(Edited press release)
Seven graded stakes winners, including grade I winner Square Eddie , lead the list of 93 early-bird nominations to the $600,000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II), the headline event of Fair Grounds’ 137th season March 14, 2009.
Square Eddie, trained by Doug O’Neill for owner J. Paul Reddam, won the Oct. 4 Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland then came back three weeks later to finish second in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park. Square Eddie has $736,000 in graded stakes earnings, which would virtually assure the son of Smart Strike a spot in the 2009 Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
One of the early-bird nominees currently stabled at Fair Grounds is Fox Hill Farms’ Old Fashioned, trained by Larry Jones. Old Fashioned arrived at Fair Grounds earlier this month after a 7 1/2-length victory in the Nov. 29 Remsen (gr. II) at Aqueduct, his third win in as many starts.
Another grade II winner from that same day, Beethoven, is also among the early nominees. Beethoven captured the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) at Churchill Downs for the owner-trainer combination of John Oxley and John Ward.
Other graded stakes winners among the early-bird nominees include Azul Leon, another O’Neill trainee who won the Hollywood Juvenile (gr. III) in July; Southern Equine Stables’ Elusive Bluff, who is a perfect 2- for-2 after winning the Pilgrim (gr. III) at Belmont Park in October; Screen Your Friend, who won the Bashford Manor (gr. III) at Churchill for trainer Bernard Flint in July and is entered in the Dec. 20 Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds; and Adele Dilschneider’s Terrain, who was placed first after a double disqualification in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. III) at Arlington Park in September.
Nine other nominees are graded stakes-placed, including the Richard Violette-trained Cribnote, another Jones trainee; Friesan Fire ; the Chris Block-trained Giant Oak; and Mark Casse trainee Stimulus Plan.
Early-bird nominees are nominated to all three races in the Louisiana Derby Series. In addition to the Louisiana Derby, the series includes the $100,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 10 and the $200,000 Risen Star Stakes (gr.III) Feb. 7.