Badge of Silver hopes to continue his winning ways in Saturday's New Orleans 'Cap.

Badge of Silver hopes to continue his winning ways in Saturday's New Orleans 'Cap.

AP/Equi-Photo, Bill Denver

$500,000 New Orleans Handicap Beckons Competitive Nine

A talented group of nine older horses--including seven graded stakes winners--will battle in Saturday's New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) at Fair Grounds with $500,000 on the line. Highweight Pollard's Vision, and second-highweighted Badge of Silver lead the group, but they'll have to contend with Arthur Hancock's Wanderin Boy, victorious over the track Feb. 12 in the Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III).

No stranger to the national stage, Edgewood Farm's Pollard's Vision will carry a millionaire's swagger into post 7 for conditioner Todd Pletcher. The 4-year-old son of Carson City was second-best to Wanderin Boy in the Mineshaft but has the class and the staying power to run with this group, and comes in off some solid works at the Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida.

Bred in Kentucky by Charles Smith, the dark bay or brown colt was a half-length winner in the Lone Star Derby (gr. III) in October to close the 2004 season, and lands the experienced hands of regular rider John Velazquez and an impost of 120 pounds for the trip.

Breaking out of the four hole will be Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Badge of Silver. The speedy son of Silver Deputy set a track record (nine furlongs in 1:48.57) at Gulfstream during a neck win over Dynever in the Hal's Hope Handicap (gr. III) Jan. 8, and posted a bullet work (6f, F, 1:12.40, H, 1/9) at Palm Meadows on Saturday to gear him up for the contest.

Bred in Kentucky by Liberation Farm, Oratis and Trackside Farm, the 5-year-old dark bay or brown horse scored over the Fair Grounds track in the 2003 Risen Star Stakes at age three. Badge of Silver gets two pounds less than Pollard's Vision, and Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey will be up for trainer Bobby Frankel.

Hancock's ultra-impressive homebred Wanderin Boy was thrilling in his stakes debut, driving to a 1-3/4-length score over Pollard's Vision in the Mineshaft (fellow entrant Alumni Hall was third). Born and raised at Hancock's Stone Farm, the front-running son of Seeking the Gold, out of the Pleasant Colony mare Vid Kid, posted a bullet himself March 5 at Gulfstream (5f, F, 1:00.0, H, 1/16) and should be gunning for the lead.

Conditioned by Nick Zito and ridden by Larry Melancon, aboard in the Mineshaft, Wanderin Boy will carry 115 from post eight.

Last year's Holy Bull (gr. III) winner Second of June is the youngest horse of the group, named aptly for the day of his foaling in 2001. The son of Louis Quatorze showed his mettle when he battled to the wire with Read the Footnotes in perhaps the most thrilling race of 2004, one he came out of injured and kept on the bench for more than 10 months.

Owned by Barbara Cesare, and bred in Florida by Lambholm and E. Fletcher, Second of June is making his third start off the long layoff and should get back to the class he certainly possesses. Eibar Coa gets the call for the trip from post 6.

Sunshine Millions winner Musique Toujours, with Gary Stevens aboard; Alumni Hall, by A.P. Indy with Robby Albarado in the irons; and the always-dangerous Limehouse, by Grand Slam, add to what looks like a stellar affair.

New Orleans Handicap (gr. II), 4-year-olds and upward, 1-1/8 miles, $500,000, 4:59 PM CST.

PP -- Horse, weight, jockey

1 -- Colonial Colony, 116, Rafael Bejarano
2 -- Freefourinternet, 115, Brice Blanc
3 -- Limehouse, 115 Ramon Dominguez
4 -- Badge of Silver, 118, Jerry Bailey
5 -- Musique Toujours, 115, Gary Stevens
6 -- Second of June, 115, Eibar Coa
7 -- Pollard's Vision, 120, John Velazquez
8 -- Wanderin Boy, 115, Larry Melancon
9 -- Alumni Hall, 116, Robby Albarado