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War Echo aims to rekindle old Fair Grounds magic

War Echo is a three-quarter sister to the recently retired Grade 1 winner Pyro (Lou Hodges Jr./Fair Grounds Racecourse)
On Saturday, WAR ECHO (Tapit) will attempt to go out the way she entered the season by winning a stakes at Fair Grounds. Victorious in the February 7 Silverbulletday S. (G3) to kick off her sophomore campaign, the Steve Asmussen trainee heads a field of six fillies and mares in the $100,000 Daily Racing Form Distaff S., one of five open stakes on the Santa Super Saturday program that will be accompanied by four rescheduled Louisiana Champions Day stakes.

Ostensibly created as a potential meeting point for Horse of the Year candidates Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d'Oro) and Zenyatta, the DRF Distaff instead features the former's stablemate, whose one meeting with the all-but-crowned three-year-old filly champion resulted in a 12-length loss in the Golden Rod S. (G2) a year ago. There was some reason to believe that War Echo would have at least reduced the gap between herself and Rachel Alexandra, then trained by Hal Wiggins, in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) following her strong 1 1/2-length triumph in the Silverbulletday. That showdown did not materialize when War Echo was forced to the sidelines with an injury prior to the Oaks.

War Echo did not return to the racing wars until September when trailing the Cat Chat S. at Belmont Park behind subsequent Grade 2 victor Malibu Prayer (Malibu Moon), but rebounded to take a one-mile allowance at Churchill Downs by three lengths last out. The nine-furlong attempt Saturday will be the longest of War Echo's career to date, but she looks a solid favorite under regular pilot Shaun Bridgmohan.

The multiple Grade 2-placed UNFORGOTTEN (Northern Afleet) is a two-time stakes winner at Delta Downs, most recently romping in the Treasure Chest S. by 3 1/4 lengths in the slop. The five-year-old has been inconsistent at times this year, but shows runner-up finishes in the Allaire du Pont Distaff S. (G2), Chicago H. (G3) and Kentucky Cup Distaff (G3), the latter two over Polytrack.

PLEASANTLY BLESSED (Pleasant Tap), who captured a turf allowance at Remington Park Monday night, only missed by a neck in the Gallery Furniture Distaff over the Sam Houston dirt two starts back. And while Fair Grounds officials could do without any more rain this month, slop would enhance the chances of NO USE DENYING (Maria's Mon), who relished the stuff when taking the John W. Rooney Memorial S. at Delaware Park by 10 lengths in June.

The $60,000 Bonapaw S. at about 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf features the race's defending champion, STORM TREASURE (Storm Boot), who has struggled with six off-the-board finishes in his last seven starts. More in form is TURFISTE (Military), the three-year-old who took the course-and-distance Black Gold S. in January and enters off an allowance/optional claiming score over the Churchill turf.

GRAND ADVENTURE (Grand Slam), a Grade 3 winner in Canada as a juvenile last year, was a troubled sixth in the Nearctic S. (Can-G2) last time in only his third start of the year, while GRAND TRAVERSE (Pioneering) ran well to be second the last time he tried the local lawn in the Colonel Power S. in February. Grade 3-placed DUE DATE (El Prado [Ire]) has been mixing it up with tougher all year and the regally-bred COSMIC (El Prado [Ire]) exits a victory over the highly regarded Harlem Rocker (Macho Uno) on dirt.

The once-beaten SHE'S OUR ANNIE (Medaglia d'Oro) looks like the one to beat in the $60,000 Esplanade S., a 5 1/2-furlong dash for fillies and mares. The sophomore won three straight at Oaklawn last spring including the Prima Donna S., but only recently returned to action when a cruising winner of the Dream Supreme S. at Churchill. Stakes veterans JULIET'S SPIRIT (Exchange Rate), NORTHERN BELLE (Northern Afleet), SOUTHERN YANKEE (Yankee Gentleman), HOTLANTIC (Stormy Atlantic) and SIMPLIFY (Pulpit) are among the eight rivals who will attempt to keep up with the speedy Jinks Fires trainee.

Two-year-olds will dart six furlongs in the $60,000 Sugar Bowl S., with Old Hickory S. second- and third-placers VITO FILITTO (Mutakddim) and ENUMERATE (Proud Accolade) hoping to thwart the progression of NORTH OF ALASKA (Northern Afleet), a smart 3 1/2-length debut winner at Fair Grounds on November 8.

Ten juvenile fillies will also go three-quarters in the $60,000 Letellier Memorial S. The early-blooming AEGEAN (Northern Afleet) has met two reversals since winning the Kentucky Juvenile S. (G3) and was part of trainer Wesley Ward's notable invasion of Royal Ascot in June. RIGHT TO RULE (Five Star Day) and BLADING GOLD RING (During), the Pontalba S. first and third, are joined in the scramble by Caressing H. vixen SHEER BEAUTY (Mizzen Mast) and the impressive minor winners BROWN EYED BABY (Mineshaft), MY JEN (Fusaichi Pegasus) and VISAVIS (Indian Charlie).


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