I’m a Chatterbox will be going for the fillies Triple Crown at the Fair Grounds on Saturday, but her closest competitor and stable mate will be competing elsewhere.
Trainer Larry Jones is sending Lovely Maria, the runner-up to I’m a Chatterbox in the Rachel Alexandra on to Keeneland for next week’s Ashland Stakes while I’m a Chatterbox will undoubtedly be the horse to beat against a field of seven others in the Grade II $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks.
“I decided to separate them because that way Lovely Mara will miss I’m a Chatterbox,” Jones said. “The idea is to get them back against each other at the Kentucky Oaks.”
Jones has had two Kentucky Oaks winners in Proud Spell and Believe You Can. I’m a Chatterbox is in that category, too, he said. Seven of the past 11 Fair Grounds Oaks winners have gone on to win the top fillies’ race at Churchill Downs, including last year’s winner, Untapable, in the Grade I $1,000,000 Kentucky Oaks on May 1.
Miguel Mena will be aboard I’m a Chatterbox, who had a commanding victory in the Silverbulletday, the first leg of the Fair Grounds’ top events for fillies.
Forever Unbridled figures to be I’m a Chatterbox’s top competition. Trained by Dallas Stewart and ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., Forever Unbridled, a full sister to Unbridled Forever, the third-place finisher in the 2014 Kentucky Oaks and Fair Grounds Oaks, was third in the Rachel Alexandra and second in the Silverbulletday.
Keith Desormeaux-trained Danette, still a maiden after nine starts and Steve Asmussen-trained Shook Up, who has failed to impress after a 13½-length maiden victory in December figure to be the other top contenders.
The remainder of the Fair Grounds Oaks field consists of Desert Valley (Colby Hernandez), Jugni (James Graham), Audrey’s Double (Richard Eramia) and Tacchiello (Miguel Mena).
NEW ORLEANS HANDICAP: Southern Equine Stables’ homebred Grade I winner Moreno makes the second start of his 5-year-old campaign on Saturday as the expected favorite of nine entrants in the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap.
The 1 1/8-mile race was won last year by subsequent Eclipse Award finalist Palace Malice. This year, in its 90th running, the event offers a field flush with classic speed and promising upstarts.
Trained by Eric Guillot, Moreno last was second to the world’s top-ranked horse, Shared Belief, in the Grade I $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 7.
Expected to be the fastest of the fast in the early going is Jed Cohen’s multiple Group I-winning Argentinean horse Mystery Train. In four stateside races since being imported from South America, Mystery Train has a single solid performance, but that was last out when a game pace-setting second in the local New Orleans prep — the Grade III $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap over 1 1/16 miles.
MERVIN MUNIZ HANDICAP: Chad Brown-trained Slumber, a multiple graded stakes-placed son of Cacique, headlines the Grade II $300,000 Mervin H. Muniz, Jr. Memorial Handicap.
Slumber’s last start was in the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap where he was nipped by a nose by Mahawish, who will run Saturday in the Group I $6,000,000 Dubai Turf at Meydan. Alan Garcia will ride Slumber.
Among the challengers is Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Coalport, a homebred son of Kitten’s Joy seeking his fourth consecutive win.
CRESCENT CITY OAKS: The 3-year-old fillies race at one mile and 70 yards on the main track, attracted a trio of stakes winners, led by Wind Chill Factor. The three-time stakes-winning daughter of Successful Appeal exits a disappointing effort in the Azalea Stakes at Delta Downs in which she may have a built-in excuse after racing on an off track for the first time.
CRESCENT CITY DERBY: Glenn Delahoussaye-trained Cat Sup will look for his second stakes score in a row after getting the good end of a photo finish in Delta’s Pelican Stakes earlier this month. The son of Discreet Cat has been in the exacta in all four of his career tries around two turns and will be paired with Kerwin Clark.
COSTA RISING STAKES: Louisiana-bred sprinters take to the turf course in the Costa Rising, slated for 5½ grassy furlongs. Heitai headlines the Costa Rising as he moves back to the grass – a surface over which he has never been beaten in three career tries.
STAR GUITAR STAKES: One King’s Man, cross-entered in the Grade II New Orleans Handicap by trainer Joe Sharp, will loom a large presence and a heavy favorite should his connections opt to run him in the Star Guitar Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
Should One King’s Man head to the New Orleans Handicap, Heavy On Themister may inherit the role of the one to beat.