Olympiad, Proxy lead a six-pack in the G2 New Orleans Classic

Grandview Equine, Cheyenne Stable and LNJ Foxwoods’ classy 4-year-old colt Olympiad is set to return to Fair Grounds from his South Florida base as the 8-5 favorite in Saturday’s 97th running of the $500,000 New Orleans Classic (G2).

Run at 1 1/8 miles, the New Orleans Classic was carded as Race 9 of 12 with a post time of 5:08 p.m. EST. First post Saturday is 1 p.m.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and ridden by Junior Alvarado, Olympiad cruised to a 2 1/4-length score in the $250,000 Mineshaft (G3) last month at Fair Grounds, stopping the timer in 1:42.01 for 1 1/16th miles and shaving .01 off the previous track record set by Pie In Your Eye way back in 1994.

The bay son of Speightstown has only finished worse than second once in his seven-race career – a troubled fourth-place finish in last year’s $750,000 Cigar Mile (GI). Olympiad and Alvarado will break from post two.

“That’s the kind of horse that makes your work very easy,” Alvarado said following the Mineshaft. “He leaves the gate, you nudge him a little bit, and he takes you for a nice ride the whole way. The longer stretch (at Fair Grounds) helped him today. He’s a horse that needs more than a 1/16th mile stretch run to pick it up and he proved that today.”

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The Godolphin homebred Proxy hopes to build off an extraordinary comeback victory in his 4-year-old debut on February 25 for Mike Stidham.

Second in both the Lecomte (G3) and Risen Star (G2) last year, the son of Tapit fell a bit flat in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and the Lexington (G3) at Keeneland, finishing fourth in both. Apparently, the time off to mature did him some good.

“In the mornings he’s a bigger, stronger, better horse now with a little more maturity,” Stidham said. “Last year he’d go out there in the mornings and he wasn’t really interested in working well, but you can see from his tab leading up to this, he is doing things a little different now. He ran with blinkers in his last two starts (last year), but watching those races, we didn’t see where they helped him so we didn’t think twice about taking them off.”

The 5-2 second choice with Brian Hernandez, Jr. back aboard, Proxy will break from post 5.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Stidham said. “He’s had three really good works since his last race. He ran against top quality horses last year as a 3-year-old. It’s just a matter of seeing if he’s good enough to compete with the top horses this year, but he’s given me every indication that he can.

“Given the way he ran in his last race, nine furlongs should absolutely be better than 1 1/16 miles for him. He was very relaxed and came home finishing nicely. I’m very much looking forward to the added distance with him.”

With the champion Echo Zulu and Epicenter favored in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2), respectively, and Midnight Bourbon set to compete in the Dubai World Cup (G1) at Meydan, Saturday could be a monstrous day for trainer Steve Asmussen, who also sends forth Erv Woolsey and brother Keith Asmussen’s Super Stock in the New Orleans Classic. Joel Rosario will ride from post three.

“He’s never raced here but he has worked well here,” Asmussen said. “It’s a good opportunity for him. I didn’t like the trip he got last time (Razorback at Oaklawn). We think he is better than that and we think the change of scenery may just wake him up a little bit.  It’s a good race and we are hoping he goes out there and proves us right.”

Trained by Dallas Stewart, Estate of James Coleman’s 2021 New Orleans Classic hero Chess Chief narrowly defeated Owendale to earn his first graded stakes. The now 6-year-old horse finished his 5-year-old campaign with a victory in the $100,000 Tenacious Stakes at Fair Grounds prior to a sixth-place effort in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park.

All five of his career victories have come at Fair Grounds. Reylu Gutierrez will have the call from post six.

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