Last season, Calumet Farm's Skyring ran two of the best races of his career over the Stall-Wilson turf course at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. On Feb. 21 the 6-year-old son of English Channel returns with a new trainer, and his connections' hopes that he can ace the $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT), a race in which he finished second in 2014.
The Fair Grounds Handicap goes as the ninth of 12 races on Louisiana Derby Preview Day presented by Lamarque Ford, and is the final prep for the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT), which Skyring won last year.
Skyring has not won in three starts since the Muniz. He finished 10th in the May 3 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs, came back from a layup Nov. 28 with a seventh in the Seabiscuit Handicap (gr. IIT) at Del Mar, and was fifth in the Jan. 3 San Gabriel Stakes (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita Park. Since leaving the shedrow of D. Wayne Lukas he went first to Calumet Farm trainer Jose Fernandez and finally to Neil Drysdale, who gave the assignment to Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
Skyring breaks from post 10 of 11 in the 1 1/8-mile grass test and carries 117 pounds.
Shortleaf Stable's Kenny McPeek-trained Trace Creek exits a career-best performance when second to Coalport in the John B. Connally Turf Cup (gr. IIIT) at Sam Houston Race Park Jan. 24. The 5-year-old son of Harperstown will be ridden by Chris Landeros from the 8 hole.
Skyring and Trace Creek's major competition could come from two charges exiting the Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap (gr. IIIT) Jan. 17 at Fair Grounds. Gainesway Stable's David Carroll trainee Villandry, the 118-pound highweight, will try to make amends for his dull sixth-place finish as the 2-1 betting choice and return to the form that saw him impressively take Churchill's River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) Nov. 8. Florent Geroux rides from post 2.
Gary and Mary West's Highball finished a gaining third in the Bradley after a belated bid had him fall 1 1/4 lengths short of victorious String King. The son of Lemon Drop Kid has been working well and sports three stakes placings in eight career starts. He signaled his readiness with a sharp five furlong breeze in a bullet 1:00 4/5 Feb. 13. Shaun Bridgmohan has the return call from the same post 3 from which they broke in the Bradley—except this time they have an extra sixteenth of a mile to get it done.
Earlier on the card, Ike and Dawn Thrash and Sam and Janet Alley's multiple graded stakes-winning filly Istanford kicks off her 2015 campaign in the $60,000 Bayou Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the Stall-Wilson turf course.
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Saturday, February 21, 2015, Race 9 Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Saturday, February 21, 2015, Race 7
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Glenard (GB) James Graham 115 H. Graham Motion - 2 2Villandry (KY) Florent Geroux 118 David M. Carroll - 3 3Highball (KY) Shaun Bridgmohan 113 Wayne M. Catalano - 4 4Chocolate Ride (KY) Jesus Lopez Castanon 112 Brad H. Cox - 5 5Pyrite Mountain (ON) Rafael Bejarano 115 Todd A. Pletcher - 6 6Quadrivium (KY) Forest Boyce 114 H. Graham Motion - 7 7Golden Soul (KY) Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 113 Dallas Stewart - 8 8Trace Creek (AR) Chris Landeros 117 Kenneth G. McPeek - 9 9Daddy's Kid (KY) Xavier Perez 115 Reid Nagle - 10 10Skyring (KY) Mike E. Smith 117 Neil D. Drysdale - 11 11Dreams Cut Short (KY) Miguel Mena 114 Michael J. Maker -
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Notte d'Oro (KY) James Graham 123 Michael Stidham - 2 2Synapse (KY) Richard E. Eramia 117 Andrew Leggio, Jr. - 3 3Compelling Case (IL) Robby Albarado 119 Richard R. Scherer - 4 4Istanford (FL) Rafael Bejarano 117 Michael Stidham - 5 5Nice Number (KY) Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 117 Brad H. Cox - 6 6Samiam (KY) Kerwin D. Clark 117 William B. Van Meter - 7 7Hung the Moon (KY) Miguel Mena 117 Michael Stidham - 8 8Stoupinator (KY) Marcelino Pedroza 117 Hugh H. Robertson - 9 9Eden Prairie (KY) Florent Geroux 121 Neil L. Pessin -
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Saturday, February 21, 2015, Race 9
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Saturday, February 21, 2015, Race 7