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Mark Valeski, Mr. Bowling work for Louisiana Derby

  • Mark Valeski (right) turned in a fast work for the Louisiana Derby (Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography)

Mark Valeski, runner-up in last month's Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes, made a case for favoritism in the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby on April 1, breezing an impressive five furlongs over the fast main track at Fair Grounds on Tuesday. He completed the move in :59 2/5 under regular rider Rosie Napravnik, the fastest of 11 works at the distance by a full second.

The three-year-old Proud Citizen colt, owned by former Kentucky governor Brereton Jones, worked after the break at 8:30 a.m. (CDT) and accomplished the five-eighths through splits of :12 1/5, :24, :36 and : 47 4/5 before finishing the final eighth under no urging from Napravnik in :11 3/5. They galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 3/5.

"It was a little quicker than what we had designed to go," trainer Larry Jones said. "I told her I wanted to work somewhere about a minute or a minute and one. She came back and said she thought he went a little bit quick but she said he was really rolling. It was really good.

"When I looked at him going into the last race I thought he was fat. I started second-guessing myself as we were leading him over. I was thinking, boy, he's fat. But he really looks the way we want him right now. He's really done great and that race put him right where we want to be. We're expecting a big performance."

The move was Mark Valeski's first official work since coming out on the losing end of a head-to-head stretch duel with El Padrino through the final furlong of the February 25 Risen Star. 

"Someone called me the other day while I was driving to Oaklawn and said, 'It's been a long time since Mark Valeski worked, what's the matter with him?' Jones said. "Apparently nothing's the matter with him. I don't know; I don't work my horses as often as a lot of people do. I've been galloping him and I don't let any grass grow under his feet when I gallop him.

"I don't know how people got to thinking that horses need to work every week once you've got them fit and ready to go. I've been around him long enough to know what he needs. If there's something wrong with Mark Valeski, then there must be something wrong with Believe You Can and Mr. Bowling, too, because they all worked today for the first time since they all raced on the same day. That's the way we do it. We've got them fit and we just have to hold them there. We're trying to make them last because we want them to be around for a while."

Mr. Bowling, the Grade 3 Lecomte winner in January, worked earlier in the morning, breezing five furlongs in 1:03 4/5 under exercise rider Jen Brasser. The Istan colt, also owned by Brereton Jones, worked through splits of :12 2/5, :24 1/5, :37 4/5 and :50 4/5.

"Mr. Bowling has always been a slow worker," Larry Jones said. "He just doesn't think it's a lot of fun out there by himself. If the race doesn't overfill to where he would be excluded for being the same owner (as Mark Valeski), right now we have intentions of running them both."

Mr. Bowling, who finished last of 11 in the Risen Star, will work in company early next week.

"We'll probably work him Monday with Believe You Can," Jones said referring to his Grade 3-winning filly. "I'll probably work Mark on Tuesday since the race is on Sunday. Normally I would work Mr. Bowling on Tuesday but I want him to work in company and I don't want to make Mark go any faster. But the filly sets pretty good and she'll take the workmate well."

Believe You Can, the January 21 Silverbulletday winner preparing for the Grade 2, $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 31, worked five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 Tuesday morning with Napravnik up. The Proud Citizen filly worked through splits of :12 1/5, :24 1/5, :37 4/5 and :48 4/5. She galloped out six furlongs in 1:14 4/5.

"Rosie had Believe You Can right on the money," Jones said. "We're in good shape and we're really happy with all three of them."

Believe You Can was most recently fourth in the Grade Rachel Alexandra.

Cigar Street, scorching winner of a high-quality two-turn maiden special weight on March 10 by 13 3/4 lengths, remains under consideration for the Louisiana Derby, according to trainer Steve Margolis, though a final decision on his next start will wait until the weekend.

The Street Sense colt, out of Arcadiana, a mare who is a half-sister to the legendary Cigar, will work Friday morning at about 6:30 a.m., shortly after a work by stablemate and Fair Grounds Oaks hopeful Inny Minnie. That Hard Spun filly finished third in both the Silverbulletday and last month's Rachel Alexandra. 

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