By Ryan Martin —-
NEW ORLEANS (January 10, 2018) – While the featured event on the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ Road to the Derby Kickoff Day presented by Hotel Monteleone on Saturday, Jan. 13 is the Grade III $200,000 LeComte Stakes for Gr. I Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve aspirants, the 3-year-old fillies will be able to prepare for their hopeful start in the Gr. I Longines Kentucky Oaks in the $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes. The mile-and-70-yard event will be run on the main track and is first of three local preps on Churchill Downs’ Road To The Kentucky Oaks, which awards the Top 4 finishers based off of a 10-4-2-1 scale.
The Silverbulletday drew a field of 12 3-year-old fillies and is headlined by the Mark Casse-trained pair of graded stakes winners Wonder Gadot and Heavenly Love, both of which have already earned 10 points on the Road To The Kentucky Oaks. Owned by Gary Barber, Wonder Gadot has been cross-entered in the Lecomte Stakes against the boys but will likely opt to face her female counterpart in the Silverbulletday, where she will break from post two and is slated as the 2-1 morning-line favorite by Fair Grounds odds maker Mike Diliberto. The Ontario-bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro won the Gr. II Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct on Dec. 2 by 3¾ lengths last out and earned 10 points on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard for said victory. Wonder Gadot’s career debut took place in her native Canada over the Woodbine turf in a seven-furlong allowance race, which she won by four lengths. She returned to the Toronto oval in her next start where she finished third in the Gr. I Natalma Stakes on Sept. 17 and was beaten three-quarters of a length. Following that, she switched surfaces to run over Woodbine’s Polytrack in the Gr. III Mazarine Stakes, which she won by six lengths before a sixth-place finish in the Gr. I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez was aboard for her last victory in the Demoiselle and is named the rider in both races she is entered.
Also representing the Casse barn in the Silverbulletday Stakes is Debby Oxley’s Heavenly Love who breaks from post seven as the 3-1 second choice under Julien Leparoux. The daughter of Malibu Moon will be looking to rebound after a well-beaten 11th in last year’s Gr. I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. In her prior start however, she earned 10 points on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard when she won Keeneland’s Gr. I Darley Alcibiades by 5½ lengths after a five-length maiden win at second asking over the turf at Kentucky Downs, where she defeated fellow Silverbulletday entrant America’s Tale (post six, Brian Hernandez, Jr., 8-1).
Perhaps the biggest threat to Casse’s graded stakes-winning duo is Blonde Bomber the third-place finisher in last year’s Gr. I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she came from well off the pace to complete the trifecta at odds of 30-1. Owned by Arindel Farm, the Florida-bred daughter of Fort Larned will break from the rail at odds of 7-2 under Jose Lezcano for trainer Stanley Gold. Blonde Bomber broke her maiden fifth time out at her home base of Gulfstream Park by 4½ lengths on Sept. 2 and romped by 7¼ lengths next out in the Our Dear Peggy Stakes over the South Florida oval defeating stakes winner Homemade Salsa.
Naveed Chowhan’s America’s Tale takes a step up in class after two emphatic wins for trainer Bernie Flint. The daughter of Gio Ponti’s last two races were scored by big margins when she broke her maiden over a fast main track at Churchill Downs in wire-to-wire fashion by 13¾ lengths. Next out, she won over a sloppy main track at the Fair Grounds by 8¾ lengths over Pink Oak Stud LLC’s Missive (post nine, Joe Bravo, 15-1). Hernandez was aboard for both efforts.
Completing the field are Laurel Park maiden winner Saguaro Row (post three, Corey Lanerie, 20-1), Stall-Wilson Turf Course maiden victor Remember Daisy (post four, Mitchell Murrill, 30-1), regally-bred Delaware Park maiden winner Stellar Moon (post five, Robby Albarado, 15-1), Evangeline Downs stakes winner Shes Our Fastest (post eight, Jose Valdivia, Jr., 20-1), Keeneland allowance winner Stronger Than Ever (post ten, Florent Geroux, 12-1), West Virginia-bred stakes winner Noblame (post 11, Adam Beschizza, 20-1), and graded stakes-placed Texas invader Terra’s Angel (post 12, Sasha Risenhoover, 30-1),
The Silverbulletday Stakes is named in honor of Mike Pegram’s multiple Eclipse Award-winning filly who captured the 1999 Kentucky Oaks for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The daughter of Silver Deputy prepped for her Oaks triumph at the Fair Grounds when she took the Gr. III Davona Dale (now known as the Gr. II Rachel Alexandra) as well as the Gr. III Fair Grounds Oaks. She was inducted into Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2009, the same year as her trainer.