New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) runner-up Graeme Hall will likely return to the site of his Arkansas Derby (gr. II) victory for his next start, according to trainer Todd Pletcher.
"That's the plan," said Pletcher. "The Oaklawn fits perfectly on the calendar for Graeme Hall, and, obviously, he runs well over the track. He ran a much-improved race in New Orleans, and he should be at his best for the Oaklawn. John Velazquez will ride him back."
Eugene and Laura Melnyk's Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) winner has raced at Oaklawn Park on three prior occasions with mixed results. The 5-year-old son of Dehere won the Arkansas Derby by 3 3/4 lengths as a 3-year-old, then placed second in the Razorback Handicap (gr. III) last year, before finishing fourth – beaten by eight lengths -- in the 1 1/8-mile Oaklawn Handicap (gr. I) won by Traditionally.
After capping his 4-year-old campaign with a win in the Stuyvesant Handicap (gr. III) and a second-place finish in the Cigar Mile (gr. I), Graeme Hall kicked off this year with an eighth-place performance in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) prior to Sunday's race in the New Orleans Handicap.
New Orleans Handicap winner Parade Leader is under consideration for the Oaklawn Handicap, though trainer Neil Howard indicated the Ben Ali Handicap as a more likely option while remaining non-committal.
"Parade Leader came out of his race in good shape, and at this point we (owner Will Farish) are leaving our options open," Howard said.
Trainer Ken McPeek is pointing 4-year-old Saint Damien for the Oaklawn Handicap.
"I'm hoping to run Saint Damien once here, and then send him to Hot Springs for the Oaklawn," McPeek said Monday from Gulfstream Park.
Saint Damien (Saint Ballado--Wife Begone, by Demons Degone) has won two of 13 career races, with his most recent win coming in the restricted Ocala Breeders' Sale Championship Stakes last March.