New Orleans H. (gr. II)

(gr. II , 9f ,)

CIRCULAR QUAY (CH h, 116 lb) $300,000
Thunder Gulch —Circle of Life , by Belong to Me
B—Doreen Tabor, KY.; O—Tabor, Michael B. and Doreen; T—Todd A. Pletcher

Grasshopper (DK B/ h, 119 lb) $100,000
Dixie Union —Grass Skirt , by Mr. Prospector
B—James Elkins, KY.; O—Farish, William S., Hudson, Jr., E. J. and Estate of James A. Elkins, Jr.; T—Neil J. Howard

Reporting for Duty (CH h, 115 lb) $50,000
Deputy Commander —Expanse , by Distant View
B—James Devaney, KY.; O—Zollars, Cathy and Bob; T—Steven M. Asmussen

Margins: neck, 4¼, 4. Others: Brass Hat 117($20,000) , Magna Graduate 117($10,000) , Silver Lord 116 . Winning Jockey, Garrett K. Gomez.

When the big-blazed face of Circular Quay, blinkered for the first time, crossed the wire first after a riveting battle down the Fair Grounds stretch in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II), it marked his first win since the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) last year at the same track. He was the fourth horse in Fair Grounds history to win the two signature events in back-to-back years. Circular Quay won the $480,000 New Orleans by a game neck in a sharp 1:49.80 for the nine furlongs.

A 4-year-old son of Thunder Gulch, Circular Quay has always been highly regarded. His 2-year-old season was highlighted by authoritative wins in the Hopeful (gr. I) and Bashford Manor (gr. III) Stakes. Runner-up finishes in the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) and Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) cemented his appeal on the Triple Crown trail.

Circular Quay’s sophomore campaign netted the Louisiana Derby victory as his only on-the-board finish in five graded starts that included two classic stops and a grass foray.

Nearly seven months of freshening followed. Circular Quay came back to the races in February sprinting over Santa Anita’s synthetic track in the San Carlos Handicap (gr. II). The Todd Pletcher trainee finished fifth of seven that day.

“He turned it on (in the New Orleans),” said Brian Cotter, assistant manager at Creekview Farm near Paris, Ky. “It’s nice to get him back where he was.”

Creekview is the site used by Coolmore’s Ashford Stud for a large number of mares and foals. Cotter confirmed Circle of Life, dam of Circular Quay, is one of the mares kept at Creekview.

“She’s a fine mare, very good-looking,” said Cotter. “All her foals have been good-looking.”

And they can run. In addition to four-time graded winner Circular Quay, the 11-year-old Belong to Me mare has produced The Roundhouse, a 3-year-old son of Fusaichi Pegasus. His four 2007 starts included placings in the Saratoga Special (gr. II) and Sanford Stakes (gr. II) for Michael Tabor.

Circle of Life has a 2-year-old colt by Fusaichi Pegasus, a yearling filly by Giant’s Causeway, and is currently in foal and due soon with a full sibling to Circular Quay. Cotter said her 2008 mate has yet to be decided.

Purchased as a 2-year-old at the Fasig-Tipton Florida March sale for $700,000 by Demi O’Byrne for Tabor, Circle of Life won the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I). Circular Quay races as a homebred for Tabor and his wife, Doreen, although he was officially bred solely by Doreen and marked her first grade I winner as a breeder.

Tabor, an English-based businessman, also raced Thunder Gulch, winner of the 1995 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) the year he was named champion 3-year-old male. Tabor partners with John Magnier, master of globally influential Coolmore, on a number of horse-related ventures.

Thunder Gulch is the sire of Circular Quay and 62 other stakes winners, including additional 2008 added-money winners Nite Light and Delbrae (in Australia). Thunder Gulch stands at Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky., where his 2008 fee is $20,000.—J.W.