NEW ORLEANS — A week ago Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas won Fair Grounds’ Grade III Lecomte Stakes with Bluegrass Hall’s Oxbow with jockey Jon Court in the irons.
Saturday it was a different week and a different horse — Bluegrass Hall’s Optimizer — who won Fair Grounds’ Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, but the more things changed the more they stayed the same.
Different week, different horse and different surface, but the same owner, the same trainer, the same jockey and the same running style that earned the winning laurels in the second graded stakes race of the Fair Grounds season.
Under Court, Optimizer was away alertly and quickly in command, made the pace with early splits of 24.06 and 50.04 before accomplishing the about 1 1/16-mile distance over the course rated “good” in 1:46.22, and came home 31/2-lengths in front, returning $6, $3.80 and $3 while increasing his career earnings to $461,942 with his fourth win from 20 starts,
“I thought (Optimizer) handled (the course) real well,” said Court. “I knew he should run really good today and was counting on it. Mr. Lukas is having some luck there at Oaklawn so I wanted to make sure I could bring some of that luck with Optimizer here today.
“I think he likes these distances,” Court added of the Col. Bradley ’Cap and the two races that will follow it in Fair Grounds’ three-race grass series. “If the race sets up I think he’s capable of going a mile, a mile-and-a-quarter. He’s got that in him, but it’s a matter of how things set up. He can handle it, especially on the grass. Anything over a mile is in his favor.”
Charles Craig Smith’s String King, a winner of two straight grass stakes at Fair Grounds that were restricted to Louisiana-breds, held his own in open company with a runner-up finish behind Optimizer and returned $4 and $3.20 to place. Chuck and Ella Lou Hagaman’s Bim Bam got up to be third, three-quarters of a length behind String King, and paid $5.80.
James Miller’s Daisy Devine won for the first time in 2013 but for the second time during the current Fair Grounds season when she made the pace and galloped home 13/4-lengths in front in Saturday’s $75,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Handicap.
Maggi Moss’s Delaunay proved worthy of his odds-on favoritism when he made the pace in Saturday’s 28th running of the $75,000 F.W. Gaudin Memorial Stakes before drawing clear by 4 1/4-lengths at the wire.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Animal Style, unhurried early, closed with a bold rush on the extreme outside in the late stages of Saturday’s inaugural running of the $75,000 Van Berg Stakes for 3-year-olds at about 5 1/2-furlongs on the turf and proved be best by a length and a half at the wire.