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Mar 05, 2004

ATC LEAD

By: Joe Girardi


            With the three year old prep races basically taking a break this week we will take a look at a race that will

have an impact on the handicap division and who will be in the running the rest of the year and who doesn’t

belong.

            On Sunday February 29th, 2004, the Fair Grounds hosted the Grade II New Orleans Handicap for four year

old and upward to be run at 1 and 1/8th miles. If you didn’t know any better you might have thought that you were

looking at the 2003 Kentucky Derby. Three horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby were returning in this

race, including the winner FUNNY CIDE. This race also featured PEACE RULES and Travers’ winner

TEN MOST WANTED. All three figure prominently in the handicap division this year as returning four year

olds.

            Rounding out the field were SEATTLE FITZ, SPANISH EMPIRE, SAINT LIAM, SIR CHEROKEE, and

COMIC TRUTH. All but two of these horses had a graded stakes win to their credit and this made for a quality

packed field.

            With such a wide open field the favorite was sent off at 5-2 with SEATTLE FITZ (second in the

Donn Handicap) holding a slight edge over TEN MOST WANTED, who also was sent off at 5-2. The third choice

in the race was PEACE RULES, who was coming off a poor performance in the Sunshine Millions Classic in his

first start of the year back in January.

            SAINT LIAM and SIR CHEROKEE were both coming into the race in top form with two impressive

victories by SAINT LIAM and three victories in a row for SIR CHEROKEE dating back to last year’s Arkansas

Derby.

            With not much pace in the race and three solid works since his poor performance back in January

PEACE RULES was sent right to the lead but it wasn’t without incident as there was commotion when he dropped

over to the rail. SAINT LIAM had to check forcing SIR CHEROKEE and TEN MOST WANTED to also have

trouble going into that turn. After setting some very quick splits PEACE RULES was able to fight back and score

by a head over SAINT LIAM, who had passed PEACE RULES in the stretch. The time of the mile was 1:35:2, which

would have been a track record for the mile. SAINT LIAM who had trouble on the first turn as well as in the stretch

was bumping with PEACE RULES throughout the stretch and just missed scoring by a head. He did however stamp

himself as one to watch in the handicap division with two wins and a second since switching to the Dutrow Jr. barn.

            There was another three lengths back to the third place finisher FUNNY CIDE, who dropped back on the

turn before coming again to finish third. In his two tries this year against graded competition he has finished third

both times. He would have to improve to be considered among the better older horses this year. SEATTLE FITZ

and TEN MOST WANTED finished fourth and fifth respectively with the latter encountering trouble on the turn

and racing wide throughout. With that race under his belt he should be tighter and should be given another

chance. SIR CHEROKEE, who encountered the most trouble finished an even sixth and exited the race with a

cut on his ankle and general body soreness. He is another who should be given another chance off that race.

            With MEDAGLIA D’ORO clearly at the top of the list and PLEASANTLY PERFECT not far behind, the

top two finishers in here along with those who had trouble in the race will make their presence felt before the year

is out.

            In Triple Crown news, Oaklawn held one of their prep races, the Southwest stakes for three year olds

going one mile. The winner was the undefeated SMARTY JONES, who scored by three quarters of length and

is now 4 for 4. His next start is expected to be in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 20th.

            At Turfway SILVER MINISTER scored in the John Battaglia Memorial and will be pointed to the Lane’s End on March 20th.

 

 

 

           



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