Part of Louisiana Derby day at the New Orleans track (four grade II races and purses of more than $2 million), the Mervyn Muniz features older runners going 1 1/8 miles on the turf. The race has drawn a field of 10, with Daytona listed as the 121-pound high weight. Bobby Frankel trainee Proudinsky and the Cam Gambolati-trained Buffalo Man, both carrying 117 pounds, seem most likely to take down the probable favorite.
Proudinsky, owned by Gary Tanaka, was second to Daytona last time out in the San Gabriel and missed that victory by just three-quarters of a length. Prior to the San Gabriel, the 5-year-old son of Silvano was third behind Langfield in the Citation Handicap (gr. IT) after back-to-back wins in the Bay Meadows Derby (gr. IIIT) and a one-mile allowance event at Santa Anita. He was bred in Germany by Dr. R Wilhelms out of the Dashing Blade mare Proudeyes and turned in a five furlong drill at Hollywood Park March 2 in preparation for the Mervyn Muniz, going the distance in 1:00.20.
Appleton Handicap (gr. IIIT) winner Buffalo Man may take a step up in class after his half-length score at Gulfstream Park Jan. 27. The 4-year-old El Prado colt, bred in Ontario by Adena Springs out of the Saratoga Six mare Perfect Six, improved in his last two starts with the Appleton victory and a runner-up effort in the Pete Axthelm Stakes at Calder. Previously, he threw in an uncharacteristic seventh-place finish in Aqueduct’s Discovery Handicap (gr. IIIT) Nov. 24.
Trainer Marty Wolfson will saddle Elusive Fort, who was closing ground on Buffalo Man in the Appleton. The 6-year-old Fort Wood runner, bred in South Africa by F. M. Ratner and L.M. Salzman out of the Secret Prospector mare Ever Seeking, is making only his third start in North America after racing to seven wins – including three group I victories – overseas. Winner of the South African Derby (SAF-I), Elusive Fort was fifth in his first North American race, a one-mile allowance at Gulfstream Jan. 11, after getting bumped hard on the first turn.
Also of interest is the Dale Romans-trained Yate’s Black Cat, a 5-year-old son of Black Minnaloushe. Bred in Kentucky by Jim Gallagher out of the Slewacide mare Dazzle, Yate’s Black Cat has been a hard-knocking contender for the partnership of Crawford, Wachtel, Brous and Robinette, turning in a 4-4-2 record from 19 starts. Although two of his four victories have come over the 1 1/8-mile distance, he’s still seeking his first graded win.
Brilliant, French Beret, Fracas, Jazz Quest, and Twilight Meteor complete the field.
$500,000 Mervyn Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT, race 7, approximate post 3:36 p.m.). 1 1/8-miles, older horses, turf