Two horses coming out of the Donn Handicap (gr. I) will go to post as the highweights in the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap (gr. II). The 116-pound co-highweights for the 1 1/8-mile race are Kiss a Native, who finished third in the Donn but was moved up to second following the disqualification of Red Bullet, and eighth-place finished Graeme Hall.
John Franks' Kiss a Native earned $95,000 in the Donn to push his career earnings over $1 million. He utilized the Ft. Lauderdale Handicap (gr. IIIT) as a prep for the Donn after winning the Fred W. Hooper Handicap (gr. III) in his final start as a 4-year-old. His lone career grade II win came in a five-length romp in the 2000 Pegasus Handicap. The William White-trained gelding starts from post-position seven under Cornelio Velasquez.
Eugene and Laura Melnyk's three-time grade II winner Graeme Hall made his first start of the year in the Donn for trainer Todd Pletcher and may show improvement in his second start following a 2 1/2-month layoff. John Velazquez will ride the 5-year-old son of Dehere in Sunday's race.
Graeme Hall is one of two horses in the field to have won the Arkansas Derby on the track. Locally based Valhol won the 1999 renewal while still a maiden but was later disqualified when it was alleged that jockey Billy Patin possessed an illegal electrical device, also known as a "buzzer," in the 4 1/2-length victory. Valhol has since won three stakes races for owner James Jackson and trainer Dallas Keen, with all three stakes wins coming at Fair Grounds, including last month's 2 1/2-length win in the Whirlaway Handicap. Valhol finished third in last year's New Orleans Handicap, behind Include and Nite Dreamer.
"He's been sharp since he's gotten here," Keen said. "The only advantage he might have over those shippers is the way he has run on this track. I've seen plenty of top names ship in here for big races and not get anything because of the long stretch."
Whirlaway runner-up Parade Leader returns in Sunday's race. The 5-year-old full brother of multiple graded stakes winner Parade Ground and Godolphin's Triple Crown nominee King's Consul hasn't won a stakes race since the Princeton Stakes in September of 2000. Corey Lanerie will guide Parade Leader from post nine.
The field for the New Orleans Handicap, with jockeys and weights, will consist of:
1 -- Oak Hall, Kirk Paul LeBlanc, 110
2 -- Valhol, Robby Albarado, 115
3 -- San Pedro, Ray Sibille, 113
4 -- Graeme Hall, John Velazquez, 116
5 -- Lord Jim, Craig Perret, 112
6 -- Keats, Larry Melancon, 110
7 -- Kiss a Native, Cornelio Velasquez, 116
8 -- Fight for Ally, Willie Martinez, 111
9 -- Parade Leader, Corey Lanerie, 113