Nov 27, 2004
AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD
By: JOE GIRARDI
The Fair Grounds opens its meeting on Thanksgiving Day and will run through
March 27th 2005. This will be the first meeting under the ownership of Churchill Downs
Incorporated (CDI). Many trainers have stated that this new ownership will benefit the
Fair Grounds and improve the quality of racing at this meeting.
In addition to a new ownership the Fair Grounds will have a new track announcer. John
G. Dooley has been named the track announcer at the Fair Grounds Race Course for the
2004-05 season. Dooley has been the announcer at Arlington Park for the last five years and
the meeting at Arlington runs from May until September so he will be able to announce races at
The highlight of the meeting as always is the Louisiana Derby, a Grade II event for three
year olds, with a purse of $600,000 at a distance of 1 and 1/16th miles and will be run on
March 12th. This race is a major stop on the Triple Crown trail and many of the top three year
olds come to New Orleans on their way to Kentucky. There are two other Grade II races that
will be run on March 12th and they are the Fair Grounds Oaks for three year old fillies and the
New Orleans Handicap for 4YO and upward handicap horses. The Oaks is worth $300,000
while the New Orleans Handicap is worth $500,000.
A week later Fair Grounds will host another Grade II event this time for older turf horses
in the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Handicap. This race usually sees the top older turf horses as they
prepare for the bigger races in the spring and summer.
When going to the windows to bet, there are certain jockeys and trainers that take the
money just off their names alone. Last year’s leading jockey was Robby Albarado who scored
106 times and was in the money over 60% of the time. However, as Albarado will command the
top mounts so will the money come in on them. Some jockeys to look for when playing for
value are Frank Lovato Jr and Eddie Martin Jr. Although Frank Lovato Jr’s win percentage was
low at 9.2% his in the money percentage shot way up to 33.4%. He is a veteran rider and handles
all variety of racing, turf, dirt, sprints, or routes. Eddie Martin Jr. who finished third in last year’s
standings with 78 wins will again be near the top of the list. With Shane Sellers embroiled in an
insurance debate and not riding, look for Martin’s business to pick up and he may give Albarado
a run for his money.
A few jockeys that had horrendous meetings and may be ones to stay away from are
Don LeBlanc (0 for 57) and Michael Talarico (0 for 51). Just as you would stay with a hot jockey
or trainer you should stay away for one that is not hot, let them beat you.
Last year’s leading trainer at the meeting was Steven Asmussen, who almost doubled up
his competition with 63 wins to the second place finisher’s 32 wins. His win percentage was
25.5% and his in the money percentage was 57.1%. There was a tie for second place between
W. B. Calhoun and Thomas Amoss, both of whom won 32 times. The problem with these three
trainers is that their horses will always take money regardless if they deserve it or not. Some
trainers to watch when looking for value are Gary Palmisano and David Carroll both of whom
scored with 10 out of 37 starters winning at a 27% clip. Michael Dickinson, who always wins
at a solid percentage and only runs his horses in spots where he thinks they can win was a
very solid 55.6%, scoring with 5 out of 9 starters. His in the money percentage was 77.8% and
should be used as a key on top in all exotics.
This meeting has always been a good one for betting opportunities and with the new
ownership and the return of quality jockeys and trainers we expect much of the same. Good Luck!
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