July 18, 2024

Olympiad the one to catch in New Orleans Classic; Santin can improve in Muniz Memorial

Olympiad (Coglianese Photography)

New Orleans Classic (G2) — Race 9 (5:09 p.m. ET)

Olympiad is in an enviable position to make it two in a row at Fair Grounds this winter in Saturday’s $500,000 New Orleans Classic (G2).

The Bill Mott-trained son of Speightstown was a comfortable winner of the Mineshaft (G3) last month by 2 1/4 lengths going 1 1/16 miles, and appears the controlling speed facing five rivals in the nine-furlong New Orleans Classic.

All five of Chess Chief‘s career wins have come at Fair Grounds, including the 2021 New Orleans by a head. Given his affinity for the surface, bettors would be wise to overlook some of the six-year-old’s recent runs outside the Big Easy, including a recent sixth in the Pegasus World Cup (G1).

Proxy, who placed in last year’s Lecomte (G3) and Risen Star (G2), is still in search of his first career stakes win for owner-breeder Godolphin and trainer Mike Stidham. The son of Tapit was an easy winner of a Feb. 25 allowance in his comeback from a layoff of more than 10 months.

The field is rounded out by Grade 3 winner Promise Keeper and 2021 Arkansas Derby (G1) upsetter Super Stock, who finished fourth and eighth, respectively, in last month’s Razorback H. (G3) at Oaklawn, and the deep-closing Happy American.

Muniz Memorial (G2) — Race 10 (5:40 p.m. ET)

Santin could improve in his second start off the layoff in the $300,000 Muniz Memorial (G2) at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

The Godolphin homebred, who has started just four times and narrowly missed in the Hollywood Derby (G1) in his stakes debut, was a surprise favorite in the Feb. 19 Fair Grounds (G3) over the distance, but fell a half-length short to Cavalry Charge, who turned in a 35-1 shocker after a poor try earlier in the meet to Forty Under in the Colonel E.R. Bradley S.

“He ran well in the Fair Grounds and it will benefit him having a run going into Saturday,” trainer Brendan Walsh said of Santin. “He showed that he could mix it up with those seasoned, older horses. He just has to improve a little to put him right there again, which I think that he has.”

In addition to that trio, others returning from the Fair Grounds include the Grade 1-winning Two Emmys, who finished an uncharacteristic 10th after setting the early pace, and Captivating Moon, the 2021 Fair Grounds winner who again looks a bit overmatched class-wise.

Chad Brown, who won this race in 2019 with eventual Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar, will be represented by graded veterans Sacred Life and Devamani, while Another Mystery enters off a dead-heat score in the 12-furlong John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) at Sam Houston.

The first open stakes on Saturday’s card, the $100,000 Tom Benson Memorial for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, features Gam’s Mission, Hendy Woods, She Can’t Sing, and Lovely Ride, the latter two both stakes winners at the meet.