Sweetnorthernsaint Slight 9-5 Choice for Monday's Grade III, $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap

(May 26, 2007) - Maryland-based 4-year-old gelding Sweetnorthernsaint, the favorite in last year's Kentucky Derby and runner-up to Bernardini in the Preakness Stakes, was made the 9-5 morning line favorite for Monday's Grade III, $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap after landing the outside stall in a compact but talented field of five older horses.

The 1 1/16-mile Lone Star Park Handicap anchors six consecutively-run stakes events that comprise Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie's ninth annual Lone Star Million. The special 11-race Memorial Day program, featuring prize money totaling $1,172,500, begins at 1:35 p.m. CT. The stakes action starts with Race 5 at 3:27 p.m. CT and concludes with the Lone Star Park Handicap at Race 10, which has a scheduled post time of 5:47 p.m. CT. An additional 50-cent, all-stakes Pick 4 has been added to the wagering menu and will cover Races 7-10.

All told, 43 horses, including 25 stakes winners, were entered Saturday for Monday's six stakes events. Together, they've won 184 races and almost $10 million (an average of $231,815 per horse). Nine entries are graded stakes winners, including each horse in the Lone Star Park Handicap.

Sweetnorthernsaint, scheduled to arrive in Texas on Sunday aboard an H.E. "Tex" Sutton Forwarding Co. charter flight, will be challenged by the Texas Mile one-two finishers, Silent Pleasure and Bob and John; Essex Handicap champ Jonesboro, who'll be ridden by Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel; and Real Dandy, the only locally-based starter from the barn of Lone Star Park's all-time leading trainer Steve Asmussen, who leads all trainers with 10 career Lone Star Million stakes wins.

The Randy Morse-trained Jonesboro, fourth in the Oaklawn Handicap last time out, was one of six Lone Star Million participants that arrived at 11:15 a.m. Friday following a flight from Kentucky. Silent Pleasure, owned and trained by Howard Scarberry, was checked into the Lone Star Park stable area at 8 p.m. Friday after a van ride from his Louisiana base. Bob and John, campaigned by Bob and Janice McNair and trained by Bob Baffert, was the lone runner aboard a California flight Saturday and checked into the stable area at noon.

Sweetnorthernsaint, trained by Michael Trombetta and to be ridden by Mario Pino, enters the Lone Star Park Handicap off a second-place finish to the Todd Pletcher-trained Master Command in the Grade III National Jockey Cub Handicap at Hawthorne on April 21.

"It was nice to know that Master Command wasn't going to be here," Trombetta quipped. "He's a very intimidating and nice animal. I think we have a couple of good challengers in Monday's race with the three of us weighted at 120 [pounds]. It ought to be an exciting time for all of us."

Rick Lee, Lone Star Park's track handicapper and morning line oddsmaker, said it was difficult to separate Sweetnorthernsaint, Bob and John, Silent Pleasure and Jonesboro.

"I really struggled with who to make the morning line favorite," Lee admitted. "Whenever I struggle, that tells me it's a great betting race. You can make a good case for four of the five in this field; it's outstanding. I think Sweenorthernsaint is the most recognizable horse off his romping win in the 2006 Illinois Derby, his second place finish behind Bernardini in the Preakness, and he was the favorite in last year's Kentucky Derby. He brings some really nice credentials into this race, including a nice stakes win at Laurel two races ago, and then he finished behind an exceptional horse in Master Command in the National Jockey Club Handicap at Hawthorne."

Despite Silent Pleasure's determined neck victory over Bob and John in the Grade III, $300,000 Texas Mile on April 28, Lee made the runner-up the 2-1 second choice. Silent Pleasure, who'll attempt to join Dixie Dot Com (2001) as a Texas Mile-Lone Star Park Handicap champ, is the early 3-1 third betting choice.

"That was a tough call to make," Lee said. "Bob and John has the strongest Ragozin Speed Figure in the race, so their devotees will probably be playing Bob and John. Also, the pace of the race favors Bob and John. Jonesboro will certainly shoot for the lead from his rail position. Silent Pleasure has good early speed. Sweetnorthernsaint is always close up. I think people looking at this race from a pace set-up . . . Bob and John will be their horse."

Trombetta said that, unlike last time in the National Jockey Club Handicap, Sweetnorthernsaint would likely sit just behind the early pacesetters on Monday.

"We had no choice at Hawthorne with the short field where we broke out of the one-hole," Trombetta said. "We kind of had to hustle things along there. In a perfect world, our horse likes to stalk a horse or two and run that way. But he's versatile enough that if there's a slow pace he'll press that along as well."

Here's the complete field, from the rail out, for the 11th running of the Lone Star Park Handicap (with jockey, trainer, assigned weight and morning line odds): Jonesboro (Calvin Borel, Randy Morse, 117, 9-2); Real Dandy (Luis Quinonez, Steve Asmussen, 114, 10-1); Bob and John (Garrett Gomez, Bob Baffert, 120, 2-1); Silent Pleasure (Tracy Hebert, Howard Scarberry, 120, 3-1); and Sweetnorthernsaint (Mario Pino, Michael Trombetta, 120, 9-5).

Together, the cast has won 28 of 94 starts and $3.2 million (an average of more than $640,000 per horse).


Bob and John's pilot Garrett Gomez, who led all jockeys in money-won last year with more than $20.1 million, also has the mount aboard the much-heralded 4-year-old filly Lady of Venice for trainer Patrick Biancone in the Grade III, $200,000 Ouija Board Handicap (formerly known as the WinStar Distaff). She was made the even-money favorite in a field of eight fillies and mares that also includes stakes winners Brownie Points and Rich Fantasy. A winner of the Grade III Regret at Churchill Downs last summer, Lady of Venice is using Monday's one-mile turf race as a steppingstone to the Grade II CashCall Mile Invitational Stakes at Hollywood Park on July 6.


Kentucky invaders Embossed-IRE and Crested-GB, 8-5 and 2-1, respectively, lead the field for the Grade III, $200,000 Dallas Turf Cup Handicap. Embossed, trained by Niall O'Callaghan, won the Grade III Kentucky Cup Turf last fall and was most recently fourth in Santa Anita's San Juan Capistrano Handicap. Meanwhile, the Wally Dollase-trained Crested finished a close fourth in the Grade II Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita on April 7 and followed that effort with an impressive allowance win at Churchill Downs three weeks later.

Waupaca, a four-time winner over the Lone Star Park turf course but winless at the 1 1/8-mile distance, will contest the Dallas Turf Cup for the fourth straight year. Chicago-based Grade III winner Major Rhythm is back for another try after finishing third in the 2005 renewal behind Sea Dub. Last year's champ, Trial by Jury from the Bruce Jackson barn, also returns to defend his Dallas Turf Cup title.


Unbeaten Moroccan Rose is the mild 5-2 early choice for her stakes debut in the $100,000 Valid Expectations Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares. After winning her first three starts by a combined 19 ½ lengths, she'll have to meet the fleet-footed multiple stakes winner True Tails and Iowa invader Seekingthereinbow, who has won eight of her 10 career starts.


Instant Racing Breeders' Cup Stakes winner Cream Only from the Asmussen outfit heads the $100,000 Stonerside Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs. Meanwhile, the top three 3-year-olds from the April 28 Grand Prairie Turf Challenge - Beta Capo, Western Prize and Going Ballistic - are scheduled for a rematch in the $100,000 Pin Oak Stud USA Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on turf.


It appears almost certain that for the seventh time in nine years of the Lone Star Million that the turf course will be labeled something other than "firm" due to a recent deluge of rain. About two inches of rain has fallen in Grand Prairie, Texas since Monday and the only day it hasn't rained was Wednesday. All told more than 6.6 inches of rain has fallen this month, up 57% from the average of 4.2 inches. As a result, there hasn't been a turf race at Lone Star Park since May 20, and 57 scheduled turf races were transferred to the main track though the first 27 days of the 67-day meet.

"Once we get some wind and sun, the track with the sand in it usually dries out within a three or four hour period," said Lone Star Park Director of Track Maintenance George McDermott said of the main track. "It becomes more challenging if we get rain in between like we've been having."

About the turf course, McDermott said: "Last summer after the meet, we were very aggressive with the fertilizing program and that improved the root system that goes into the ground and holds it together. It gives stability and the horse a good bite on the track. When it rains like this it can take it, but like a lawn or anything else that has an immense amount of rain, it needs some time to dry out, too. Right now its soft and it'll take a good day to dry out but it's safe and we'll get those big races over the turf on Monday."

More rain fell at Lone Star Park on Saturday, but the racetrack was upgraded from "sloppy" to "muddy" for the third race as the sun cracked through the mostly cloudy skies. The National Weather Service forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high near 80 and a 40-percent chance of thunderstorms on Sunday. The prognostication for Monday is mostly cloudy skies, an 82-degree high and a 30-percent chance of showers.

On track, Lone Star Park has plenty of activities to complement the live racing.


All customers with a paid admission to Lone Star Park on Memorial Day will receive a free Lone Star Million folding quad chair. The handy forest green canvas chairs - complete with a carrying case - are free with a $3 general admission while supplies last.


Both Borel, the regular rider of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, and Asmussen, who saddled Curlin to a head victory over Street Sense in last weekend's Preakness Stakes, will partake in a free autograph session before Monday's races from 12-1 p.m. inside Lone Star Park's East Gate Entrance.


Pearl Harbor survivors will be on hand Monday for a pre-race remembrance in the winner's circle to honor our country's past and present war heroes. There will be a color guard presentation at 1 p.m. by members of the Naval Air Force Station in Fort Worth, plus Jimmy McNeil of Waxahachie, Texas will sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America."


Between live races, country music artist Scott McCurry will perform in the Courtyard of Champions from 12-4 p.m. Other Lone Star Million Day entertainment includes pony rides, a petting zoo and bounce houses for kids in the Family Fun Park.


Those who can't make it to Lone Star Park on Memorial Day can watch the action on HRTV (Channel 404 on the DISH Network).


$100,000 PIN OAK STUD USA STAKES - Here's the field for Monday's fifth race (3:27 p.m. CT), the 11th running of the $100,000 Pin Oak Stud USA Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile turf test for 3-year-olds, from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Spoonerism (Justin Shepherd, Danny Pish, 10-1); Later Gater (Ramsey Zimmerman, George Handy, 20-1); Western Prize (Garrett Gomez, Steve Asmussen, 5-2); Cherokee Wind (Glen Murphy, Joe Lucas, 10-1); Beta Capo (Luis Quinonez, Steve Asmussen, 2-1); Crosstown (Bobby Walker Jr., Bret Calhoun, 10-1); Artic Heat (Richard Eramia, Robert Listen, 20-1); and Going Ballistic (Cliff Berry, Donnie K. Von Hemel, 3-1). Together, the field of eight has won 21 of 41 starts and more than $790,000.

$100,000 VALID EXPECTATIONS STAKES - Here's the field for Monday's sixth race (3:55 p.m. CT), the 11th running of the $100,000 Valid Expectations Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares, from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Moroccan Rose (Filemon Rodriguez, Frank Betancourt, 5-2); Seekingthereinbow (Cliff Berry, Kelly Von Hemel, 15-1); True Tails (Carlos Gonzalez, Jorge Lara, 3-1); Yo Fanci (Justin Shepherd, Joe Petalino, 6-1); Kat Nan Do (Calvin Borel, Cody Autrey, 8-1); Cintarosa (Luis Quinonez, Steve Asmussen, 6-1); and Tempting Date (Ramsey Zimmerman, Chris Hartman, 4-1). Together, the cast of seven has won 35 of 73 races and more than $1 million.

GRADE III, $200,000 DALLAS TURF CUP HANDICAP - Here's the field for Monday's seventh race (4:23 p.m. CT), the 11th running of the Grade III, $200,000 Dallas Turf Cup Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for older horses, from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, assigned weight and morning line odds): Major Rhythm (Earlie Fires, Ed Beam, 116, 5-1); Brego (Eguard Tejera, Bruce Jackson, 113, 20-1); More Than Regal (Luis Quinonez, Steve Asmussen, 114, 10-1); Waupaca (Quincy Hamilton, Donnie K. Von Hemel, 116, 9-2); Embossed-IRE (Garrett Gomez, Niall O'Callaghan, 117, 8-5); Crested-GB (Shaun Bridgmohan, Wally Dollase, 115, 2-1); Trial By Jury (Richard Eramia, Bruce Jackson, 114, 20-1). Together, the field of seven has won 45 of 196 starts and more than $2.6 million.

$100,000 STONERSIDE STAKES - Here's the field for Monday's eighth race (4:51 p.m. CT), the ninth running of the $100,000 Stonerside Stakes, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies, from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Cat Splendor (Quincy Hamilton, Donnie K. Von Hemel, 12-1); Waterloo Slew (Garrett Gomez, C.R. Trout, 20-1); Gallant Dreamer (Calvin Borel, Tom Amoss, 5-2); She's Got Thefever (Larry Taylor, Terry Eoff, 30-1); She's Outrageous (Ramsey Zimmerman, Chris Hartman, 8-1); Cream Only (Luis Quinonez, Steve Asmussen, 8-5); Round Lake (Cliff Berry, Donnie K. Von Hemel, 8-1); and Atlanta Highway (Richard Eramia, Andy Leggio Jr., 7-2). Together, the field has won 14 of 56 starts and more than $446,000.

GRADE III, $200,000 OUIJA BOARD HANDICAP (FORMERLY THE WINSTAR DISTAFF) - Here's the field for Monday's ninth race (5:19 p.m. CT), the 11th running of the Grade III, $200,000 Ouija Board Handicap, a one-mile turf event for fillies and mares, from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, assigned weight and morning line odds): Sweet Idea (Cliff Berry, Bret Calhoun, 114, 20-1); Brownie Points (Luis Quinonez, Donnie K. Von Hemel, 118, 3-1); Prospectors Spirit (Bryan McNeil, Michael Gass II, 112, 30-1); My Three Sisters (Shaun Bridgmohan, Steve Asmussen, 115, 12-1); Barbette (Quincy Hamilton, Danny Pish, 110, 30-1); Rich Fantasy (Calvin Borel, Ronny Werner, 117, 4-1); D Fine Okie (Don Pettinger, Donnie K. Von Hemel, 114, 12-1); and Lady of Venice-FR (Garrett Gomez, Patrick Biancone, 118, 1-1). Together, the group has won 41 of 137 races and more than $1.7 million.

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