The last two days of 2017 comprise a stakes-packed weekend of coast-to-coast racing, and Fair Grounds in Louisiana is poised to celebrate the end of the year in particularly memorable fashion with a pair of stakes races on both Saturday and Sunday.
First up on Saturday is the $75,000 Pago Hop Stakes for three-year-old fillies going a mile on turf, and if you like large fields, this is the race for you. Sixteen fillies, including two also-eligibles, have been entered in the race, including Pucker Up Stakes (gr. III) winner Fault and Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) winner Farrell. But while they might be the most accomplished entrants, the three-time graded stakes-placed I’m Betty G and the promising Sensitive are others to consider in this wide-open, competitive race.
The $75,000 Woodchopper Stakes, an open race for three-year-olds going a mile on turf, has also drawn a full field, but all eyes will be on Mr. Misunderstood. Trained by Brad Cox, Mr. Misunderstood is a perfect 7-for-7 on turf and brings a four-race win streak into the Woodchopper, including a powerful win in the Commonwealth Turf Stakes (gr. III) last time out. Uncontested, winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes back in January, will be making his turf debut if he starts in the Woodchopper, while the stakes winners Cowboy Culture and Kitten’s Cat will seek to rebound from recent defeats in California.
The stakes action will continue on Sunday with two divisions of the $100,000 Louisiana Futurity for Louisiana-bred two-year-olds. The first division—a six-furlong race for fillies—is the third race of the day and has attracted a small but quality field of seven young runners led by Minit to Stardom, who has won her first two starts at Fair Grounds by a combined 12 ½ lengths, including a decisive triumph in the Louisiana Champions Day Lassie Stakes on December 9th. But Minit to Stardom could face a stiff challenge from Champagne Diva, who broke her maiden on the December 9th card at Fair Grounds while posting a final time for six furlongs (1:11.69) that was substantially quicker than the time posted by Minit to Stardom (1:12.18) in the Lassie Stakes.
The second division of the Louisiana Futurity, this one for colts and geldings, is the seventh race on the card. With a field of twelve, the race is more competitive on paper than the division for fillies, though the unbeaten stakes winner Gladyousawme, the Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile Stakes winner Greeley Went West, and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) fourth-place finish Givemeaminit loom as a formidable trio that should attract much of the wagering support.