, the 2021 Arkansas Derby runner-up for Arkansas lumberman John Ed Anthony's Shortleaf Stable, was transferred from Cox to Lukas following a runner-up finish in a Jan. 21 allowance race at Oaklawn. Anthony also campaigned Plainsman.

Late-running Rated R Superstar will be making his sixth appearance in the Razorback. The millionaire multiple graded stakes winner finished fifth in the last two runnings after four-time Oaklawn leading owner Danny Caldwell claimed the now-10-year-old gelding for $50,000 Jan. 30, 2021, at Oaklawn.

Razorback Entries

6:41 p.m. – Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds

After a perfect freshman campaign punctuated by her trainer Tom Amoss calling her the most promising horse he has ever trained, Hoosier Philly's time to shine has come. She is set to make her much anticipated 3-year-old debut in the Rachel Alexandra. Hoosier Philly will face a field of five rivals including Chop Chop, the runner-up in both the locally run Silverbulletday and Keeneland's Alcibiades (G1).

After winning all three of her juvenile starts, including the Golden Rod (G2) and the Rags to Riches – both by open lengths – Amoss sent Hoosier Philly for a freshening at Woodford Thoroughbreds in Florida, circling the Rachel Alexandra for Hoosier Philly's sophomore debut. When she returned to the Amoss barn, the daughter of Into Mischief (out of the Tapit mare Tapella) proceeded to fire three successive bullet workouts. Hoosier Philly has done everything a trainer could hope from a stand-out filly.

The top rival to Hoosier Philly in the Rachel Alexandra is Selective LLC's Chop Chop. A nose shy of winning the Alcibiades (G1), the City of Light filly was sent off as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), but after a difficult trip around Keeneland's main track under Joel Rosario, she disappointed her backers and connections, finishing last of 13. Never leaving the barn and training forwardly ahead of her 3-year-old debut in January's Silverbulletday Stakes, Chop Chop ran well enough to put 13 lengths between her and five of her foes, but she was unable to bid past stablemate The Alys Look in the stretch, and ended up finishing second. Cox has decided to add blinkers for her run in the Rachel Alexandra.

Rachel Alexandra Entries

7:14 p.m. – Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds

Smarty Jones winner Victory Formation, currently eleventh on the Road to the Kentucky Derby with 10 points, headlines a full field of 14 3-year-olds for the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2). Five other Risen Star runners besides Victory Formation have already banked points: Curly Jack (17), Two Phil's (8), Angel of Empire (4), Sun Thunder (4), and Determinedly (3).

After winning his first two races at sprint distances, Victory Formation was tasked with a two-turn mile in the Smarty Jones on New Year's Day at Oaklawn Park. Breaking from the outside post he took over at the front and cruised away from the field to win by three lengths. If he employs similar front-running tactics, the son of Tapwrit will have company, as four other runners in the field are proven to be sharp from the gates and keen to the lead.

Cross-entered in the Lecomte and a 3-year-old allowance on the Road to the Derby Day undercard, Tapit's Conquest went in the softer spot, but he could not bid past the winner Determinedly who slowed the pace down out front and had plenty left in the tank through the final stages to stay ahead of Tapit's Conquest's rail rally. The Tapit colt's lone win in three starts came in early October at Churchill Downs. Cox gave him time off in October before bringing him to Fair Grounds where he has posted all his morning drills. Geroux stays on and will guide Tapit's Conquest from post No. 8.

Angel of Empire finished second to his stablemate in the Smarty Jones on January 1. His two wins came at Horseshoe Indianapolis, both the first starts in his form cycle. The Classic Empire closer drew post No. 6 and will have a new pilot in Luis Saez.

Of the three colts entered by Steve Asmussen, it's the newcomer to the barn, Harlocap, who gets tabbed at 8-1, ahead of Private Creed and Silver Heist both at 12-1. The owner of Harlocap is the first to transfer their Derby-contender out of Bob Baffert's barn. Baffert is suspended from entering any race at Churchill Downs, therefore any horse in his care is disallowed from earning Derby points. Making his third start on Jan. 22, the Justify colt out of the Bodemeister dam Mezinka broke his maiden in front running fashion. Harlocap has breezed twice since and will retain the services of John Velazquez.

Risen Star Entries

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