Bour­geois en­joy­ing big meet

Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition - - News - By Bob For­tus

NEW OR­LEANS – For the first time, Louisiana trainer Keith Bour­geois has a win­ter base at Fair Grounds, and he’s on pace for one of his most suc­cess­ful meets here.

“I like it here, not just be­cause I’m hav­ing a good meet,” said Bour­geois, 53, who lives in Lafayette, La., and un­til this sea­son would send his run­ners by van to New Or­leans.

Through Thurs­day’s races, Bour­geois had won with 13 of 42 starters (31 per­cent) and ranked sixth in the trainer stand­ings. His in-the-money rate was 55 per­cent.

Bour­geois still re­lies to some ex­tent on ship­ping. He is keep­ing 13 horses in his Fair Grounds barn, over­seen by his 23-yearold son, Grant Bour­geois, and an­other 27 horses at Delta Downs, where as­sis­tant Becky LeBlanc over­sees the barn. Horses will travel from one track to an­other to run in ap­pro­pri­ate races.

“My son stays here full time,” Bour­geois said. “He gal­lops. He runs the barn. Hav­ing him, I can keep the horses here full time.”

Bour­geois, who has 2,323 ca­reer vic­to­ries, first won at Fair Grounds in 1988. His sea­son high for wins at Fair Grounds is 22, from 195 starters, in 1999-2000. His vic­tory to­tal this sea­son is his high­est at Fair Grounds since he won 14 races from 70 starters in 2008-2009.

Years ago, Bour­geois was a fix­ture among the lead­ing train­ers at Fair Grounds. He fin­ished in the top 10 in the stand­ings here for seven con­sec­u­tive meets, from 1995-96 through 2001-2002. Dur­ing that span, he av­er­aged 168 starts per meet.

Then he be­came much less ac­tive at Fair Grounds and more ac­tive at Delta Downs. Af­ter mak­ing 91 starts at the 2002-2003 Fair Grounds meet, Bour­geois had seven New Or­leans meets in which he made no more than 25 starts. Slots-en­hanced purses at Delta Downs drew him there.

“When the casino came to Delta, we just started run­ning a lot there,” Bour­geois said. “Delta got [slot ma­chines] first, and then Evangeline got them.”

Slots came to Delta Downs in 2002. Slots didn’t come to Fair Grounds un­til 2008.

Bour­geois, who runs mainly a claim­ing op­er­a­tion, has been win­ning at a steady clip at Delta and Evangeline for many years. Na­tion­ally, he has fin­ished in the top 50 in trainer wins 12 times since 2000. His best na­tional fin­ish was 10th in 2009, when he reached sin­gle-year bests for wins, 192, and purse earn­ings, $3.52 mil­lion.

Af­ter this meet, Bour­geois said, he in­tends to have a string of horses at Churchill Downs for the first time. He and his son will go there, and LeBlanc will over­see the sta­ble’s horses at Evangeline Downs.

Al­lowance might im­pact Risen Star

Six 3-year-olds run­ning a mile and 70 yards Sun­day in a first-level op­tional $50,000 claimer have a chance to demon­strate whether they be­long on the path to the Louisiana Derby.

“Who­ever wins it or runs se­cond will prob­a­bly run back in the Risen Star,” said Larry Jones, who trains Jensen, who will be try­ing two turns for the first time in the race.

The Grade 2 Risen Star, the fi­nal stakes prep for the $1 mil­lion, Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, will be run Feb. 20. The Louisiana Derby will be run March 26.

The $41,000 race Sun­day didn’t draw an en­trant at the $50,000 op­tional-claim­ing price.

The likely fa­vorite is Har­lan Punch, who hasn’t raced since fin­ish­ing third, five lengths be­hind win­ner Ex­ag­ger­a­tor, in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jack­pot on Nov. 21. Har­lan Punch, who has won 1 of 3 starts, fin­ished se­cond in the Jean Lafitte at Delta Downs in his se­cond start.

Trainer Tom Amoss said he thinks Har­lan Punch will ap­pre­ci­ate mov­ing from the bull­ring at Delta Downs to the mile track at Fair Grounds.

“I think he’s a nice horse,” Amoss said. “He’s a big, strongly made horse. I don’t think he’s a horse for Delta.”

Amoss al­ready is on the Louisiana Derby trail with Mo Tom, who won the first Louisiana Derby stakes prep, the Grade 3 Le­comte, on Jan. 16. The trainer wouldn’t spec­u­late about whether Har­lan Punch might join Mo Tom in the Risen Star.

“This race is the only thing in my mind right now,” Amoss said.

Dol­phus, trained by Joe Sharp, was set to run in the Le­comte but reared in the start­ing gate, got loose briefly, and was scratched. If the $50,000 Keith Gee Me­mo­rial on Sun­day is switched from turf to dirt, Sharp would run Dol­phus in that race in­stead of this one.

A Lookin At Lucky colt who is a half­brother of Rachel Alexandra, Dol­phus has won 1 of 2 starts. He fin­ished third at this level and dis­tance, four lengths be­hind win­ner Pin­na­cle Peak, on Dec. 18.

Con­cern­ing whether this race might lead to the Risen Star for Dol­phus, Sharp said: “It just de­pends how he comes out of it. He hasn’t had what I’d call a stren­u­ous cam­paign to this point. He’s a pretty fresh horse.”

Jensen, a Hay­nes­field colt, ral­lied past maidens to win at six fur­longs Jan. 10.

Jones said he thinks Jensen will ben­e­fit from stretch­ing out.

“That’s what pedi­gree says he’s sup­posed to do,” Jones said.

The other horses are Spikes Shirl, a Dal­las Ste­wart trainee who lost by a neck to Tizno­ble in a mile race at this level Dec. 28; Texas Jam­bal­aya, a Terry Eoff trainee com­ing off a fourth-place fin­ish in the seven-fur­long Big Drama on Jan. 9 at Delta Downs; and Royal Ram­son, a maiden trained by Danny Pish.

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