Saturday, November 29, 2014

Barn Notes: Saturday, November 29



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Press Box: (504) 948-1255


Barn Notes:  Saturday, November 29, 2014                                                                                   

·        Canadian Champion, $1 Million Purchase Leigh Court to Stidham

·        Graham Starts Strong, Lands First Hat Trick of 2014-15 Meet

·        Fair Grounds Hosts Championship Handicapping Tournament





            Leigh Court, who was the Sovereign Award winner for champion Canadian 3-year-old filly of 2013 and who has won five stakes in her 12-race career is now in the care of veteran trainer Mike Stidham.  The daughter of Grand Slam was last seen on the racetrack finishing an even fifth in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint – a race in which she competed after having to be vanned from Woodbine in greater Toronto to Santa Anita Park in greater Los Angeles because of a reported refusal to load an  airplane.


            “She’s due in here (Sunday) and we’re very lucky to have her,” Stidham said.  “John Adger, who has been a friend and partner of ours in horses like Upperline, Willcox Inn and now Toutsie Rules, used to be the manager for Stonerside Farm and we have been associated with and training for him for 20 years.  He is friends with the new owner and recommended we train her.”


            Always well regarded, Leigh Court actually commenced her career at Fair Grounds in 2013, winning on debut despite leaving the gate belatedly and encountering trouble throughout the race under James Graham.  She would go on to win by 3¼ lengths and then prove her versatility while under the tutelage of Josie Carroll for breeder and owner Eugene Melnyk. 


Leigh Court reeled off wins in three sprint stakes – two on Polytrack in the Listed $125,000 Duchess Stakes and Grade III Seaway Stakes at Woodbine and one on dirt in the Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland prior to her Breeders’ Cup attempt – as well as going a turf mile in the Grade III Ontario Colleen at Woodbine.  Also valiant in defeat, the dark bay filly made all the running – setting a torrid :46.56 and 1:10.55 pace – in the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in Oct. 2013 before finishing fourth behind Grade I fillies Kitten’s Dumplings, Alterite and Caroline Thomas, while beaten only 1¼ lengths. 


Following the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 1 of this year, she was auctioned at The November Sale at Fasig-Tipton in Kentucky on Nov. 3 and sold for $1 million to Speedway Stables.


“She was bought as an eventual broodmare prospect, but she has a lot of good racing left in her and I’m honored they decided to send her to me,” Stidham continued. “She started her career here and I think maybe the weather was getting a little rough at the farm she’s at in Kentucky.  We’ll certainly be looking at stakes races at Keeneland with her in the spring and along the way we’ll get her ready and hopefully she can run here in New Orleans before then.”



Jockey James Graham has jumped to a not-so-unexpectedly auspicious start in the jockey colony at Fair Grounds Race Course for its 2014-15 season.  The Dublin native who has finished second in four of the last five seasons, including the last three behind the recently retired Rosie Napravnik, rode three winners on Friday’s card for three different trainers. 


Graham rode Kat Bite to victory for trainer James ‘Sweet’ Hodges in the second race, Toutsie Rules for longtime supporter Mike Stidham in the third and the nightcap on the Tom Amoss-conditioned Takemetoneworleans.  Impressively, Graham also finished second three times on the 10-race card.  The aforementioned 2-year-old filly Toutsie Rules is expected to make her next start in a stakes race as she is now 2-for-2 for Stidham and defeated fellow stakes-quality charge Lovely Maria in a spritely 1:10.78.


Through Friday’s card, Graham has taken an early lead in the standings with 10 victories in 39 starts to boast a 26% strike rate and 59% in the money.  Tied for second-place are Miguel Mena and apprentice Andre Ramgeet with seven scores, respectively.





On December 20, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots will play host to the Fair Grounds Championship, a handicapping tournament that will offer two paid berths to the 16th annual DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship on Jan. 23-25, 2015, at Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas.  Contest entries will cost $200 per entry and a $50 NHC Tour registration fee will be required of any player wishing to be eligible to win one of the available berths. 


Pre-registration began Nov. 20 and walk-up registrations will be taken until post time of the first contest race on Dec. 20.  Players can pre-register by calling Katherine at (504) 948-1230 or Lindsay at (504) 948-1171.  All players will need to provide a valid government-issued ID on the day of the contest to complete registration. 





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