We're feasting on stakes, six of them to be exact, on Santa Super Saturday at Fair Grounds Racecourse, but you'll want to stick around for dessert.
Race 13 of 14 on Saturday is carded as a first-level optional claimer for 2-year-olds, but in reality, it's a major stepping stone to the Lecomte (G3), to be run as part of “Road to Derby Kickoff” on January 18, 2020.
The headliner and 3/1 morning line favorite is Madaket Stables LLC, Michael Dubb and Doheny Racing Stable's Mr. Monomoy. Trained by Brad Cox, he is a half-brother to 2018 Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) winner Monomoy Girl. Although he might get the lion's share of the attention on social media and in the win pool, there are several others with aspirations beyond Saturday. Including Spendthrift Farm's Sharecropper for Al Stall Jr., and a pair of Casse trainees – John Oxley's Race Driver and HRH Prince Sultan Bin Mishal Al Saud's Lynn's Map.
“It's what gets me out of bed early in the morning,” Mark Casses's top assistant David Carroll said Thursday morning. “We train for great owners and it's a privilege to train these young horses with this kind of potential. You dream about the (Kentucky) Derby and having horses good enough to get there and it's always exciting this time of year. For me personally working for Mark (Casse) we're in this position every year because of his hard work and our owners giving us the privilege to train horses with this talent.”
“I have a lot of respect for Mr.Monomy and obviously we all know who his sister is,” Carroll continued. “Sharecropper, I know is held in high regards and the connections are very high on him so it's going to be a really interesting race and give us a good idea of where we stand with these horses (Race Driver and Lynn's Map).”
Race Driver (5/1 ML) is a recent three-length winner in career start number three at Churchill Downs last month. The son of Distorted Humor will make his first start against winners for trainer Mark Cassee with Adam Beschizza aboard.
“He got a perfect ride and a perfect trip from Florent Geroux last time out,” Carroll said. “He trains really well in the morning. He does what he has to do without over doing it which is always a good sign with young horses. He's got it mentally and physically.”
Lynn's Map (9/2 ML) only needed two tries to break through his maiden ranks, doing so in a one-turn mile maiden special weight race at Churchill Downs in early November. The son of Breeders' Cup Champion Liam's Map was purchased for $285,000 at the OBS April 2-year-old in training sale. He's been assigned post nine with Corey Lanerie up.
“He was drawn inside in that big field last time out,” Carroll said. “He put away some nice horses and showed a lot of determination. I think he handled it well and is a professional for being just a 2-year-old. Just like Race Driver, this horse does what he has to do in the mornings and is a really good work horse.”
With rain in the forecast for Saturday in New Orleans, the main track could come up less than fast.
“They (Race Driver and Lynn's Map) have both been over an off track whether it be in the mornings or in a race and both of them have handled it well,” Carroll said. “Each track is different but Fair Grounds has one of the best surfaces in the country so I think they will handle it fine.”
A $600,000 purchase, Sharecropper will make his first start against winners after powering home from the back of the pack to break his maiden at Churchill Downs in October. The Al Stall Jr.-trained son of Pioneer of the Nile recently posted a bullet five furlong work (1:01 breezing from the gate) on December 14th at Fair Grounds.
“I took him to the gate just because he's a big sort of sleepy 2-year-old,” Al Stall Jr. said. “I don't think he needed a wakeup call but I just wanted to cover our bases. He jumped out of there and just galloped around easily in a good time. He couldn't have been more comfortable. Things come really easy to him.”
“In his first race he broke really slow and he didn't quite know what was going on,” Stall continued. “In his last race he broke normal with the rest of the field and the improvement from his first to his second race wasn't just like your average jump. He really impressed us with that and we're really excited about him.”
When asked about the sloppy track possibility on Saturday, Stall was unfazed.
“I don't even blink an eye,” he said. “The surface here is one of the best in the country so there's no excuses with this track.”
Sharecropper is listed at 5/1 morning line and is slotted from post six with Miguel Mena aboard.
The first level allowance race is scheduled to be run at 5:48 pm CST as race 13. The Santa Super Saturday card kicks off with a special first race post time of 12:00 pm CST.
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