Reylu Gutierrez Scores Monday Stakes Hat Trick

Wins five of the 11 stakes run the past two days at Fair Grounds


New Orleans (December 27, 2021) – We could Chattalot about the Lovely Ride jockey Reylu Gutierrez has been on in 2021, but during the post-Christmas stakes extravaganza at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the 24-year-old native of Rochester, New York, conjured up a little Excess Magic in the Big Easy.

Gutierrez won with seven of his 17 mounts the past two days at Fair Grounds, five of them stakes. His winning mounts returned a total of $209.20 for a $12.30 return on investment. On Sunday he guided Gentle Soul ($35.00), Chess Chief ($22.20) and Halo Again ($30.80) to the Fair Grounds’ winner’s circle, and on Monday he followed up with victories aboard Hooperdrivesthboat ($83.80), Excess Magic ($6.60), Lovely Ride ($20.80) and Chattalot ($10.00).

“Feels great,” Gutierrez said after winning the final stakes of the day aboard Chattalot. “It’s a credit to (jockey agent) Jose Santos, Jr. No matter where he’s put me, we’ve been successful. We are calling Fair Grounds home, and we are doing very well. He does his due diligence. He does an excellent job with all of his riders. He puts me on these horses, and it’s for everybody, so I’m just thankful for Jose.”

For the year, Gutierrez has won 132 races while banking $4.8 million, both career highs, while taking on new racetracks and challenges seemingly every month. Entering Thursday’s card, he’s sits second in the Fair Grounds jockey standings with 17 wins from just 73 mounts (23%), three behind meet leader Colby Hernandez.

Two of Gutierrez’s Monday stakes scores came for trainer Bret Calhoun, whom he also credits for helping to jump start his career.

“When I ride for the Calhoun train it is really special,” Gutierrez said. “He’s one of the reasons I am here today.” – Kristufek


Excess Magic Gets the Bacon in Woodchopper

Scores first of two stakes wins on the day for trainer Bret Calhoun


In the $75,000 Woodchopper, Gutierrez placed the William T. Reed homebred Excess Magic (2.30-1 favorite) in the perfect pressing position on the outside of the pacesetting 18.10-1 longshot Rightandjust through early fractions of 24.43 and 49.76. He put that rival away off the turn for home and then held safe of close second choice Point Me By (2.50-1) to win by 1 ½ lengths in a final time of 1:38.08 for the mile on turf.

“His other horse (Who Took the Money) was the one I was most afraid of, so I guess he did me a favor by scratching him from the race,” Gutierrez said. “Both tracks (turf and dirt) are playing the way I like to ride. He (Excess Magic) was coming from a sprint to a route so I let him be a horse, get out there, and get in good position. On the backside I could feel everyone on top of us, so I could tell we were going pretty slow. He was ready to go and when I turned for home, I said ‘let’s go get some bacon’. He was hungry. I was hungry. Calhoun does a great job with his horses.”

The Woodchopper was the fourth win overall and first in a stake for Excess Magic (8-4-2-1), and it boosted his career bankroll to $164,171.

“He’s been a pretty consistent horse for us,” Calhoun said. He had a little injury last year and we had to back off. Being able to run in a sprint prepping for this (win on Nov. 26), it worked out great. The mile is ideal for him. He’s got tremendous turn of foot. Early on I was thinking we were a little (too) close (to the front), but that why I pay Reylu to ride him. He was right. The fractions were pretty slow and he had him right where he needed to be.” — Kristufek


Lovely Ride Works Out a Trip in Pago Hop

First career turf start is a stakes winning one for daughter of Candy Ride

Already a stakes winner on dirt, Allied Racing Stables Lovely Ride proved her versatility by winning her first ever start on turf, taking the $75,000 Pago Hop in what was a hard-fought battle down to the wire. It was the second stakes victory on the card for the team of trainer Bret Calhoun and jockey Reylu Gutierrez.

Away alertly from an outside post, Lovely Ride sat fourth while in the clear, two-wide down the backstretch while chasing moderate early fractions of 24.17 and 49.30 set by the longshot (25.60-1) Touch of Class. With the front-runner wandering about, she ducked inside of her mid-stretch, took the lead, and held safe of the resurgent 3.10-1 favorite Amiche and the late closing Princess Theorem (6.90-1) to score by a game ¾ of a length in a final time of 1:38.56 for one mile on turf. Only 3 ¼ lengths separated the top seven finishers.

“I had a delightful trip,” Gutierrez said. “She has enough tactical speed. I was able to break and come over (from the outside post). That was the whole game plan, we wanted to save ground. She took to it well. I have to credit Mr. (Bret) Calhoun and his brain because he has been brainstorming around with a couple of his horses and switching things up and he took the risk (of running on turf) given her pedigree. A lot of trainers don’t have the opportunity to do that, but he took his chance. His chess playing is paying off and he is making me look good and his horses look good, so credit to Mr. Calhoun.”

The winner of the Catherine Sophia on August 24 at Parx, Lovely Ride has looked dominant at times on dirt, but she’s been somewhat plagued by inconsistency.

“We thought pedigree-wise (by Candy Ride out of a Tiznow mare) she had a big chance to perform well on turf,” Calhoun explained. “Obviously this is the last 3-year old (restricted) race of the year. We were kind of out of options and so we thought we’d take a chance. We really thought she would handle the turf. It looks like she handled it well, and I look forward to her being even better on it next time. She looked like she was a little bit lost on it early on. By the time she figured out where she was going and what she was on, she finished up big and galloped out huge. It is great to have multiple options. We’re just going to have to sit back and look at the condition books and see what race suits us best.”

With the win, Lovely Ride bolstered her resume to 9-5-1-1 with earnings of $284,160. — Kristufek


Chattalot Lets His Speed Do the Talking in Sugar Bowl

With three stakes wins the past two days, trainer Steve Asmussen breaks out of his Fair Grounds “slump” in a big way

Entering Sunday’s action, trainer Steve Asmussen had zero wins to show from 21 starters to open the 2021-22 racing season at Fair Grounds. On the other side of Monday, he now has four wins with three of them coming in stakes. So much for that “slump”.

On the heels of a Sunday training triple, including stakes wins with Halo Again in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial and Epicenter in the inaugural running of the Gun Runner, Asmussen added a little icing to his holiday cake by winning Monday’s Sugar Bowl with the front-running Chattalot for Bloom Racing and David Bersen. It was the third stakes win on the card, and fifth in the last two days, for jockey Reylu Gutierrez.

Away alertly from the rail, Chattalot (4.00-1) maintained his inside position while neck in neck with the 1.60-1 favorite Higher Standard through contested fractions of 22.05 and 45.35. He put that rival away on the turn for home, and the fended off a stretch challenge from Underhill’s Tab (5.90-1) to win by a game, half-length in a final time of 1:10.03 for the six furlong on the main track. It was another 1 ¾ lengths back to Blue Kentucky in third. Higher Standards was 5 ½ lengths back in sixth.

“Today I just let him break and get his feet under him,” Gutierrez said. “I saw that no other horses were really getting away from him or going, so I just kind of took it to them. The rail has been good to me this weekend, so why not take it. When I saw (the favorite) Higher Standard just kind of pumping at the half mile pole, I was very confident.”

The winner of the first two starts of his career, the 2-year-old son of Midnight Lute was most recently seen finishing a tired fourth in the Lively Shively Stakes at Churchill Downs on November 27. With the win, he now boasts a record of 5-3-0-1 with earnings of $199,095. — Kristufek



Girl With a Dream was Filly With the Lead for a Brad Cox Letellier Exacta


Slow out of the gate, Com’ On Sweet Luv settles for second


Maybe it was more experience, maybe it was the break, maybe it was simply a matter that the most talented 2-year old filly won, but either way, the Brad Cox barn was front and center at Fair Grounds, sending out the Letellier Memorial Stakes $75,000 exacta with Girl With a Dream wiring the field and Com’On Sweet luv running second.

“She broke sharp,” jockey Florent Geroux said of the winner. “I thought she was the best in the field. We didn’t know what to expect [in terms of running style]. We know she can be forwardly placed, but last time she came from the back at Churchill. I just felt I had the best horse in the race and she broke sharp so I took it from there. If someone wanted to go faster than me I would have let them go but that’s not how the race unfolded, how everything played out.”

In a dirt sprint race where it was unclear how the front end would unfold, jockey Florent Geroux capitalized on a sharp break from his mount. By Practical Joke and owned by Jim Bakke and Gerry Isbister, Girl With a Dream was last seen closing inot hot fractions in a first-level allowance on November 13 at Churchill Downs. In the Letellier she set the fractions of 22.49, 46.42 as the .70-1 favorite. 31.90-1 Runnin Happy kept within a length at the first call. The bettor’s choice of the two Steve Margolis horses, 4.50-1 Implosion, stalked and chased but never threatened for the lead. The other Margolis, 17.70-1 Mystique Saboteur, got away slow and passed tiring rivals for third. Despite coming away last from the gate, by the second call Marcelino Pedroz Jr. had guided Com’ On Sweet Luv through traffic, up within one length, then as close as the leader’s throatlatch. As they both got into their fillies, it was Girl With a Dream who proved best, synching the deal late in 1:10.84 for six furlongs.

“When [Come On’ Sweet Luv] came close to me at the eighth pole it seemed like she had plenty left,” Geroux said. “But we were able to fight her off in the last eighth of the mile.”

All three rides for Com’ On Sweet Luv have come under Marcelion Pedroza, Jr. The second place filly by Jimmy Creed broke her maiden out front last out at Fair Grounds on November 27, finishing strong after setting slow fractions.

“She got left at the gate a little bit,” Pedroza said. “She’s not the type of filly to break sharp in the first jump. By the third jump she is right up in the race. I don’t think it cost me the race. The other filly was better. We just got beat. On top of the stretch I felt like I had a shot. I grabbed a hold but he did too, so I was like let’s see who is the better filly right here. He had more horse than me, that’s it.”

The two-year old question du jour as we turn the calendar year: what’s next for the winner and will she stretch out?

“Maybe, but if so, probably still around one turn,” Brad Cox said. “I wouldn’t get super super crazy. Comparing her with other horses in our barn I am thinking she might be one to keep around one turn for the time being. She’s had five runs now at 2 so we’ll take a deep breath, regroup with her. It takes a little pressure off you going forward, now being a stakes winner.”

With the win, Girl with a Dream is 5-3-1-0 earning $170,720 in her brief and promising career. — Kilroy


Additional Quote:


“The way she ran last time we didn’t know what to expect,” Brad COx said “I actually thought the other one [Com’ On Sweet Luv] would break a little sharper. She broke the slowest of the group and then Marcelino put her in position. Opening quarter of 22 and 2 and I felt she was doing well and should have some punch down the lane. And she did a great job. Obviously, [Com’ On Sweet Luv] has black type finishing second. We’ll march forward, she still has n1x available left, a very big performance off a maiden win. She could come back in an allowance race or maybe a stakes if it makes sense; we’ll see how it goes.”



Add Dirt to The Top of the List: Versatile Audrey’s Time Keeps Getting Better


Beschizza takes the race to front runner Cheetara and outlasts her for second


Lothenbach Stables’ patient approach with Audrey’s Time paid off on Monday, as the soon to be 5-year-old mare won the $75,000 “Spanky” Broussard Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds. Making her 16th start over three racing campaigns, the daughter of Uncle Mo has raced 8 times with one win on turf, 1 win in her lone synth try, and in her 7th dirt start, she gets the trophy for trainer Neil Pessin and regular rider Corey Lanerie.

“She was just doing okay on the turf,” Pessin said. “I knew she had always worked well [on dirt], and we’d run her on the dirt before, but she was just maturing with every time out. I think that helped as much as anything, the time off we gave her and bringing her back slow.”

Run at 1 mile 70 yards, there was nothing slow about the front end. Ignacio Correas’ .90-1 favorite Cheetara set fast opening fractions of 23.74 and 47.07–the quickening through the second call was largely due to being aggressively chased by 7.30-1 Powder River, who vied for the lead through the turn. Cheetera has proven not to like company and Powder River’s jockey Adam Beschizza seemed to know it. The early leader faded and as Powder Room passed her on the inside, Audrey’s Time made her winning move on the outside and didn’t stop edging away to the wire.

“My horse got off a little slow,” Corey Lanerie said. “The leader was going easy by herself, but I kept my filly in the clear and she pulled up to her on the turn. From that point on I knew I had something left in the tank. I called on her and she took it from there.”

Make it $268,226 in the bank and a career record of 16-4-1-3 for Audrey’s Time as connections contemplate the next move.

“I don’t know if we belong with the ones we ran against last time [Envoutante and Bonny South in the Falls City (G2)],” Pessin said. “I don’t think we are quite there yet. We might look at Sam Houston. I don’t know what they’re going to have in the older filly division as far as veteran mares being ready to run.” — Kilroy



Lauri’s Wish is Catalina Red’s First Winner

The Louisiana-bred won Dec. 23 at Delta Downs by 8 1/4 lengths.


Elite Thoroughbreds’ graded stakes winner and freshman sire Catalina Red  sired his first winner when his son Lauri’s Wish  won a 7 1/2-furlong maiden special weight Dec. 23 at Delta Downs by 8 1/4 lengths.

A Louisiana homebred for Tony Lenci and Chad Stewart, Lauri’s Wish won his second career start gate to wire in 1:36.54. He was ridden by Thomas Pompell and is trained by Lee Thomas.

The colt is the first and only foal out of the Archarcharch daughter Laurigolightly, who is out of graded-placed stakes winner Tiger Belle (Tiger Ridge ). Stewart trained Laurigolightly for owner/breeder Robert Roffey Jr. The mare was bred to Catalina Red this year.

Lenci raced Catalina Red, whom he bought at the 2014 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Spring 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale for $71,000 from de Meric Sales. The son of Munnings   became a stakes winner at 2 in the Inaugural Stakes and Pasco Stakes, both at Tampa Bay Downs, won the Jackson Bend Stakes at Gulfstream Park at 3, and at 4 won the Churchill Downs Stakes (G2) and Hilton Garden Inn/Hampton Inn and Suites Sprint Stakes in addition to placing third in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1). He retired with a 5-1-3 record from 13 starts and earned $549,885. Stewart trained Catalina Red for his first nine starts.

Catalina Red stands at Elite Thoroughbreds near Folsom, La., for $2,000 in 2022.

Unable To Reach Final Terms: Horseracing Integrity And Safety Authority Suspends Negotiations With USADA

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) announced the suspension of negotiations pertaining to USADA’s potential future role as the independent enforcement agency for HISA’s Anti-Doping and Medication Control (ADMC) program. As mandated by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020, USADA and HISA had been engaged in good faith negotiations but were unable to reach final terms. To date, USADA has led the process of authoring draft rules for HISA’s ADMC program. As set forth in the HISA statute, the Authority is evaluating options for engagement with other leading independent enforcement agencies.

The draft Racetrack Safety regulations that were submitted to the FTC earlier this month will be implemented as scheduled by the FTC on July 1, 2022, following review, public comment and education periods. There will be a temporary delay in submission of the Anti-Doping and Medication Control draft rules to the FTC until a new independent agency can be identified and an agreement finalized. This will allow HISA and another independent enforcement agency to reach an agreement and build on the progress that has been made to-date with USADA. HISA anticipates this process will permit the full implementation of the final ADMC rules in early 2023.


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2021 Yearling Market Sees Restoration & Rejuvenation

Auction Digest series begins with yearling market overview


The focus of the 2020 sale season was trying to survive in the face of an unprecedented pandemic, forcing the rescheduling or  complete cancellation of many sales. The market saw across-the-board reductions in number sold, gross, average, and median, not unexpected given the global circumstances. Fortunately, as the industry looked to 2021 for a return to stability, the yearling market rebounded spectacularly.

For every loss in 2020, 2021 posted gains in nearly every metric over even 2019’s pre-pandemic bull market. With 7,724 yearlings offered, 2021 presented nearly 800 fewer yearlings than the 8,517 in 2019, but that was the only statistic that underachieved this season. The 6,358 yearlings that sold grossed $552,636,037 compared to $532,147,622 for 6,387 head in 2019, a slight increase of 3.9%. Average increased correspondingly with a 4.3% gain to $86,920 from 2019’s $83,317. But the arguably most impressive figure from this season is the median achieved this sale year. Surging from an already strong median of $23,000 in 2019, the yearling crop soared to an incredible $32,000 median in 2021—an astounding 39% gain.


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Epicenter Carries the Winchell Colors to Victory in the Inaugural Gun Runner

Not This Time colt earns 10 Kentucky Derby points in dominant victory


New Orleans (December 26, 2021) – Victories in the 2016 Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2) put Gun Runner on a path towards nearly $16 million in career earnings on the track and leading first crop sire honors off of it. On Sunday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Epicenter took another step towards a potentially brighter future for the same connections with an authoritative 6 ½ length victory in the inaugural $100,000 Gun Runner Stakes, earning 10 Kentucky Derby points along the way.

The Gun Runner was just one of six stakes run on the post-Christmas, 13-race “Road to the Derby Kickoff Day” card.

“To be able to win the inaugural running of the Gun Runner today is special for us,” Steve Asmussen’s assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. “Gun Runner had his start and a number of breakout performances here at the Fair Grounds, and to see what he has done in the stallion barn has been historical, he’s the leading two-year-old juvenile stallion in the world. To be able to win this race for the Winchell family is very special.”

Sent off as the 2.90-1 second choice despite morning-line favoritism, Epicenter broke alertly from post position one under Brian Hernandez, Jr. He settled just off the flank of the pacesetting Surfer Dude (10.30-1) through even early fractions of 24.41 and 47.76. Still in hand entering the turn, he took over right at the quarter pole, and extended his margin of victory down to the wire. Earning 4 Derby points, Tejano Twist (4.60-1), who made a run at the leader at the 3 1/16ths pole, evened out a bit late, while remaining two lengths clear of the pacesetting Surfer Dude (2 Derby points), who held the show spot. Kevin’s Folly earned 1 Derby point for finishing fourth. Epicenter, a 2-year-old son of Not This Time stopped the clock in 1:44.19 for the 1 1/16 miles. A bit rank early, Rocket Dawg finished a distant sixth as the .80-1 favorite.

“I walked down in the paddock and Scott (Blasi) told me how much they liked him,” said Hernandez, Jr., who won three on the day. “I remember watching him (Epicenter) run at Churchill. Same sort of scenario as today. I was actually on Surfer Dude (that day) and he was outside me. Going into the turn you could tell he traveled so good and he was much the best that day. Going off of that race he looked like he had a lot of ability and he showed it today. Any time you get a horse that has tactical speed, especially here (at Fair Grounds), that helps a lot. That’s the nice thing about him, you know, for only his third race, he put himself in position and all I had to do was be a quiet passenger and let him do his thing.”

A tired sixth on debut over seven furlongs at Churchill on September 18, Epicenter bounced back with a huge performance over a one-turn mile seven weeks later in his follow-up start, pressing the pace and drawing out to win by 3 ½ lengths with a huge gallop out over a Louisville strip that was not kind to forward horses on the day. With the Gun Runner win, Epicenter now sports a 3-2-0-1 record with earnings of $130,639.

“We love his tactical speed, his ability to put himself in position to do well and Brian did a great job with him today to let the speed go on, and change sides,” Blasi said. “He’s still lightly raced, still learning, but hopefully there are some big things to come.”

The next Fair Grounds points race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby is the Lecomte (G3) on Saturday, January 22.

Trainer Bret Calhoun was pleased with the effort of runner-up Tejano Twist, who was making his two-turn debut in career start number nine off a victory in the Lively Shively Stakes at Churchill.

“We thought he handled it very well,” Calhoun said “At the end of the day his true calling against better competition might have to be as a closing sprinter. I think he handled that fine. I just don’t really envision him running against top horses at 1 ¼ miles. He handled his first test well, but the horse that beat him had one start and we had our chance off the turn and he drew off from him. I’ll talk to the owner (Tom Durant) and we’ll go from there. Overall, very happy with the horse, ran great. He passed that two-turn test.” — Kristufek



North County Unflappable in Untapable


Not This Time filly remains perfect from three starts and earns 10 points on the road to the Kentucky Oaks


Three starts. Three venues. Three racing surfaces. Make it three wins, all around two turns, for Rebecca Hillen, Stonecrest Farm and Bruno De Julio’s North County, who took down the inaugural running of the $100,000 Untapable Stakes on Sunday, earning 10 Kentucky Oaks points in the process.

A winner on turf at Indiana Grand and over a sloppy track at Keeneland, North County displayed professionalism, and on Sunday she proved her merits over a fast track and against tougher competition.

Away alertly with Adam Beschizza astride, North County, the 3.90-1 third choice, put herself in an outside stalking position while chasing the 23.75, 47.86 early fractions set by Shotgun Hottie and a chasing Fannie and Freddie (8.00-1), who took over at the 3/16ths pole. Fannie and Freddie took a clear advantage into the stretch, but North County ran her down in determined fashion, edging past to score by a neck in a final time of 1:43.17 for 1 mile & 70 yards.

“She’s very tough, very agile, and she’s really done nothing wrong since she broke her maiden in Indiana,” said Beschizza, who has been aboard the daughter of Not This Time in all three starts. “She’s shown she’s very universal and either surface doesn’t seem to hinder her. She’s small tough and mighty. After her Keeneland allowance win she was he was working really well and we confident moving forward into this.”

Fanny and Freddie earned 4 Oaks points for finishing second. Cocktail Moments, the .60-1 favorite, broke sluggishly, ran into some traffic, and finished on her left lead to be third, beaten 3 ½ lengths by the winner (2 Oaks points). It was another 1 ½ lengths to the pacesetting Shotgun Hottie in fourth (1 Oaks point).

“She ran a good race,” jockey Colby Hernandez said of Fannie and Freddie. “She gave me a good break, I sat on her till the last minute and she kicked on, but North County ran her down.”

Perfect from three starts, North County ran her bankroll up to $132,000.

“She showed a lot of heart today which is impressive,” assistant trainer Paul Madden said. “She had been training really good and Brendan (trainer Walsh) was anxious to put her in a spot like this to see if she could fit in this company, and thankfully we do. She’s a filly that is going to get stronger as well and I think there’s more to come from her. She is very talented, has a good mind and wants to win races.”

The $100,000 Silverbulletday on January 22 is the next stop on Fair Grounds Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of races.

“It will come down to some discussions with Brendan, but there is a reason why he stables here and now we as owners now have a reason to look forward to those big races,” said Brian Reed, representing Stonecrest Farm. “Ideally she will stay here and run in the next race in the series.” — Kristufek



In First Career Turf Start, Halo Again Wires the Diliberto Memorial


Jockey Reylu Gutierrez bags a stakes double and a riding triple on the day


Never on turf in a nine-race career that had seen him win once on fast dirt and twice on synthetics, Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing’s Halo Again went to the lead and never looked back in the $75,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial, posting a 14.40-1 upset in his first ever try on grass.

Away alertly, the 4-year-old Ontario-bred son of Speightstown seized early command while in hand to jockey Reylu Gutierrez. With Forty Under (10.10-1) perched to his outside through early fractions of 23.55 and 47.95, Halo Again began to inch away from that foe at the 3 1/16ths pole. He then withstood the late rush of both Pixelate (2.60-1) to score by a half-length in a final time of 1:43.22 for 1 1/16 miles over the Stall-Wilson turf course. It was another neck back to the deep closing Monarchs Glen (7.00-1). Bet down from his 8-1 morning line, 1.80-1 favorite Big Dreaming sat a pocket trip and finished an even fifth.

In one short month at Fair Grounds, jockey Reylu Gutierrez has made quite a name for himself, and Sunday’s performance will only raise his stock.

“It means the world,” Gutierrez said of a hot start at the Fair Grounds meet which finds him fourth in the standings with 13 wins from 65 opportunities (20%). “The credit goes to (agent) Jose Santos. We’re everywhere — I rode at Turfway on Thursday, here at Fair Grounds, at Oaklawn. I’m just trying to work as hard. I’d like to be a part of at least one horse for every stable on this backside get everybody to know me. I’ll ride for anybody. It doesn’t have to be a favorite. This was a $30 winner. I am young and I am hungry.”

Halo Again, who ran eighth behind Enforceable in the 2020 Lecomte (G3), boosted his career record to 10-4-1-1 with earnings of $296,736. It was the second of three wins on the card for trainer Steve Asmussen.

“He’s run a lot over synthetic before,” assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. “He came down her and has had a good winter so far, so we weren’t surprised by the outcome.”

It was another tough defeat for Mike Stidham-trained Pixelate, who lost a neck decision at the hooves Another Mystery in the Bob Wright Memorial here last month.

“Whenever he wins its either by a nose or a neck, and he loses in the same way,” jockey Angel Suarez said. “Pixelate is a really tricky horse to ride. You can’t let him have the lead too easy because then he’ll wait on horses. He needs to have some company, someone to follow so that’s what happened today. I didn’t think there was going to be that much pace. The turf is soft, and I thought it was going to be in my favor because I was going to make a wide move and go for the best part of the track, but nobody but pressure on the 4 horse (Halo Again). I saw the 5 (favorite Big Dreaming) but he didn’t scare me too much. He was on my inside so I said, okay, I have him where I want him. I rode my horse like the best horse, but once I took a peek to the leader in the stretch and saw (Halo Again) I thought, oh I’m in trouble.” — Kristufek



New Owners Same Outcome: Summer in Saratoga Wins Again for Joe Sharp


Game runner-up Bellagamba continues to run well, might look for more ground going forward


Today it was The Blushing KD $75,000 at Fair Grounds–last time out it was the Dowager (G3) at Keeneland–only difference being for Summer in Saratoga: the new owners. After a private purchase, Narola LLC and Anderson Farms Ontarion saw that Summer in Saratoga was in good hands and decided to keep the 5-year old mare in Joe Sharp’s barn. Sharp brought regular rider Corey Lanerie down for the 1 1/16 miles run over the turf and this 5-year-old mare by Hard Spun just keeps rolling.

“We get along so well for some reason or another,” Lanerie said, who has ridden this turf mare to all 7 of her wins. “She’s just a good horse. She makes my job easy. Joe [Sharp] gets her ready and brings her over. I just try not to mess it up. She’s a fun horse to ride.”

And the bettors saw it coming: post time favorite at 1.30-1, Summer in Saratoga broke well and settled to the rear, allowing pacesetter 7.00-1 Advocating to set honest fractions at 23.70, 47.82, and 1:11.54. After stalking in second, third-place finisher 15.90-1 Catch a Bid took a two and a half length lead by the mile pole at 1:36.21 but it would not last. Coming into the stretch, Summer in Saratoga made her move to the lead with 3.10-1 closer Bellagamba moving along with her and in the final sixteenth the closers’ duel was on but Summer in Saratoga prevailed, leaving Bellagamba a neck shy.

“Coming along the backside I got a little anxious that I was getting too far back,” Lanerie said. “But then all I did was call on her and she put me where she needs to be. From the 3/16th pole home I was pretty confident.”

Ridden by James Graham, Bellagamba has two game seconds and one third in her four tries since joining Igancio Correas barn from Argentina.

“A bit more ground I think is all that I am looking for,” Graham said “The filly beat us fair and square today. She never drew away from us which is encouraging to me. When we picked up turning for home, we picked up as one. The race setup was perfect. A little bit more ground might do her some good.”

In 17 starts, she has 7 wins, 1 second and 2 thirds for lifetime earnings of $476,822. New owners, new plan for Summer in Saratoga? We’ll have to wait to see what is in store for her, but look for at least one more run before possibly heading to the broodmare barn.

“She’s been a filly we’ve been able to rely on every time we lead her over,” Sharp said. “She’s been a fun ride for our barn and with Highlander [her previous owners] it was great, then making the transition over to new ownership and them trusting us to keep her in training and to get a return on their dividends right away was icing on the cake. She owes us nothing at this point. I am a big fan of hers, obviously, and so proud to see her get it done. It’s race to race. Definitely you’ll see us back in the next one and from there we’ll see how it goes.” – Kilroy


Additional Quote:    


“I think it was her best race since she was in America,” Bellagmaba’s trainer Ignacio Correas said. “She is facing better company every time she runs and she is stepping up. We are happy. After the first there is nothing better than the second. We got beat by a good filly.”


Revenge is Best Served Cold: Just Might’s Versatility Shines in Richard Scherer


Manny Wah’s return to turf spoiled by Fair Grounds meet leading earner


The last time they battled each other on the turf, Manny Wah’s debut performance on the surface ended with a jaw-dropping turn of foot to pass Just Might, leaving many eagerly awaiting his return, including Just Might. Almost one year later, Griffon Farms and Michelle Lovell’s sprint star turned the tables to win the $75,000 Richard R Scherer turf sprint, leaving Manny Wah to settle for second-place honors.

Opposite of last time, even money favorite 1.00-1 Just Might was able to set measured fractions of 22.48, 46.07, 57.76 and win in 1:04.12 for the 5 ½ panels after jockey Colby Hernandez got him away sharply and went to the lead. 7.70-1 Field Day seemed to be up to the task of dueling after staying within a head through the opening quarter, but that head soon grew to a length and a half. With no one tight to the early leaders, Just Might extended his advantage to 2 ½ into the stretch, but at that point jockey Corey Lanerie had 2.40-1 Manny Wah running second with third-place finisher 19.90-1 Pyron in fourth on the rail and closing hard. Just Might ran on to win, as Manny Wah battled Pyron and stretched a head in front for second.

“We broke well, a good sharp break and got up there,” regular rider Colby Hernandez said. “Going through the turn loose on the lead I thought it’s all over from here. Michelle (trainer Lovell) and her team do such a good job with this horse, who has also matured. I don’t think it matters the turf or dirt, he runs anywhere.”

After winning the Thanksgiving Classic at Fair Grounds, Just Might is the meet-leading earner thus far with $139,500. This Justin Phillip homebred raised his record to 32-10-7-6 with lifetime earnings of $830,414.

“I really believe that this horse [Just Might] is doing better than he has ever been,” assistant trainer Chad Mouton said. “He is maturing so much, he is doing fantastic. I’ll leave [the road to the Breeders’ Cup] up to Michelle and the owner. We’re excited about everything and I feel fortunate to be around a horse of his caliber.”

Maybe the Breeders’ Cup is in his future. As for Manny Wah, in pre-race interview trainer Wayne Catalano said as much about his 5-year- old son of Will Take Charge. Jockey Corey Lanerie will be hoping for firmer ground, if they stick to turf.

“I’d rather the turf be a little firmer,” Lanerie said. “When we first came out on the backside he kept switching leads for one reason or another. But he ran a great race. Just Might is a tough horse who is running good right now and we just couldn’t beat him today but my horse ran, gave me his race and that is it. Top of the lane I wouldn’t have traded places with anybody. I think he’ll benefit from this one and we’ll see [what’s next].”

But before next fall, keep your fingers crossed for “Just Might vs Manny Wah Turf Round 3.” – Kilroy


Tenacious Chess Chief Uses Home Court to His Advantage


Deep closing Happy American loses heartbreaking decision 


The $100,000 Tenacious Stakes lived up to its name as a game front-runner Pirate’s Punch would not go quietly, and the two late-chargers Chess Chief and Happy American wouldn’t give an inch battling down to the wire late. A nose was the difference as the Estate of James J. Coleman Jr.’s Chess Chief recorded his 5th career win, all at Fair Grounds, while boosting his overall record to 30-5-4-4 with earnings of $810,338.

After sharp fractions of 23.75, 47.20, 1:11.83, 1:37.00 were set by 6.40-1 Pirate’s Punch, the closers got their chance. Stalking two-wide between horses through the first turn, jockey Reylu Gutierrez rode 10.10-1 Chess Chief four-wide through the second bend and then unleashed him into the stretch in full blitz at the leader. After bobbling to start, James Graham settled 3.40-1 Happy American sat far back early while saving ground, and picked up steam with every furlong. When Pirate’s Punch began to tire, Happy American, with a brilliant ride from James Graham, popped off the rail to masterfully find a seam to pass between horses and get the lead, while Dallas Stewart-trained Chess Chief joined him from the center, engaged and prevailed.

“He was very sharp today,” Gutierrez said. “I watched his winning race in last year’s New Orleans Classic (G2) win and he was taken back, but today he stayed up there. It was tight down the backside. I wanted to keep him engaged, keep him close. Keep him following someone. Horses are herd animals. They like to follow something and I had to fight my way into the clear. Once I got clear I was close enough to the lead to get out and let him run his race. Neil Pessin, Jimmy Graham give them credit, they came running in the end (with Happy American) and I was nervous I’m not going to lie. What a battle, a classic race between these two horses. Thank you to Dallas Stewart for this opportunity, I appreciate it.”

Jockey Brain Hernandez Jr. settled the 1.80-1 favorite Shared Sense further back than usual, running second, to last 8 lengths off the pace through the opening ½ and then passing tiring rivals when giving a late bid to finish fourth.

Take nothing away from Happy American, a horse who was a nose short of stringing together three wins in a row.

“He ran his race,” Graham said. “That Chess Chief is just a cool horse. I won on him here. But I’ll take it, my horse is great. He didn’t break his maiden until last summer. We tried putting him close, he got really aggressive and still ran well, just not the way he had in the past.”

The last time Chess Chief entered the winner’s circle was at Fair Grounds in the New Orleans Classic on March 20. He had been no better than fifth in his last six starts entering Sunday’s assignment.

“Couldn’t be a better place to win right here for the Coleman family,” Dallas Stewart said. “Their father [the late James Coleman] was great about buying this horse, and he is here with us today. Chess Chief ran against the best and we kept trying to win a grade 1. Maybe we’ll do it next year, but we’re gonna try to clean up here first.”

A quality win on his home court was encouraging to the connections who have consistently been aggressive entering Chess Chief in graded stakes races, last out being the Clark (G1) where he finished 12 lengths back from Maxfield. – Kilroy

Quintet of Stakes Offered on Monday’s 10-Race Card at Fair Grounds

Various age groups & distances featured on both turf and dirt


New Orleans (December 23, 2021) – If Sunday’s “Road to the Derby Kickoff Day” card wasn’t enough, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots doubles up on the post-holiday cheer with five more stakes on Monday, December 27. The 10-race program begins at 1:05 p.m. CT (2:05 p.m. ET). The five added-money events comprise the “All Stakes” Late Pick Five (races 6-10).

“I don’t think any of the races have come up easy,” trainer Tom Amoss said of the Sunday and Monday Fair Grounds programs. “I’ve got a lot of young horses entered on both days. Usually when I am running that many, I can look at a spot and say yeah, I like my horse in here. I can’t do that with any of these races. These are some of the best horses I have for next year, so I don’t know if I should be worried about what I’ve got in my barn or just recognize that the Fair Grounds is a launching pad for a lot of really good horses.”


Some Will Stick to Sprinting, Others Will Stretch Out


With one eye on the future, soon to be 3-year-old prospects meet in Monday’s Sugar Bowl & Letellier Memorial


A pair of 75,000, six furlong sprint stakes restricted to 2-year-olds are on the Monday docket – the Letellier Memorial for the girls and the Super Bowl, which drew a field of nine boys.

The Letellier launches the added-money action in race six (3:24 p.m. CT), and thus the “All Stakes” Late Pick Five as well. Trainer Brad Cox holds a pair of aces in Jim Bakke and Gerry Ibister’s Girl With a Dream, the 5-2 morning line favorite, and James Paliafito, JoAnn Adams and Anna Marie Carrico’s Com’ On Sweet Luv, the co-second choice at 3-1.

The runaway winner of her career debut in late July at Ellis Park, the daughter of Practical Joke proved to be no threat to the queen of the division in Echo Zulu in her follow-up start at Saratoga, finishing a distant eighth after some early trouble in the Spinaway (G1). Since then, she finished second at Keeneland in advance of an off-the-pace, first-level allowance score at Churchill Downs.

“We really liked her going into the Spinaway,” Cox said. “We would have never shipped her up if we didn’t think she had a shot. She trained well over the track, but she did not get involved like we had hoped. Two back (at Keeneland) I thought she was home free, but she leveled off late and got nailed. Last time she didn’t get away as well as she had been, but it obviously worked out because she was able to get the job done. She’s been a hard horse to read with how good she is, but this race sets up for her to get some black type.”

Florent Geroux, who rode Girl With a Dream in her first three starts, will be back aboard on Monday, and the duo will leave from post two.

With only two races on her resume, Com’ On Sweet Luv is the more lightly raced of the Cox duo. On debut at Indiana Grand in late October, the daughter of Jimmy Creed chased the speed of the Steve Asmussen charge Optionality, but proved to be no match.

“I liked this filly a lot first time out, but she ran against a filly (Optionality) that had an experience edge,” Cox explained. That filly came back to win two stakes after that maiden victory, one at Zia Park and one at Remington, and she ran really fast in those races. Given the fact that quality filly beat us last time, we liked her even more in her second start, and she ran big.”

Dismissed at odds of 5-1 by the betting public, Com’ On Sweet Luv made short work of her local maiden foes on November 27, forcing the issue early before crossing the finish line 2 ¾ comfortable lengths in front.

“She moved a big jump forward in her Ragozin number and it looks like it will be competitive against the group,” Cox said. “She’s a really hard trying filly. I like her. She’s easy enough to train, let’s see if she can take a step forward.”

From post five, regular rider Marcelino Pedroza, Jr. will guide Com’ On Sweet Luv.

Also installed at 3-1 in the program is Joel Politti’s Microbiome, who served notice in her career debut at Saratoga in mid-July, wiring her eight foes by 5 ½ lengths in the 5 ½ furlong dash.

“She prepared really, really well early on, so well that we wanted to run her at Saratoga,” Amoss said. “The condition book comes out early, we knew the race was there, and we knew everyone would be pointing their best filly towards it. We felt really good about her and she ran well.”

The next two races didn’t go nearly as well. She pressed the pace and tired to fifth in the Adirondack (G2) at the Spa, and followed up with a fourth in the one mile Sorority at Monmouth, once again losing ground in the stretch.

“It is really easy for young horses in particular to get a little overwhelmed with their race when they debut,” Amoss explained. “Looking back at it, I think she was. She came back and trained fine, but then she got a little hot in the paddock the next time we ran her which is why I associate that with nerves. She didn’t show nerves at all the race after that, but once again, she got hot. We just threw too much at her for the summer of a 2-year-old season, so we just stopped on her. She’s had her time off (3 ½ months), she’s come back a more mature horse and I think she is going to run well for us in a very difficult race. If i am a handicapper, I am certainly paying attention in the paddock and on the track for those nerves. It could be the difference between winning and losing.”

Based on bloodlines, one would guess this daughter of Twirling Candy out of a Smoke Glacken mare would stick to sprinting, but Amoss isn’t so sure.

“Her pedigree is really a contradiction,” Amoss said. “If you look at the dam side and see who the broodmare sire is, that shouts sprint. Yet, her mom, her best races were going around a route. I don’t know how to judge it. Certainly, we haven’t lost hope on the idea of using this race to move forward to a route.”

James Graham will get his first opportunity aboard Microbiome, who will break from post six.

The remainder of the field with post position, jockey/trainer and morning line odds is as follows: Elements Racing’s Implosion (post one, Adam Beschizza/Steve Margolis, 6-1); Rebel Stables’ Red Hot Moon (post two, David Cabrera/Tina Hurley, 10-1 ML); Stone Bridge Investments’ Runnin Happy (post four, Mitchell Murrill/Eric Heitzmann, 15-1 ML); HP Thoroughbreds’ Julesforyou (post seven, Colby Hernandez/Brent Toups, 20-1 ML); and Rebel Thoroughbreds’ Mystique Saboteur (post eight, Brian Hernandez, Jr./Steve Margolis, 6-1 ML). — Kristufek

Nine colts and geldings entered the Sugar Bowl, which is carded as the day’s finale at 5:22 p.m. CT. David Campbell, Douglas Arnold and Marc and Clement Winston’s Higher Standard has been installed as Mike Diliberto’s lukewarm 3-1 morning line favorite for trainer Tom Amoss.

A dominant winner of his career debut at Churchill, the son of Into Mischief was most recently seen finishing second as the 4-5 favorite in the Advent Stakes at Oaklawn.

“After he broke his maiden the attraction of going to Oaklawn was the complexion of the field,” Amoss explained. “It was quick back, we knew that. It involved a ship, we knew that as well. Looking at how the race was coming up, we thought, it was still worth our while to do it. Reflecting on it, I think he ran his race. Look, I’ve been known to be critical of riders so I won’t hold back on you here – I thought he (Florent Geroux) moved too soon, and it cost us in the end.”

James Graham, who was aboard for the debut, reunites with Higher Standard from post nine.

“The horse has come down to Fair Grounds and has trained very well,” Amoss said. “I like our post. In a race I think has a lot of speed and we will be able to sit accordingly. He’s shown he can rate, he can sit off pace and that will be really important in this race. I do think his pedigree and his style suggests he’s a pure sprinter.”

A winner at first asking at Fair Grounds for trainer Al Stall, Jr., Spendthrift Farm’s Underhill’s Tab will test stakes waters for the first time on Monday.

“We like him,” Stall said. “He looks and acts like a $400,000 horse (Ocala March 2yo in training sales price. “His workmate is Peaceful Waters who ran a good race up at Churchill (second on debut on 11-27). We thought it was a good team all the way along. I separated them and one ran up there, one ran down there. That’s just me assessing the talent.”

Breaking from the rail, the son of Unified popped out off the turn and ran down a stubborn foe in Boss’ Dialin In.

“We had to kind of ease out of the one-hole and go across heels and around a couple horses. If you look at the replay, he did it smooth as silk and then ran up to them nicely in the turn. He was a little green down the lane. Overall, I thought he ran a really good race with more left in the tank. He’s breezed twice and everything has been right on schedule. We are looking forward to running him. This race fits perfectly. He is a strong horse that can take whatever we are giving him right now. He’s a smart horse. He seems like he should improve after that race, both in his cardio and mentally.”

Underhill’s Tab is out of the multiple stakes winning sprinter Mykindasaint, but by Saint Ballado, there some route influences in the pedigree.

“He’s a smart horse,” Stall said. If things would go well (on Sunday), if he finishes with some interest, a two-turn race would probably be next. After two sprints and he’s just turning three. I think he is comfortable with himself and I don’t think he’d have a problem mentally staying the trip, whether he’s bred to do it to a certain degree I don’t know, but it (routing) is definitely in the back of our minds.”

Colby Hernandez gets the return call on Underhill’s Tab from post four (4-1 ML).

The adjudicated winner of the Jean Lafitte Stakes last out at Delta Downs over a mile, Dean Maltzman’s Kaely’s Brother broke his maiden in his start prior at Keeneland for trainer Brad Cox.

“I like shortening him back up,” Cox said. “He is a hard trying horse. I’m not sure that he really wanted that mile last time over that track. It can be a little demanding. But he ran well. But I think we got him back doing something he is more comfortable doing.”

At 6-1 in the morning line from post four, Marcelino Pedroza, Jr. will get his first try aboard this son of Twirling Candy, who does have some grass influences in the pedigree.

“I’ve thought about the turf. If at some point the right opportunity presents itself, it’s something we might look at. We’re hopeful this horse can be effective over one turn on the dirt or maybe stretch out on the turf.”

Twice a winner from five starts, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Blue Kentucky was last seen winning a first-level allowance sprint at Churchill Downs for trainer Wayne Catalano.

“He ran huge the other day (at Churchill), so we are excited about him,” Catalano said. “I like the way he’s training. He’s doing good. He had two maintenance works, and then five eighths the other day. We set him down and he gave me a good work.”

Both of Blue Kentucky’s wins have come sprinting. When stretched out to a one-turn mile at Churchill in a Halloween allowance, he made a wide, middle move before flattening out to finish sixth of ten.

“When it comes to more distance, I ran him in that mile race and I don’t know what to say about that,” Catalano said. “I’m sure we are going to try him (around two turns) at some point soon, but I just don’t know. For right now, we’re going to hope to get the job done on Monday.”

The remainder of the field with post position, jockey/trainer and morning line odds is as follows: Bloom Racing Stable and David Bernsen’s Chattalot (post one, Reylu Gutierrez/Steve Asmussen, 7-2 ML); Godolphin’s Freelancer (post three, Adam Beschizza/Brendan Walsh, 6-1 ML); Special Breed (post five, Aubrie Green/Andrea Ali, 20-1 ML); Glockenburg’s Magician Stone (post six, Jose Vega/Gennadi Dorochenko, 30-1 ML); and Dream Team One Racing Stable’s Hoist the Gold (post eight, Brian Hernandez, Jr./Dallas Stewart, 6-1 ML). — Kristufek


A Turn the Calendar Turf Experiment — Six Dirt Specialists
Entered to Face Five Tough Turfers in Woodchopper 


Concert Tour entered for “off the turf” only, according to Cox


Five of the Woodchopper Stakes eleven entries were 2021 Triple Crown nominees who spent their 2-and-3-year-old campaigns focused on one thing — dirt routes. But four days before turning 4-years old, there’s no better opportunity than the sophomore restricted $75k Woodchopper Stakes going a flat mile to sneak in a grass run to satisfy connections’ curiosity.

We know one of those will only run if the race is rained off the turf, Gary and Mary West’s Concert Tour. Since transferred to trainer Brad Cox, Concert Tour was one of the big buzz horses on the Derby trail after winning the Rebel (G2) by 4+ lengths, but regressed when trying and losing two more races.

“I don’t know what was going on with him, but I really, really like the horse,” Cox said. “I’m in a little bit of a spot where I am going to have a hard time finding a good race for him, a good comeback race. That was my thought when entering. But he won’t run unless it does come off.”

With the dry and warm forecast, that likely whittles the field to ten runners and changes the case for favoritism. Morning line oddsmaker Mike Diliberto has Concert Tour at 3-1, and Point Me By as the 9-2 second choice. The lightly raced colt trained by Eddie Kenneally has only competed on grass, winning two out of his five races, including the Bruce D (G1) at Arlington Park, though no runner in that field has gone on to accomplish anything noteworthy. Drawing post 7, Adam Beschizza rides this colt by Point of Entry for the third time and hopes to improve on their 6th place finish last out in the Bryan Station $150k at Keeneland on October 30.

From there it’s anybody’s guess who will win. Diliberto’s morning line odds put 7 horses between 6-1 and 12-1, including 4 horses at 8-1. Two of those 8-1 morning line horses are trained by Bret Calhoun.

4 for 4 on the dirt, Calhoun’s Who Took the Money won on turf last out in the Louisiana Champions Day Turf with a scorch-the-earth turn of foot to make up 8.5 lengths in the final 1/16. The gelding by Street Boss took advantage of a hot pace set by duelers Mangelson and Mr. Four Sevens, but still, the late turn of foot was visually stunning.

“This race wasn’t even on the radar until after Louisiana Champions Day,” Calhoun said. “It was such an impressive race. This is the last 3-year-old race, so I had to start looking at it. The next Louisiana-bred stake for us doesn’t come up for quite a while, and with the draw so far out, we entered. I don’t know 100% if we are going to run or not, but right now, he came out of the race very well and it looks like this is a very viable option.”

Deshawn Parker Jr returns to ride Who Took the Money from post 2.

Calhoun’s other entry, Excess Magic, has scored 3 wins and 2 seconds in 6 turf tries. Though this colt by Magician has won twice going two turns, his last race was a 1 length victory at Fair Grounds in an allowance optional claiming turf sprint. Reylu Gutierrez returns from that late-kicking victory lap to break from the far outside post 11.

“I think this is his kind of race.,” Calhoun said. “The flat mile is ideal for him. I honestly think 5 ½ furlongs is kind of short for him. If you go back and watch the replay of that race, it was pretty impressive. He was kind of bottled up in some traffic, he really got a good seam and he exploded. The one thing this horse has always had is turn of foot. I feel optimistic going into the race with him as well.”

Not seen since the Rebel (G2), it looks like 6-1 morning line shot Big Lake (post 3, jockey Florent Geroux) will be involved in heating up the front end for the Calhoun closers. After finishing 5 lengths behind Concert Tour in the Rebel, Steve Asmussen put this colt by American Pharaoh on the shelf. The morning workouts suggest this two-time winner has a third win coming his way soon, but on turf? His dam Resistivity won impressively first time over the lawn with a Bris speed figure that would be competitive against this field, and American Pharaoh’s progeny win 13% of their turf routes. Asmussen also sends out 13-time turf starter Hidden Enemy (post 1, 10-1 ML, jockey David Cabrera). By Galileo, this colt’s one win did come going 1 mile on the Fair Grounds turf course.

Filling out the field: 4-for-4 turf miler Temper Tantrum (post 4, 8-1, jockey Jareth Loveberry) makes his third start for trainer Armando Hernandez; Bernard Flint’s 4-time dirt winning front-runner Warrior in Charge (post 5, 15-1 ML, jockey Marcelino Pedroza Jr.); Dallas Stewart’s Arabian Prince (post 6, 20-1 ML, jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.) tries turf for the second time after a decent first go; Joseph Saffie Jr.’s Awesome Gerry (post 9, 8-1 ML, jockey Corey Lanerie) has not won as a 3-year old so it makes sense to experiment on the turf with a horse who posts impressive Bris speed figures; and 4-time dirt winner Rightandjust (post 10, 12-1 ML, jockey Colby Hernandez) looks for consecutive wins and to improve off a first turf effort two races back.

Post Time is 3:53 pm CT. The Woodchopper is race 7 of a 10-race card. — Kilroy


Additional Quotes:


Brad Cox on removing Concert Tour’s blinkers.


“He was forward enough training, we’d like for him to be forward enough when he’s running but we want him to be able to relax. Based off what I have seen I did not feel the need for blinkers at the current time. He’s an older horse now, often times when they get older they get more mature not only physically but mentally and they don’t need blinkers to stay focused.”



Lonely on the Lead No More: Field of Front Runners in the Broussard


Moon Swag should benefit from the pace, but
Cheetara’s speed figures suggest she can sustain the likely duel


The majority of the entries in the 57th running of the $75k Joseph E. “Spanky” Broussard Memorial Stakes have a need for early speed. Going 1 mile 70 yards on the dirt should be no problem for these front-running routers, but half the field of 8 filles and mares have won gate to wire. None of those four have won in a duel, and only Velvet Crush has been involved in one on June 6th at Monmouth in the Lady’s Secret where she faded to 4th even after setting modest fractions. Will we see alternative tactics? Or do we have the perfect set-up for an off the pace rally?

Morning line third choice Moon Swag (7-2) would likely benefit most from a pace meltdown. One of two 3-year-olds in the field, Moon Swag has not won since her first two races in her brief 2-year old campaign, including the Manzano Stakes at Albuquerque. Transferring to Brendan Walsh’s barn, she made her third start in last year’s Letellier at Fair Grounds, then began her journey on the Kentucky Oaks trail, coming up short in the Silverbulletday, finishing third to Clairiere and Travel Column in the Rachel Alexandra (G2), and a distant 4th in the Ashland (G1). Last out on October 1 in the $150k Seneca at Churchill Downs, she finished third and posted her career highest Bris speed figure in a race that benefited the front runners. That won’t be the case on Monday in the Broussard.

“It’s a good spot for her,” Walsh said. “She has legitimized herself–she’s turned out to be a better filly than I thought she was going to be. I thought her last run was very good. Listen, when she came to me at first, she was such a lunatic. I didn’t think she was going to do a whole lot, her temperament was going to come against her. But to be fair to her she has really gone the right way. She has got the talent to step up into stakes company. Maybe she could be a nice graded stakes filly for the coming year.”

Breaking from post 7, Walsh gives the nod to first-time rider Brian Hernandez Jr.

No other horse in the field but Cheetara has won a stakes race. And if one of the front runners can sustain a duel, Cheetara’s late pace figures suggest it’s her. The 5/2 morning line favorite 4-year-old filly by Daddy Long Legs repeated her highest Bris speed figures in sprint races at Colonial Downs, her first two races after transferring to trainer Ignacio Correas barn from Chile. But even though her figures were lower in her next two races, she did score a route win on October 24 going 1 1/16ths miles at Keeneland against allowance optional claimers. Colby Hernandez will look to break to the lead from post 2.

The other logical late kicker, Audrey’s Time (3-1 ML), will break from the outside in post 8. Owned by Lothenbach Stables, trainer Neil Pessin’s 4-year old filly by Uncle Mo has shown steady improvement throughout her 15 race career. Her last win was two back going 1 ¼ miles against second-level optional claimers at Churchill Downs. Last out she tried graded stakes company for the first time, finishing a distant third over a sloppy course behind Envoutante and Bonny South. Regular rider Corey Lanerie is up and in her last two races he has put her in the race earlier, no further back than two lengths from the leader at every call.

The likely front runners include: trainer Grant Forster’s Microcap (post 3, 8-1 ML, jockey James Graham) who was ¾ length short of Matera in the $85k Mari Hulman George Memorial at Indiana Downs on July 7. With only one race since transferred from trainer Chad Brown to Mike Stidham’s barn, Velvet Crush (post 5, 8-1 ML, jockey Mitchell Murrill) had tried two Saratoga graded stakes as a 3-year old but has not won since April 15 at Aqueduct, wire-to-wire in the mud against second-level optional claimers. Tap Dance Fever (post 6, 20-1 ML, jockey Angel Suarez) beat two next-out winners in a first-level options claiming race at Delaware Park on September 25, then trainer Gerald Bennett tried her on turf last out where she faded to third.

Presser Judy’s Way (post 4, 8-1 ML, jockey Orlando Mojica) ran well for trainer Carlos Silva to post a 94 Bris speed figure–the highest in the field–when losing by a neck two back against second-level optional claimers at Indiana Downs on November 2nd.

The other likely late charger, Powder River (post 1, 8-1 ML, Adam Beschizza) has regressed in her last three races for trainer Norm Casse since taking a late summer break.

Post Time is 4:22 pm CT. The Spanky Broussard is race 8 of a 10-race card. — Kilroy


Evenly Matched Baker’s Dozen 3-year Old Turf Routers Test Their Luck, Maturity in Pago Hop


Calhoun’s Lovely Ride tries turf and Walsh’s Princess Theorem looks to flex form


Arm Candy, the tepid 7-2 morning line favorite in The Pago Hop $75,000 drew unlucky post 13, the far outside in a field of competitive 3-year-old fillies going one mile on the turf. On a day when the rail will be at 0 after being between 10, 20, and 26 feet over the last 3 weeks, the outside likely will not be the best going for Steve Asmussen’s three-time winner who’s career best Bris speed figure 89 is seventh best in the field. The purse is up for grabs for the filly who has matured the most for this last race of each’s 3-year-old campaign.

The winner of highest career Bris speed figure from this field goes to… none other than first-time turfer, Lovely Ride. Trainer Brett’s Calhoun’s four-time winner, including the August 24 Cathryn Sophia $150k Stakes at Parx (where she earned that 93 Bris going wire-to-wire), draws post 11 and gets jockey Reylu Gutierrez.

“I’m excited to try something new with her,” Calhoun said. “We’re looking to the turf to see if she can move forward, and it’s the last 3-year-old opportunity of the year, so you got to take a shot there, and we get to learn something about the surface. She’s been a smaller, lighter filly, but she seems to be getting better all the time. I thought her race at Parx was really good. It was a situation where we didn’t want the lead, she kind of found herself there, they kind of bum rushed her and I thought they were all going to run by her, but she dug in and went on with it.”

Lovely Ride is 8-1 on the morning line and will likely need to work out a stalk and pounce trip for things to work out for her, or as it’s referred to around Fair Grounds, a “Reylu Rally.”

After running an impressive 2nd at Fair Grounds on November 26 against optional claimers where she was bumped out the gate, fell back, then went 4 to 5-wide around both turns, stakes winner Princess Theorem should love every bit of her run breaking from post 2. A late kicker, she is surrounded by early speed and jockey Adam Beschizza should have no trouble settling in and saving ground. Brendan Walsh trains this 6-1 morning line filly by Nyquist and out of Princess Haya.

“There were times last year I didn’t think she was totally right,” Walsh said. “Since we brought her back this year, she won that stake at Colonial, and I think we finally have her right and going in the right direction soundness-wise. I was never totally happy with her when she was younger, but physically now she’s done really well and gotten stronger. I loved her last race. I thought it was her best. Over the course of time, I don’t see any reason why she can’t become a pretty competitive filly as a 4-year-old. I wanted to give her a run on the course, and I think it will benefit her in the Pago Hop.”

Racing against older last out and only losing by ½ length, there is no doubt Barista will take action at the windows. It took More Than Unusual and Bellagamba to hold back trainer James Baker’s tactical two-time winner on October 27 at Keeneland. With solid morning workouts since, culminating in a bullet on December 17, jockey James Graham will have all the horse he needs breaking from post 3.

Likely benefiting from the rail draw and privileged by her early speed is Touch of Class (20-1 ML, jockey Orlando Mojica). Trained by Bernard Flint, this 8-time starter/8-time sprinter will no doubt send and see if she can hold on. Her last race was an impressive turf sprint win at Fair Grounds on December 10 where the pace dynamic set up for a closer but she sat one length off through ½ and took over in the stretch.

Vying for the early lead will be trainer Cherie DeVaux’s speedy Amiche (post 4, 10-1 ML, jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.). Two-time winner out of four turf route tries, last out on Thanksgiving at Fair Grounds she beat first-level allowance company and earned her career best 85 Bris speed figure.

To her outside, trainer Matt Shirer’s Suki (post 5, 10-1 ML, jockey Deshawn Parker Jr.) has flashed early speed, winning wire-to-wire at 40.20-1 last out on the Churchill Down dirt going 1 1/16 miles against first-level allowance company. With two wins on the turf, and a trainer who wins 30% of his last 23 dirt-to-turf races, this Ten Strike Racing and Jeremy Sussman owned daughter by Upstart has as much chance as any in this field.

Others in the field who will likely be involved early include: Becca’s Rocket (post 8, 12-1 ML, jockey Jareth Loveberry) has won twice at this distance for trainer Scott Gelner including her last turf try three back against allowance company on August 18 at Evangeline Downs; Inajiffy (post 9, 20-1 ML, jockey Corey Lanerie) adds blinkers for trainer Joe Sharp and tries to get back to her winning ways after trying three turf sprint stakes against tough foes; Amalfi Princess (post 10, 8-1 ML, jockey Marcelino Pedroza Jr.) won for trainer Michael Maker at 6.5 furlongs in a first-level allowance at Kentucky Downs suggesting she will not have trouble getting the Pago Hop distance; and second-time turfer, Assertive Style (post 12, 15-1 ML, jockey Mitchell Murrill) who won impressively with a 91 Bris last out against 50k claimers in the mud at Churchill Downs–all four of his victories have come over a sloppy track.

Filling out the field: stakes-winner Out of Sorts (post 6, 8-1 ML, Colby Hernandez) sent out by Brittany Russell was last seen deep closing into 9th place at Aqueduct, but only 4 ½ lengths behind Plum Ali; and last-out synth maiden winner at Woodbine, Youens (post 7, 30-1 ML, jockey David Cabrera) who transferred from Angus Buntain’s barn to join Joe Sharp.

Post Time is 4:51 pm CT. The Pago Hop is race 9 of a 10-race card. — Kilroy




NTRA Announces Unprecedented Supplement to H-2B Visa Cap

Lexington, Ky. (December 20, 2021) – The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) is pleased to report that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) today announced the forthcoming publication of a joint temporary final rule to make available an additional 20,000 H-2B visas for the first half of fiscal year 2022 that ends on March 31, 2022. This is the first time the DHS has provided supplemental H-2B visas in the first half of a fiscal year.

“Tremendously high demand for H-2B visas has led to this unprecedented move by the DHS and DOL,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “Competition for these visas has been fierce for many years but is particularly so in today’s strong job market. We encourage affected trainers to act quickly.”

The supplemental H-2B visa allocation consists of 13,500 visas available to returning workers who received an H-2B visa, or were otherwise granted H-2B status, during one of the last three fiscal years. The remaining 6,500 visas, which are exempt from the returning worker requirement, are reserved for nationals of Haiti and the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

This nonimmigrant visa program is used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. Currently, Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year (Oct. 1 – March 31) and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 – September 30).

For the horse racing industry, racehorse trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions. Demand for H-2B visas often exceeds their availability and the cap level is quickly reached, leaving employers without sufficient help.

The Jockey Club to Increase Registration Fees

The Jockey Club announced Friday, December 17, 2021 that it will be increasing each category of registration application fees by $20 starting in 2022. The last fee increase for registration applications was introduced with the 2013 foal crop.

The updated fee schedule is as follows:

No other registry-related fees have been changed.

The Jockey Club, founded in 1894 and dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing, is the breed registry for North American Thoroughbreds. In fulfillment of its mission, The Jockey Club, directly or through subsidiaries, provides support and leadership on a wide range of important industry initiatives, and it serves the information and technology needs of owners, breeders, media, fans and farms. It founded America’s Best Racing (, the broad-based fan development initiative for Thoroughbred racing, and in partnership with the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, operates OwnerView (, the ownership resource. Additional information is available at

Star Guitar’s Siredom Reigns with Jose Camejo at the Helm





Barn tour: Ova Charged, her full sister, and the Star Guitar clan moving forward


New Orleans, LA (December 17, 2021) – When the music comes on over the barn speakers, 3-year old gelding Behemah Star sticks his head out of his stall and begins to nod in rhythm. A first-level allowance winner last out in his fourth start, he has reason to be feeling good. As do his Star Guitar-sired stablemates. Off to a red-hot start and the leading trainer through the first three weeks of the meet, all eight victories are with Star Guitar’s band, including Ova Charged’s memorable victory in the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint. There’s something about these Star Guitars. There’s something about Jose Camejo.

With the love Evelyn Benoit of Brittlyn Stables has for her sire Star Guitar and her drive to prove his worth, she wouldn’t have it any other way. And there is an underdog’s story to both sire and trainer. Winner of 24 out of 30 starts with earnings of $1,749,862 with a storied career that began in 2007, Star Guitar’s two starts outside of Louisiana were loses in graded stakes races: the Alysheba (G3) at Churchill Downs and the Texas Mile (G3) at Lone Star. Never once the runner-up in any of his races, breeders often pass on Star Guitar’s $7,500 stud fee, which only fuels Benoit’s drive for success.

“Star Guitar is a gift from heaven,” Benoit said. “I’ve had so much faith in this stallion, I don’t want to breed to anyone else. I’ve had the best, including three American Pharoah’s, and they can’t beat my Star Guitar’s.”

Originally from Venezuela, Jose Camejo did not originally chart a course to being one of Fair Grounds’ most successful trainers. A multiple stakes winning jockey, between 2003 and 2012, Jose Camejo won 130 races with lifetime earnings $1,849,882. After a spill at Evangeline Downs where he broke his neck, at age 33 Camejo decided to become a trainer. Since 2013 he has won at a rate of 21%: 1,261 starts 262 wins with a total earnings of $6,480,971.

On a daily basis at Fair Grounds, Camejo is competing against some of our sport’s best in Brad Cox, Steve Asmussen, Al Stall, Tom Amoss, Bret Calhoun and Mike Stidham. His success includes the tutelage of Minit to Stardom–Star Guitar’s leading progeny in terms of earnings of $536,180, winning 9 times out of 14 starts–another bred by Benoit.

“I know she is a very competitive woman, me as well,” Camejo said. “Being from another country and being competitive with bigger trainers, some of the best trainers in the country–you can’t know how much this (her faith) means to me.”

Often found in the best jockeys, his confidence and connection to horses carries over into his presence, approach, and care for his animals. His horses look beautiful in the stalls, the paddock, and kicking home in the stretch. Take positivity, confidence and couple that with Jose Camejo and team’s focus around the barn and you can’t help but wonder what’s next for these runners.

“Everybody is feeling good. I’m really happy with the barn right now,”Camejo said. “The team–everything. We came out with a different attitude, and we are focused on what we do. We are gonna have a good meet. I’m now in the barn everyday. I used to have an assistant, but I don’t have anybody right now. This is good because it keeps me more focused and on top of what we are doing here. I think this is one of the best teams I have ever had. Everybody is focused on what we are doing. We are in good shape, we really are.”

Let’s start at the top: Ova Charged. A winner by 9+ lengths against Louisiana-bred optional claiming rivals on November 28 at Fair Grounds, she proved up to the task against much better company less than two weeks later in the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint, defeating G2 winner Cilla in a race that lived up to its billing. A slow start put Ova Charged far behind and it took a fearless heart coming home to win in the final strides. Now 4 for 5, with her one loss a second behind the multiple graded stakes winning Souper Sensational  in the Victory Ride Stakes (G3) at Belmont, the 3-year old by Star Guitar and out of dam Charged Cotton will take a break now and gear back up for the races in 2022.

“She is doing fantastic,” Camejo said. “We don’t have anything specific in mind. We’re not going to run her right now. We were asking for a lot. I’m glad everything worked out and now I will just wait for her to tell me when she is ready. She will take her time in the barn. We might bring her to my house for a week.”

But for fans who can’t wait for that classy bloodline to reemerge, do know that Ova Charged has a full sister: 2-year old filly Charged Temp. Winner of a maiden special weight at Monmouth Park in July with a 71 Bris speed figure, she has tried two stakes and two allowances since, only to come up short, so what’s the plan?

I walked with Jose, from stall to stall.

“I am gonna try something different this time,” Camejo said of Charged Temp. “I am going to try her on the turf. I don’t think she liked the dirt much. But I think she is going to be better on the turf. Ova Charged is one of a kind, she runs on everything. But this one is more for the turf.”

Camejo’s face lights up when he gets the chance to talk about his 2-year old filly Moment to Dream.

“She is gonna win next time,” Camejo said “She got tired last time (11-27) . She needed a race. Next time she is going to be tough to beat. She is one of my favorites.”

Speaking of the head-bobbing Behemah Star, Camejo said they’re going to stretch him out to a mile next time out.

“He came out great,” Camejo said. “I like this one a lot. This is one of the horses of my future. He’s still a little green, but every time he races he gets more mature, better and better.”

Then there is the 3-year old recent maiden winner (12-4), gelding Moment Of Stardom:

“He’s running amazing–he surprised me,” Camejo said. “I knew he was gonna run good but not that great. He really exploded in the last 1/16th, he exploded. He has found himself now. He has figured out how to run already. We are keeping him in great shape. He came back great. We are waiting for the next race and see how that goes.”

The Four 4-year old gelding Win Ya Win, winner of second-level allowance at Fair Grounds last out, appears to be headed in the right direction as well.

“Came out great and is ready for the next,” Camejo said.

The 3-year old filly Satisfy U, 2nd last out at Fair Grounds in her second maiden claiming try:

“Came back good, as well,” Camejo said “The horse has been running good, and she has improved a lot. We have been trying to be focused and will keep her at that level. She’s another one that is getting ready for the next race. I think she is gonna win next time.”

3-year old filly Rue La La, 2nd last out at Fair Grounds in a first-level allowance:

“She ran a hell of a race and she gives you everything on the track,” Camejo said. “She came back good. We are going to give her a little bit of time. And then bring her back 100% in good shape and she is another one I expect to win.”

After the fury of eight victories through the first three weekends, Camejo is the first to give credit to the owner of the majority of horses in his barn, Evelyn Benoit.

“She has given me one of the biggest opportunities in my life,” Camejo said. “I take it very seriously and feel very blessed. I’m glad that everything worked out good and the horses are running good. I make sure (when I enter them) that the horses are going to be right there.”

The respect is mutual.

“I can’t say enough about Jose Camejo and what he’s done for me,” Benoit said following Ova Charged’s signature win. “He’s put me on the map on the East Coast and nationally. Star Guitar babies have won in California, New York and Kentucky. We are just so pleased. It’s not easy to do this.”

His focus, his work ethic, and his hands-on approach are key factors to Camejo’s success as well.

“I might not win the standings (title), I might not have the material,” Camejo said. “But I can promise you right now we are going to fight and it will be a tough fight. I know every horse I bring to the race is going to be 1, 2, 3–right there. I am the first one in the barn in the morning and the last one to leave. I am on top of this.”

As I stood next to Ova Charged and company I couldn’t help but feel similar to Camejo: in the presence of greatness and somewhat as an outsider. As someone who knows little of horses beyond the PPs, I was hesitant to get close and give her a rub on the nose. What Camejo told me speaks to his approach and position in this sport, and no doubt extends from his days as a jockey.

“Same as when you are riding,” Camejo said. “Don’t show fear when you’re by them.”



Grade 1 Winner No Parole to Stand in Louisiana

(Sunset, La.) – Coteau Grove Farms and Whispering Oaks Farm announced today the purchase of Coteau Grove’s Grade 1-winning homebred No Parole (Violence). No Parole will stand at Whispering Oaks Farm in Carencro, Louisiana, for $3,500 live foal, stands and nurses. Coteau Grove’s bloodstock advisor Andrew Cary (Cary Bloodstock) brokered the deal. 

No Parole winning the G1 Woody Stephens S. Susie Raisher photo.

“No Parole was our first Grade I winner as a breeder and that is so exciting for us.” said Ginger Myers. “We’ve been interested in where he would go next when his racing career was completed. To be able bring him back to Louisiana and stand him close to home at Whispering Oaks is a dream come true for us.” said Keith Myers. “We look forward to supporting him with quality mares from our farm.”

Whispering Oaks Farm also stands the highly promising young sire Iron Fist (Tapit), who currently sits 2nd on the freshman sire list in Louisiana, as well as the graded stakes-winning One Liner (Into Mischief). “We are very excited to be standing Louisiana-bred Grade 1 winner No Parole at Whispering Oaks,” said Whispering Oaks owner Carrol Castille. “We are big supporters of the Louisiana breeding industry and it’s great to be able to keep a homegrown Grade 1 winner like this here to stand at stud. He showed tremendous talent and fits in perfectly with the other stallions on our roster. We look forward to supporting him with our own mares and think he’ll be very popular with Louisiana breeders as well.” 

No Parole was purchased for $75,000 as a yearling by Maggi Moss from the consignment of Select Sales as agent for Coteau Grove Farms at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Greg Tramontin purchased an interest in the horse early during his racing career.

“I’ve said it before – he was the horse of a lifetime,” said Moss. “We had many generous offers on this horse, but it was my preference to see him go back to his breeders. I know they will take care of him, give him every opportunity at stud, and give him a great life.”

Trained by Tom Amoss, No Parole began his career in devastating fashion, winning his first three starts by a combined 34 lengths, Including the Premier Night Prince Stakes at a mile. After an impressive allowance victory over open company at Oaklawn Park, No Parole’s finest hour arrived when he dominated a strong field in the Woody Stephens S. (G1) at Belmont Park, winning wire-to-wire by 3 3/4 lengths in 1:21.41 for the 7 furlongs, defeating Grade 1 winners Echo Town and Mischevious Alex. 

“No Parole was one of the most brilliant racehorses I’ve ever trained,” said Amoss. “I am very excited for him to go to stud and I will be supporting him as a stallion.”

No Parole kicked off 2021 with a facile victory in the Premier Sprint S., running the fastest 5 furlongs of the meet at Delta Downs.

“No Parole was incredibly fast, and did it effortlessly,” said Cary. “That kind of speed is rare in a stallion prospect. His career debut at Fair Grounds, which he won by 14 1/4 lengths, was simply breathtaking. I encourage breeders to watch his first 3 races as well as his Grade 1 win in the Woody Stephens win, where he went 1:08 3/5 for 6 furlongs. This horse had immense natural ability, and has the potent combination of athleticism, pedigree and performance that should make him highly appealing to Louisiana breeders, especially with what we feel is a reasonable fee for a first-year horse with his credentials and name recognition.”  

The 2020 Louisiana Horse of the Year, No Parole retires with 6 wins in 13 starts and earnings of $369,866.

He was produced by the stakes-winning mare Plus One (Bluegrass Cat), a mare acquired by Cary for Coteau Grove at the 2014 Keeneland November Sale for $67,000 (In-foal to Violence). She has also produced the multiple winner Violent Ways (Violent), who earned over $195,000. She is currently in-foal to leading sire Tapit and is booked to the current leading first crop and juvenile sire sensation Gun Runner for 2022.  


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