Former State-Bred Champion Pulls Off Shocker
Grade 1 winner No Parole may have garnered all the pre-race headlines but Valene Farms’ Classy John got the money as he pulled off a shocker by a head over X Clown in the $100,000 Costa Rising. Run at 5 ½ furlongs over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, the costa Rising was the second of three state-bred stakes on the Louisiana Derby (G2) undercard, and while the other two went to a pair of heavy favorites, Classy John blew up the board at $61.
Colby Hernandez and Classy John pressed X Clown for the majority of the first 5 furlongs, as the duo ran in tandem and were never more than a head apart, while carving out fractions of 22.59 and 45.54. Meanwhile, No Parole, the .40-1 favorite making his turf debut, broke slowly from the inside and wasn’t allowed to show his customary blazing early speed, as he was bottled up on the backside. Classy John took charge in midstretch and opened a 1 ½-length lead, only to see X Clown re-break and rally again, only to fall a whisker short. Monte Man, who won the Costa Risa the past two years, rallied late to finish a half-length over No Parole in third. Classy John stopped the timer in 1:03.17 over a turf course listed as “good.”
Hernandez was aboard for Classy John’s last two starts and knew his charge had plenty of tactical speed, but after seeing No Parole behind him, he decided to take advantage.
“Obviously I knew No Parole was the horse to beat and I knew where he was,” Hernandez said. “(When he broke slow) I took his spot and from there he just fought hard all the way for the win.”
Classy John has been a reclamation for trainer Dallas Stewart, as he was a 2-year-old Louisiana-bred champion in 2018 but went off form since and entered off 12 straight losses dating back to a win in the Louisiana Futurity here on the main track in December 2018. Stewart never lost faith with the 5-year-old son of Songandaprayer but did try a career and surface change in January, when Classy John was seventh over the Stall-Wilson. He re-emerged in his last, when second, beaten a head, behind two-time defending Costa Rising champion Monte Man and clearly moved forward Saturday, while upping his lifetime record to 4-for-17.
“We were struggling a little bit so we tried him on the grass and he ran OK the first time and the second time he ran great,” Stewart said. “Today was just an awesome performance. He beat a grade 1 winner today and a horse (Monte Man) who has won 17 races, so I think that establishes himself as a nice horse on the turf.”
No Parole had every chance when produced off the far turn after his slow break, yet flattened out a bit late to finish third. The 4-year-old son of Violence was one of the best 3-year-old dirt sprinters in the country last year for trainer Tom Amoss and won the Woody Stephens (G1) at Belmont Park in June. Luis Saez was aboard for the Woody Stephens and definitely wasn’t in the position he envisioned shortly after the start.
“He was in the right position turning from home but he didn’t break that well,” Saez said. “From there they went slow and everyone came back and we couldn’t be there (in front) in the spot we wanted to be.”