Ria Antonia, adjudged winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) in her most recent start at Santa Anita Park, shipped into Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots Jan. 11 with a campaign designed to lead up to a start against male rivals in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) on Louisiana Derby Preview Day.
However, a start against fillies in Fair Grounds' Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III), also to be contested on that same Feb. 22 card, is increasingly being considered by her connections in lieu of the Risen Star. As of Jan. 30, Ron Paolucci—owner Loooch Racing Stable and manager of Ria Antonia's career along with trainer Jeremiah Englehart—was uncertain exactly what the future is for the 3-year-old Rockport Harbor filly.
"The weather down there is really putting a damper on our plans," said Paolucci. "We were on a tight schedule anyway, and when they closed the track for training again (Jan. 30) for a third day, we're even on a tighter schedule now.
"I realize we can't help what Mother Nature does, but we originally had her scheduled for six breezes before her next race on a Saturday-to-Saturday schedule, then it was five and now we might be down to four," Paolucci said. "It would cost me a lot of money to ship my filly somewhere else, but I can't hurt my filly if she's not ready in time. Our plans for her now have become more uncertain. We'll just have to see how she does on a day-to-day basis—at least for the next few days."
Christopher Dunn is also co-owner of Ria Antonia, a two-time winner from five starts as a 2-year-old with earnings of $1,156,140.
Meanwhile, with Brereton Jones's sophomore duo of Albano (Risen Star) and Divine Beauty (Rachel Alexandra) just 24 days away from their next assignments on Louisiana Derby Preview Day, trainer Larry Jones was taking the three lost days of training at Fair Grounds in his typical easygoing style.
"We're all good," said Jones speaking outside his tack room as sun finally began to warm the three straight nights of hard freezes in New Orleans. "Those big races are still so far away that we'll be all right with those two horses.
"In this business you have to learn to compensate," Jones said. "Everybody is in the same boat. It's the horses I have in this week that I'm a little worried about. I don't want them getting over there (to the starting gate) and acting all crazy. Those are the kinds of horses I'll have to keep an eye on. But for those big races coming up we should be okay."
Jones also has Brereton Jones's Same Cross entered for the $60,000 Happy Ticket Stakes Feb. 1, one of two stakes scheduled for the day. Same Cross worked Jan. 27 before the hard freeze set in, accomplishing five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 in preparation for the six-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares.
Also getting works that morning were several horses from trainer Steve Asmussen's barn, including Winchell Thoroughbreds' Gold Hawk, who breezed a half-mile in :50 1/5 in advance of the $400,000 Risen Star. The Asmussen-trained Tapiture, owned by Ron Winchell and winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) at last asking Nov. 30 at Churchill Downs, went six furlongs over the sloppy Fair Grounds main track in 1:13 flat.
Other Asmussen trainees on the Monday tab were Zayat Stables' Prayer for Relief, who went a half in :51 2/5 in preparation for the grade III Mineshaft Handicap on Louisiana Derby Preview Day and Cathy and Bob Zollars' Daddy Nose Best who got four furlongs in :51 4/5 in advance of a possible appearance in the Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT) over the Stall-Wilson turf course on that same afternoon.