As the purse for the $700,000 Explosive Bid Handicap (gr. IIT) grows, so does the quality of the field.
A field of 14 older horses, including six graded stakes winners, entered Friday for Sundayês finale of Fair Grounds' Spring Festival of Racing. Half of the field has shipped from California or Florida.
Hap, the 3-1 morning-line favorite and 122-pound highweight, makes his seasonal debut for the Allen E. Paulson Trust and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Hap starts for the first time since finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. I) last October at Belmont Park.
Hap had four graded stakes wins from six starts last year. His lifetime record includes 10 wins from 17 starts with earnings of $1.28 million. Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day will ride.
Among the challengers are two other millionaires: the 9-year-old Chorwon, who was third in this race in 1999, and North East Bound, the runner-up in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. I) whose lifetime earnings of $1.34 million are the highest in the field.
The other graded stakes winners are California-based Designed For Luck, Fan's Club Mister, and Pisces, who could make his trainer Kenny McPeek the first to win three Spring Festival races in the same year.
Two entries whose careers have been spent primarily overseas are Beat Hollow, the second choice on the morning line at 4-1, and Suances who will make his American debut for Red Baron's Barn.
Beat Hollow is making his second U.S. start for owner Juddmonte Farms. On Jan 31, he won an allowance-optional claiming race at Santa Anita. He has won four times out of five lifetime starts, with his only loss coming in the 2000 Epsom Derby to Sinndar and Sakhee. Beat Hollow is trained by Bobby Frankel.
Suances has not started in 21 months, but won his last six starts prior to the extended layoff. He is trained by Darrell Vienna.
The field for the race from the rail is:
1. Designed For Luck (Victor Espinosa),
2. Northcote Road (Larry Melancon),
3. Fan Club's Mister (Frank Lovato Jr.),
4. Beat Hollow (Alex Solis),
5. Candid Glen (E.J. Perrodin),
6. Even The Score (Lonnie Meche),
7. Mystery Giver (Eddie Martin Jr.),
8. Hap (Pat Day),
9. Pisces (Roger Velez),
10. North East Bound (Richard Migliore),
11. Sarafan (Corey Nakatani),
12. Suances (David Flores),
13. Full Of Wonder (Willie Martinez), and
14. Chorwon (Robby Albarado).
First post Sunday is 12:30 p.m. CST. The Explosive Bid is the eighth race on the card, with approximate post at 4 p.m. The race will be televised on a tape-delay basis by ESPN2 as part of its "2Day at the Races" telecast at 5 p.m.