By Ryan Martin —-
NEW ORLEANS (February 9, 2018) – Twelve fillies and mares will go into line for the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ Fat Tuesday feature – the $75,000 Mardi Gras Stakes, which is run at 5 ½ furlongs over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course.
Slated as the 8-5 morning line favorite by Fair Grounds clocker and odds maker Mike Diliberto, Finley’sluckycharm will make her 5-year-old debut in the Mardi Gras for trainer Bret Calhoun who won this race in 2013 with Cozze Up Lady Last year, the daughter of Twirling Candy put together a solid campaign which included triumphs in a trio of Churchill Downs stakes events – the Roxelana Overnight Stakes (Apr. 27), the Gr. III Winning Colors Stakes (May 27) and the Gr. III Chicago Handicap (Jun 24). Next out, she was narrowly beaten by seven-time graded stakes winner Paulassilverlining in the Gr. II Honorable Miss Stakes at Saratoga before scoring another graded stakes win in Keeneland’s Gr. II Thoroughbred Club of America on Oct. 7. Her most recent effort came in the Gr. I Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, where she was a well-beaten ninth. Finley’sluckycharm boasts nine lifetime victories in 13 career starts, but will be making her first start on grass in the Mardi Gras Stakes.
“It gives us good spacing between this spot and the next,” Calhoun said. “She’s ready. There was ($50,000 Nelson J. Menard Memorial Stake, Mar. s) the second weekend of March, but this race came up at the right time. I had this race in mind for a while, but I wanted to give her a couple of works before I decided and she worked great.”
She will break from the seven hole under jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr.
Meanwhile trainer Joe Sharp, Calhoun’s stepson, sends out Brad Grady’s Triple Chelsea who will be seeking another stakes victory over the Fair Grounds lawn after a win in the Jan. 6 Pan Zareta Stakes. Sharp claimed the 5-year-old daughter of Hat Trick (Jpn.) in September of last year from former conditioner Tony Granitz. Since switching to her current trainer she has never missed the board in three career starts. Prior to her Pan Zareta triumph, Tiple Chelsea was beaten a head behind Clairenation in an allowance event at Keeneland and was third behind Chanteline in the Richie Scherer Memorial Stakes on Dec. 2. Triple Chelsea gave jockey Adam Beschizza his first American victory when she won the Pan Zareta, and the two will team up once more when she breaks from post five at morning line odds of 5-1.
“She’s doing great,” Sharp said. “I didn’t really have any excuses for the race she ran in the start before, but she came back and showed that she knows where the wire is and likes to win. It seems like whenever she gets in trouble like she did the last time it kind of engages her and makes her more competitive. It’s a good full field so hopefully the weather cooperates and the race stays on the grass. Obviously my step dad has Finley’sluckycharm and she’s a really nice filly so hopefully the turf is the equalizer for us.”
Second to Triple Chelsea in the Pan Zareta last time out was Contributing (post two, Florent Geroux, 6-1). Owned by Heider Family Stables LLC, the 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro was a first out winner when breaking her maiden at Laurel Park in October 2016 and beat winners over the Delaware Park lawn three starts later before returning to victory at Laurel Park once more in October last year. Contributing then finished second beaten a half-length behind Rapid Rhythm before her second in the Pan Zareta for trainer Tom Proctor.
Also representing the Proctor barn is Glen Hill Farm’s Compelled (post six, Corey Lanerie, 8-1). The 4-year-old daughter of War Front has never finished off the board in seven career starts, which include two wins, two seconds and three thirds. Compelled broke her maiden at third asking over the Laurel Park turf and then faced Florida-bred stakes company in the Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park West. If Compelled wishes to keep her consistency alive, she will have to overcome a long layoff as she has not raced since a runner-up effort in the Hilltop Stakes at Pimlico in May , where she was beaten by multiple stakes winner Happy Mesa.
Rounding out the field of fillies and mares are Excessivespending (post one, Colby Hernandez, 12-1), Go Kart (Ire.) (post 3, James Graham, 30-1), Some Say So (post four, Jack Gilligan, 30-1), Justa Lady (post eight, Shaun Bridgmohan, 6-1), Sweetbaby (post nine, Joe Bravo, 30-1), Burma Road (post ten, Calvin Borel, 8-1), Luvin Bullies (post 11, Marcelino Pedroza, 20-1) and Touch of Bling (post 12, Miguel Mena, 20-1).
Wheatfield (Jose Valdivia, Jr., 8-1), Delicate Lady (Mitchell Murrill, 20-1) and A Fashion Affair (Jose Riquelme, 30-1) are on the also eligible list.
Photos Courtesy of Hodges Photography