Louisiana 'Cap next on Hurricane Ike's radar
Hurricane Ike, who stormed home first by a neck in Saturday's $75,000 Tenacious Handicap at Fair Grounds, will likely face competition back at the Crescent City oval in his projected next start in the upcoming $100,000 Louisiana Handicap on January 19.
The Louisiana 'Cap, which will be observing its 66th renewal on that Road to the Derby Kickoff Day, is also the first leg of the track's three-leg series for older horses on the main track.
The intermediate leg -- the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap -- will be renewed on February 23 (Louisiana Derby Preview Day) with the concluding leg of that series -- the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap -- following on March 30 as part of the gala Louisiana Derby Day program.
"So far, so good," trainer Mike Stidham said on Sunday morning during training hours when asked how Hurricane Ike had bounced back from his Saturday endeavor. "Assuming he continues to do well, we'll shoot for that handicap series here with him. We're looking hard at that right now."
The big question Saturday was whether the five-year-old son of Graeme Hall could get the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Tenacious and he answered that in the affirmative. The upcoming Louisiana and Mineshaft Handicaps are also at the same middle distance, but the New Orleans Handicap is contested at 1 1/8 miles.
Hurricane Ike's only try at nine furlongs resulted in a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Super Derby in 2010.
While Stidham is looking forward to Hurricane Ike's next start, he'll also have horses running in the immediate future.
This Saturday is Santa Super Saturday at Fair Grounds and in addition to the appearance of two live reindeer on the Family Fun Day program, guests at the Crescent City oval and fans of the simulcast signal around the country will get to enjoy three stakes races -- all slated for the Stall-Wilson Turf Course.
That troika -- all with $75,000 purses -- consists of the "Buddy" Diliberto Memorial Handicap for older horses at about 1 1/16 miles over the local lawn, the Bonapaw for sprinters at about 5 1/2 furlongs and the Blushing K. D. Handicap for older fillies in mares and run at the same middle distance as the "Buddy" Diliberto.
"I'm planning on (Canadian champion) Hollywood Hit for the Bonapaw," Stidham said Sunday. "He's never run on the turf before, but that's what we'll find out Saturday -- how he likes the grass.
"He's had a good career on synthetic courses (including a win in the Grade 3 Vigil at Woodbine and a second in Keeneland's Grade 3 Phoenix Handicap, both in 2010).
"I have two nominated to the Blushing K. D.," the horseman added, "but I'll probably only run Francisca. I'll probably look around for something shorter for Cat Lore."
Francisca and Cat Lore finished second and third, respectively, in the $75,000 Pago Hop Stakes on Fair Grounds' grass on November 24.
Joining Hollywood Hit in the Bonapaw starting gate could be Maggi Moss's Delaunay, hero of Fair Grounds' tradition-rich $100,000 Thanksgiving Handicap on opening day of the season. The Smoke Glacken gelding breezed a half-mile in :51 2/5 Sunday morning on the track's fast dirt.
Now conditioned by nine-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Tom Amoss, Delaunay was claimed by Moss over the spring at Churchill Downs for $40,000. The five-year-old bay has captured four of his five races since then, all of which came in stakes including the Bet on Sunshine, Temperence Hill and Kelly's Landing. However, in his 36-race career Delaunay has competed on the turf just five times, racking up a 1-2-1 mark for those efforts.
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