New Orleans Classic Stakes Preview: Horse-by-Horse Analysis of Saturday's Grade II Race @FG

Jockey John Velazquez (pictured above) rides the former Baffert-trained Roadster in this edition of the New Orleans Classic. Check out his chances against what looks like a well-matched field...
Jockey John Velazquez (pictured above) rides the former Baffert-trained Roadster in this edition of the New Orleans Classic. Check out his chances against what looks like a well-matched field...

1 1/8th (Dirt), New Orleans Classic Stakes (G2), Purse $400k, 4+

Over the years, this race has served as a proving ground for older males, and as you thumb through the list of winners, you will find some legends and would-be legends. How about Mineshaft? How about Badge of Silver? How about any of six runners to win this thing from the barn of Todd Pletcher, including Palace Malice? The last 3 to score in this race were Good Samaritan, Core Beliefs, and By My Standards. What a list! This year’s edition will once again test who is at their very best!

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 Roadster (Jky: J. Velazquez/Trn: M. Stidham):

The last time we saw this horse was during his 4-yr-old campaign. He looked terrible stretching out in the San Pasqual (G2) @SA, and pretty sharp a month later in the San Carlos (G2) @SA. Then, he went on the bench after moving over to Mike Stidham’s operation. Working since early in January at that conditioner’s southern base in New Orleans, he looks ready for his 2021 year to begin. I am unsure if going 1 1/8th is really what this former entry in the 2019 Kentucky Derby really wants to do. He looks very much like a sprinter, and I cannot see how Stidham can justify sending him in this salty G2. Still, we are talking about an accomplished conditioner who knows what his charges can handle. With Johnny V riding this runner by Quality Road, maybe he can get close enough to the lead and make a big run at the top of that long Fair Grounds stretch.  

Grade: B


#2 Owendale (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: B. Cox):

It has been almost a year since Brad Cox’s son of Into Mischief actually visited the winner’s circle. That was at Churchill Downs in a 100k event off the bench. Throughout 2020, the then 4-yr-old missed on several occasions, but not by much. Some efforts were better than others in both G2-G3 competition. Running at Keeneland in the BC Dirt Mile was a tough contest, especially against class runners like Knicks Go and Jesus’ Team. It was described as a “belated” effort, and that seems apropos. Last out, coming from another near 3-month layoff, he was beaten by the powerful Stidham runner, Mystic Guide—just finishing 3rd behind Silver Prospector. Honestly, at this point I am not sure which horse will rear his head on Saturday. If he can run to his capability, he can win this race, but that is a big question mark, at this point.

Grade: B-


#3 Olliemyboy (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: N. Casse):

If you like a son of Union Rags, then this Norm Casse class elevator might be your cup of tea. The Younger is bringing him into a tight spot, especially when you consider the kinds of horses his 2 gate mates to his left have been competing against. Sure, he did run in the Queen’s Plate 1000k last year up at Woodbine, but that was not a terribly good effort finishing well-back. On the positive side of things, it is good to see that he has 2 wins over this track in his last 2 tries. That means something when you already have a familiarity with the course. Adding to the mix a jockey like Irad Ortiz cannot hurt either, since he might be one of the hottest in the country. It is going to take a major effort here, and probably a career best to win this G2. I think a reasonable expectation is to simply finish somewhere in the Top 5. Realistic expectations are important in this game… so are, dreams.

Grade: C+


#4 Captivating Moon (Jky: M. Pedroza/Trn: C. Block):

At the beginning of December in a 75k “Non-G” contest a strong field assembled that included Maxfield (the eventual winner), and Sonneman #8 (drawn in here). That was a telling race for Chris Block’s runner because it certainly was not a good day—finishing 5th out 7, 8-lengths back. The colt out of Malibu Moon tried 2 more races, and clearly the grass suited him in the last of those because at 44/1 he scored in the Fair Grounds (G3). Clearly, he took to the green, and his fitness level was superb. Now his conditioner must make a choice… draw in for the Muniz Memorial (G2) on the turf @FG, or move back to the dirt for this contest, New Orleans Classic (G2). If I were Block I would opt for this race, considering the turf pedigrees and class of those that are shipping in for the Muniz. With Mar. Pedroza aboard again, he clearly knows what the horse can do, so it looks like the best option. But, you never know about trainers… they are hard to stop.

Grade: B-


#5 Enforceable (Jky: A. Beschizza/Trn: M. Casse):

Adam Beschizza at first glance might have lost the chance to ride Olliemyboy #3, but I bet it is no problem. For this race he is going to be over with Norm Casse’s father in the FG Paddock aboard this son of the great Tapit. Since the KY Derby, Beschizza has been the elder Casse’s go-to rider for this colt, and though the competition has not been stellar, nor for that matter the class of the races, I expect big things from this runner this year. After all, he has all the tools to succeed, and I do not just mean the bloodlines. His owner, John Oxley is a powerhouse, and you know he expects great things from Team Casse. Building on the lessons of that Mineshaft (G3) loss to Maxfield back in February is doable, if Beschizza can work out an agreeable trip. It will not be easy since some of those foes from that race, including Chess Chief #6 and Sonneman #8, have returned for this pipeline race. Don’t count out Casse, he could be sitting on a winner at any given time. This is an upset pick if there ever was one.

Grade: B


#6 Chess Chief (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: D. Stewart):

The cagey Dallas Stewart continues to excite, and he brings such a high level of professionalism, that I would not ever count him out. This son of Into Mischief is operating on all cylinders, and I like the trajectory of his works since he finished 3rd in the Mineshaft (G3). That was quite a jump from OC40k company at the Fair Grounds to then hop into a G3. Going off at 13/1, he was a major overlay that day with James Graham aboard. Now, switching riders to the hot import, Luis Saez, who has been burning up the dirt/turf at Gulfstream Park, I think that is a worthy swap. Into Mischief’s are just continuing to prove their versatility and value. That makes you believe that this horse will have a chance to improve upon that 3rd place finish that he had in last year’s NO Classic. A cranked Stewart entry at some juicy odds… yes sir!

Grade: A-


#7 Mocito Rojo (Jky: J. Graham/Trn: S. Wilson):

The locally based trainer Shane Wilson has some solid runners, and it looks like he is going to go after the NO Classic with gusto. He is hoping that Wayne Davis’ 7-yr-old veteran can elevate his game beyond some of the company that he has run in of late. I don’t know if it can happen considering the company that has drawn in for this race, but Wilson’s hope springs eternal. I wouldn’t count him out to score one of the minors, even though it will be a difficult proposition to say the least. Getting James Graham to ride might be a secret weapon, considering his abilities of late.  

Grade: C


#8 Sonneman (Jky: J. Talamo/Trn: S. Asmussen):

Last but certainly not least, we have a Steve Asmussen entry that might end up being the favorite when post time rolls around. This colt finished behind Maxfield in the Mineshaft (G3), and clearly his route to this race was run through the proper prep channels. Really and truly, since running last summer at Saratoga, this Courtlandt Farms-owned runner has done little wrong. Though he has not won since November at Churchill Downs, that doesn’t mean his efforts were for naught. You add in some stiff works since dueling with the accomplished Maxfield, and he might be your clear winner. Joe T. climbs aboard, and he was riding last time, which provides the connections with some excellent continuity. Big chance for Asmussen to notch another “Graded” contest to his already illustrious career.

Grade: A-


Join us Saturday for all of our selections on LA Derby Day! Should be a great set of races from the Fair Grounds!

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