Woodchopper winner Jimmy Simms should be the pacesetter in the Fair Grounds Handicap.

Woodchopper winner Jimmy Simms should be the pacesetter in the Fair Grounds Handicap.

Lou Hodges Jr.

Back Class, Pace Figure in FG 'Cap

Highweights Demarcation, French Beret have their work cut out for them.

The field that has passed the entry box for the Feb. 7 Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT) makes for an intriguing handicapping puzzle. The cast, which is about evenly split with horses making their first start off a layoff and those with some recent Fair Grounds experience, is long on back class, but a bit light on early pace.

The race, for older horses going nine furlongs on the turf, is slated to go off at approximately 3:25 p.m. CST and is the second graded stakes on a six-stakes program highlighted by the Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) for Triple Crown hopefuls.

Figuring to dictate the early pace is the Steve Asmussen-trained Jimmy Simms. An off-the-pace winner of the Dec. 20 Woodchopper Stakes at about a mile on the turf at Fair Grounds for 3-year-olds, the son of Lost Soldier went wire-to-wire twice on the turf in Canada at Woodbine last fall. A bullet six furlong work Jan. 26 figures to have him sharp for the Fair Grounds Handicap. The 4-year-old races for Elisabeth H. Alexander and Burr J. Travis.

Should Jimmy Simms get leg-weary inside the eighth pole, there are host of strong closers that could run him down, including 120-pound co-highweights French Beret and Demarcation.

Sam-Son Farms’ homebred French Beret, a gelding by Broad Brush—Misty Mission, by Miswaki, rallied from 10 lengths off the pace to win the Jan. 10 Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap (under 118 pounds) by a nose. Trained by Mark Frostad and also based in Canada, French Beret placed in two graded efforts there last summer and also finished sixth, beaten just 2 1/2 lengths in the Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (Can-I). The 6-year-old is no stranger to the Fair Grounds layout, boasting a 2-2-1 slate over the turf in seven starts.

Demarcation, owned by John and Jerry Amerman’s Amerman Racing Stables, also has a pair of wins over the turf in New Orleans to his credit. He has not been out since winning the Nov. 22 River City Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs in a dead-heat. He also ran a good third in the $150,000 Sea O Erin Handicap going a mile last summer at Arlington Park.

Demarcation, a son of Gulch, out of the Boundary mare Devine Line, was bred Kentucky by Canard Investments.

If current form counts, then label Charlotte Musgrave’s Diamond Tycoon a contender. The 5-year-old son of Johannesburg—Palacoona, by Last Tycoon sports back-to-back wins at Fair Grounds this meet. Both wins, at about 1 1/16 miles, came while storming from the back of the pack. The Andrew McKeever-trained runner has made just four starts in the U.S. since shipping from England. In the spring of 2007 he ran ninth of 24 in Cockney Rebel’s Stanjamesuk.com Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I).

Entered for the main track only is Northwestern Stable’s Brothers Nicholas, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Louie Roussel III. The son of leading sire Smart Strike has not started since a fourth-place finish in the Oct. 25 Fayette Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland and only has a pair of published works under his belt in 2009.

Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT), $125,000, 4-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles, approximate post 3:25 CST.
PP – Horse – Wgt. - Jockey
1 - Jimmy Simms - 117 - Shaun Bridgmohan
2 - Sidcup - 117 - Jesse M. Campbell
3 - French Beret - 120 - Gelding - James Graham
4 - Corrupt - 118 - Robby Albarado
5 - Windward Islands - 118 - Corey J. Lanerie
6 - Diamond Tycoon - 116 - Julien R. Leparoux
7 - My Happiness - 114 - Edgar S. Prado
8 - Demarcation - 120 - Jesus Lopez Castanon
MTO - Brothers Nicholas - 115 - James Graham