After dominating eight other starters in the Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap (gr. IIIT) Jan. 26 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Optimizer will try for a second straight win on the Stall-Wilson Course in the Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT) Feb. 23.
Following off-the-board finishes in all three Triple Crown races last season, Optimizer hit his stride when switched to turf last summer by Racing Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. The English Channel colt registered an allowance victory at Saratoga before dominating the Kent Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Delaware Park with a 4 1/4-length victory.
A homebred for Brad Kelley's Bluegrass Hall, Optimizer opened the 2013 season with another impressive victory, taking the 1 1/16-mile Bradley by 3 1/2 lengths. Optimizer is the 3-1 morning-line favorite as he stretches out to 1 1/8 miles in the Fair Grounds. Out of the A. P. Indy mare Indy Pick, Optimizer has won four of his 20 races, with four other placings, for earnings of $536,942.
Awaiting Optimizer will be grade II winner Willcox Inn, who enters off a third-place finish in the John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes (gr. IIIT) in his 5-year-old seasonal debut Jan. 26 at Sam Houston Race Park. The Harlan's Holiday horse has won three stakes including the 2011 American Derby (gr. IIT) at Arlington Park.
Lael Stable's and All In Stable's Willcox Inn has won five of 15 career starts, with five other placings, for earnings of $683,443. Bred in Kentucky by John Chandler, Willcox Inn is out of the Gone West mare De Aar.
The Fair Grounds serves as a prep for the $400,000 Mervin H. Muniz Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) on Louisiana Derby Day, March 30.
$150,000 Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 7, approximate post 3:25 p.m. CST), 4YO & Up, 1 1/8 miles (Turf; rail at 15 feet)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Major Gain (KY), J. Graham, 112, L. Roussel III
2. Strike Impact (KY), S. Bridgmohan, 115, P. Dupuy
3. Willcox Inn (KY), J. Lezcano, 119, M. Stidham
4. Unlatch (KY), B. Hernandez Jr., 114, A. Stall Jr.
5. Bim Bam (FL), R. Eramia, 115, S. Asmussen
6. Two Months Rent (KY), R. Napravnik, 114, J. Toner
7. Optimizer (KY), J. Court, 120, D. Lukas
8. Quality Control (Brz), L. Goncalves, 112, T. Amoss
9. Hyper (KY), G. Stevens, 114, C. Brown
10. Cavalero (KY), 113, M. Guidry, W. Catalano
11. Macho Bull (KY), I. Diego, 111, G. Dorochenko
12. Golden Yank (KY), M. Mena, 113, G. Thomas