Anstu Stables' Balto Star has been pegged as the 5-2 morning line favorite in a surprisingly deep field of 11 older horses for Sunday's $500,000 New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) at Fair Grounds.
Balto Star, trained by Todd Pletcher, won the Fair Grounds' Whirlaway Handicap (gr. III) at 1 1/16 miles in his last start. The New Orleans Handicap will be run at 1 1/8 miles. Balto Star, a 5-year-old gelding by Glitterman our of the Devil's Bag mare Miss Livi, earned his first stakes victory since the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) in April of 2001 in the Whirlaway. Tried on turf several times since his Triple Crown run nearly two years ago, Balto Star seems comfortable back on the main track, especially at Fair Grounds. He is a homebred from Stuart and Anita Subotnick's Anstu Stables in Kentucky.
Off just his lone victory in more than a year, Balto Star will be the 120-pound highweight under Eddie Martin Jr. As is his normal style, he ran close to the pace in the Whirlaway and will have plenty of pace once again to chase in the New Orleans 'Cap.
Bea Oxenberg's Best of the Rest and John Oxley's Booklet, the one-two finishers, respectively, in the $1-million Ocala Stud Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25 will be on hand in New Orleans. Best of the Rest, the leading earning Thoroughbred of 2003 off his $533,500 pay day at Gulfstream Park, stalked Booklet into the stretch last time out, and ran him down to win by a half-length in the nine-furlong test. Best of the Rest, a homebred son of Skip Trial, will carry 118 pounds and break from the rail. The front-running Booklet, bred in Florida by Ginger Parker and Charles Baldree Jr., won the Holy Bull (gr. II) and Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. I) last year under the care of trainer John Ward Jr. Booklet breaks from post 8 and will be ridden by regular rider Pat Day.
Adding to the early pace scenario will be Bonapaw, a career one-turn horse that was stretched out for the first time in several years in the Whirlaway. The 7-year-old son of Sabona set the pace last time out before fading to finish third behind Balto Star and Mineshaft. James and Dennis Richard's gelding has won six stakes at Fair Grounds, albeit they have all been in sprints.
A pair of 4-year-olds join the mix as well: Mineshaft and Sunday Break. Mineshaft, pegged at 115 pounds, is coming off a closing second in the Whirlaway. Bred and owned by William S. Farish, James Elkins Jr., and Temple Webber Jr., the son of A.P. Indy won the Diplomat Way Handicap at Fair Grounds on Jan. 19. Since shipping to this country after racing early in his career in Europe, Mineshaft has three wins and a second from four starts.
Sunday Break, winner of the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) last year at Belmont Park, makes just his second start since finishing third in last year's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) behind Sarava and Medaglia d'Oro. In the seven-furlong Malibu Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita, the son of Forty Niner ran a dull 11th as the 5-2 favorite. Owned by Koji Maeda and trained by Neil Drysdale, Sunday Break breaks from post 9.
Fair Grounds - March 2nd, 2003 - Race 9
New Orleans H. (gr. II), $500,000, 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles. Post time 4:09 p.m. CST
PP,Horse, Wgt, Jockey
1, Best of the Rest, 118, Eibar Coa
2, Strive, 111, Jerry Bailey
3, Balto Star, 120, Eddie Martin Jr.
4, Valhol, 114, Donnie Meche
5, Bonapaw, 113, Willie Martinez
6, Mineshaft, 115, Robbie Albarado
7, Olmodavor, 115, Alex Solis
8, Booklet, 117, Pat Day
9, Sunday Break, 115, Edgar Prado
10, Tracemark, 115, Kent Desormeaux
11, Learned, 114, Calvin Borel