Best Horse Racing Picks This Weekend: Fair Grounds
The 2022 road to the Kentucky Derby begins in earnest in New Orleans on Saturday as Fair Grounds hosts the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes, featuring two of the highest-rated young 3-year-olds in the nation, in Pappacap and Epicenter. The Grade 3 prep for both the $1 million Louisiana Derby and the Run for the Roses will only share the headlines on this afternoon, though, as top older horses Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon renew their rivalry in the Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes one race earlier on the card.
Not to be forgotten, potential Kentucky Oaks fillies will also be highlighted at Fair Grounds on Saturday, with the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes. The 3-year-old filly feature is headed by the much-talked-about La Crete, the regally bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro looked like something good in an easy debut win at Churchill Downs. A half-sister to the accomplished Clairiere, she will make her second career start against a compact field of six.
This week we will focus on the three headlining stakes on the 14-race “Road to the Derby Day” card, along with three interesting turf stakes for older horses as part of a six-stakes race afternoon in New Orleans.
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Louisiana Stakes (G3), Fair Grounds, 1 1/16 miles (dirt), 4-year-olds and up
Two of last year’s top 3-year-olds, Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon, will pick up their rivalry again as they square off for the sixth time when they top a field of seven older males entered in the Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds. Mandaloun has not started since winning the Grade 1 Haskell by disqualification after falling a nose short on the wire in the million-dollar race back in July. Trained by Brad Cox, the son of Into Mischief has won 5-of-8 lifetime, and still may get the official win in the Kentucky Derby, pending a final decision on the Medina Spirit positive drug test. He holds a 3-2 edge in the five previous meetings with Midnight Bourbon and will use his return in the 8 ½ furlongs Louisiana as a prep for next month’s $20 million Saudi Cup.
Midnight Bourbon is also eying a trip for the Saudi Cup. The 4-year-old son of Tiznow has been defeated in eight straight races since beating Mandaloun in last year’s Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds but has continued to turn in solid performances. Adding blinkers and Lasix for Louisiana, the Steve Asmussen-trained runner has continually faced top competition, and among his runner-up finishes, including three big ones in the Preakness, Travers, and Pennsylvania Derby.
Mandaloun (7/5) – He accomplished plenty in 2021, but I believe the lightly raced 4-year-old should come back better than ever in 2022.
Lecomte Stakes (G3), Fair Grounds, 1 1/16 miles (dirt), 3-year-olds
A debut winner in Florida and a graded stakes winner in California, Pappacap headlines a field of nine 3-year-olds entered in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds. The Florida-bred son of Gun Runner, who is trained by Mark Casse, comes into the test having finished second in his last two starts. In both the Grade 1 American Pharoah and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he was the runner-up behind the soon-to-be champion Corniche.
His chief rival in the Lecomte will be Epicenter. Coming off a big 6 1/2-length win in the Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds last time, the Not This Time colt actually could be preferred over his more experienced rival on Saturday. The local win came on the heels of breaking his maiden impressively with a front-running score at Churchill Downs in his second career start. Trained by Steve Asmussen, he will be ridden by Joel Rosario in the 1 1/16-mile Lecomte.
Pappacap (2/1) – Breeders’ Cup runner-up should sit a nice trip behind the speed and be ready to roll home in the stretch.
Silverbulletday Stakes, Fair Grounds, 1 mile and 70 yards (dirt), 3-year-old fillies
Coming off a most impressive debut victory, Stonestreet Stables’ La Crete looks like the one to beat when she rates top billing against five rivals for Saturday’s $150,000 Silverbulletday. Prep for the Kentucky Oaks, the 3-year-old filly contest will offer qualifying points for the big race at Churchill Downs on a scale of 10-4-2-1. Sired by Medaglia d’Oro, La Crete is a half-sister to Clairiere, who was on a shortlist of the best 3-year-old fillies in the nation last year. In her debut, she went straight to the lead at Churchill Downs and was geared down 2 ¼ length winner.
Among her top rivals in the 1 mile and 70-yard Silverbulletday will be the stakes experienced pair of Sweet as Pie and Fannie and Freddie. A daughter of Tapit, the former was a convincing winner of her debut at Belmont Park before finishing fourth next out in the Tempted Stakes. Fannie and Freddie, meanwhile, did not do much in her first two starts but has looked like a different filly in New Orleans, easily breaking her maiden before just missing in the Untapable Stakes on December 26 for trainer Al Stall, Jr.
Sweet as Pie (3/1) – The Tapit filly should improve off her last effort and could surprise the more inexperienced favorite for top trainer Todd Pletcher.
Colonel E. R. Bradley Stakes, Fair Grounds, 1 1/16 miles (turf), 4-year-olds and up
Two Emmys, a wire-to-wire winner of Arlington Park’s Grade 1 Mr. D over Domestic Spending two starts back, figures to be a lukewarm favorite as he tops a field 12 older horses entered in the $100,000 Colonel Bradley Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds. The 6-year-old turf-loving son of the English Channel will be making his first start since just missing in Keeneland’s Grade 3 Sycamore in October. Trained by Hugh Robertson, he has finished first or second in seven of his last eight races. Off a three-month layoff, he has found a deep and difficult field for his return.
Many others in the wide-open field should get betting support in the 8 1/2 furlong grass test, but the second choice could wind up being Halo Again. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the 5-year-old son of Speightstown made a winning turf debut last time when scoring in the local Diliberto Memorial four weeks ago. Already a stakes winner on Woodbine’s synthetic surface, the three-surface winner will be ridden by Joel Rosario in the Bradley
Monarchs Glen (10/1) – In a race loaded with speed, this late runner from the barn of Mike Maker should have a big shot to pick up the pieces
Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes, 1 1/16 miles (turf), 4-year-olds and up fillies and mares
Abscond, who has been running against some of the best turf mares in the nation, and Summer in Saratoga, who won two stakes races at Fair Grounds last year, head a contentious field of 12 fillies and mare set for Saturday’s $100,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes on the Fair Grounds turf. The Grade 1 winner Abscond was a competitive fourth last out in the Grade 2 Goldikova at Del Mar on Breeders’ Cup weekend for trainer Eddie Kenneally. The Joe Sharp-trained Summer in Saratoga won the Blushing KD just four weeks ago at Fair Grounds for her fourth stakes win of 2021.
An interesting alternative to the top two in the 1 1/16 mile grass race will be the Brazilian import Janelle Monae. A star in her native country, she will be making her first start in the United States for trainer Brad Cox. The granddaughter of Sunday Silence was a Triple Crown winner in Brazil last year on the turf and is unbeaten if four career starts.
Janelle Monae (5/1) – The Brazilian star looks to take the U.S. by storm in 2022.
Duncan F. Kenner Stakes, Fair Grounds, 5 1/2 furlongs (turf), 4-year-olds and up
An impressive winner in his last two races, Just Might tops a field of eight entered in the $100,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds. Trained by Michelle Lovell, the morning line favorite will tackle the local turf course for the second straight time after rolling in the Richard Scherer Memorial four weeks ago. Before that, the 6-year-old gelded son of Justin Phillip had scored in the Thanksgiving Classic, also at Fair Grounds. Second in this race last year, he will be looking for his seventh-stakes win in his last eight starts.
Chief among his competition in the 5 1/2 furlong turf race will be the defending champion, Manny Wah. He’s only raced twice since flying from last to win the Kenner last year, but after a 10-month layoff, he looked good in rallying for second behind Just Might last time. Another to consider will be Sir Alfred James. The speedy gelding comes into this race off a sharp 6 1/2-length score in the Holiday Cheer Stakes at Turfway Park on New Year’s Day.
Manny Wah (3/1) – With other speed in the race to soften up the favorite, this veteran should be ready to turn the tables this time around.
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Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
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