Two Stakes Wins in and Thirsty For More: Vodka Gimlet Looks to Extend Perfect 3-Year-Old Season in Crescent City Derby
2021 LTBA 2-year-old colt of the year Unified Report returns to the two-turns question
New Orleans, LA (March 23, 2022) — Not much separates the top contenders in the 50th running of the $75,000 Crescent City Derby. In a field of eleven 3-year-old colts and geldings set to run 1 1/16 mile at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, eight of them are exiting a win, eight of them have earned between $35,000 and $65,000, and seven of them have proven themselves around two turns. But three stand-outs have the accolades, earnings, and resume which will keep the rest of the field in tune to their whereabouts as the race for the top Louisiana-bred 3-year-olds unfolds. Based on their resumes, Vodka Gimlet, Unified Report, and More Memories have earned the targets on their backs.
Ellen Epstein’s Vodka Gimlet has enjoyed a perfect sophomore season to this point, winning Delta Down’s Big Drama and Premier Prince in his two 2022 starts. The son of Goldencents has won three races, earned $147,645, and finished ahead of Rebel (G2) winner Un Ojo as a 2-year-old in the Jean Lafitte. Tabbed as the 3-1 morning line favorite, Vodka Gimlet has never been sent out as public choice in any of his seven races. After piloting in both stakes scores, trainer Allen Landry calls on jockey Tommy Pompell to ride from post seven.
Following a perfect 2021 campaign from three starts, Valene Farms’ Unified Report earned LTBA’s top 2-year-old Louisiana-bred colt honors. Among those tallies was a thrilling Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile score at six furlongs. Trainer Dallas Stewart took a shot against open company with his Unified colt in the Lecomte (G3), but that two-turn, 14-length loss as well as his Premier Prince 16-length defeat begs the obvious question — distance. Winner of his last, a March 12 open company optional claiming sprint at Fair Grounds, Unified Report certainly has form and the two-turn question will be in Brian Hernandez, Jr.’s hands, breaking from post nine.
As a Triple Crown nominee, Maggi Moss’ More Memories has the stamp of a 3-year-old’s loftiest expectations. Winner of three of his last four tries at two turns, trainer Tom Amoss has been patient with this More Than Ready colt, running him through his allowance conditions. Impressively beating older state-breds last out attracted the attention of the 2021 Eclipse award winning jockey Joel Rosario, who will leave from post six to take aim at More Memories’ first stakes score.
The field for the $75,000 Crescent City Derby (race 5 at 2:02 pm CT) with post position, jockey/trainer and morning line odds: Whispering Oaks Farm’s Feisty Fist (post one, Kevin Smith/Steve Flint, 8-1 ML), exits five sprint stakes races, including the September win in Evangeline Downs’ D.S. Shine Young Futurity win in the mud; Set-Hut’s Play Mo (post two, Colby Hernandez/Jeff Delhomme, 12-1 ML), recently won a first-level allowance last out on March 16, his first go at two turns; meet-leading owner Brittlyn Stables’ Tambourine Star (post three, Tyler Gaffalione/Jose Camejo, 12-1 ML), goes for his second win after finishing third in his first two attempts at two turns this spring; C and R Racing’s Its Wild Again (post four, Adam Beschizza/Ron Faucheux, 12-1 ML), broke his maiden going two turns last out on second asking; Delanie Calais Jr.’s Cosmic Train (post five, James Graham/Jerry Delhomme, 10-1 ML), took a big step up beating two in this field in early March’s first-level allowance going 1 mile; Maggi Moss’s Triple Crown nominee More Memories (post six, Joel Rosario/Tom Amoss, 5-1 ML), scored his third win against older company in a second-level allowance early March; Ellen Epstein’s Vodka Gimlet (post seven, Tommy Pompell/Allen Landry, 3-1), exits two stakes victories in a row; Dennis Milligan’s Jack Bob and Larry (post eight, Jorge Guzman/Henry Johnson Jr., 8-1 ML), broke his maiden sprinting last out on second asking; Valene Farms’ Unified Report (post nine, Brian Hernandez Jr./Dallas Stewart, 4-1 ML) was voted LTBA’s 2021 2-year-old Colt of the year and he notched his fourth win in six tries last out against open optional claiming company; Dale Ladner’s Bind Faith (post ten, Emanuel Nieves/Brett Brinkman, 12-1 ML), broke his maiden going two turns two races back, then finished fourth to foes Cosmic Train and Tambourine Star last out; Run Bayou Racing’s Itellyouthefacts (post eleven, Roberto Morales/Shane Wilson, 12-1 ML), will make his first start for Shane Wilson after being claimed for $20,000 from his front-running score last out for trainer Bret Calhoun.
Living In the Money: Front Runner Serape Puts It on the Line in Crescent City Oaks
Wholelottamo will look to run the front runner down late to win her thirds stakes
Seven of the nine fillies entered in the 17th running of the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks have their confidences boosted by last-out wins, but none won more impressively than Serape.
Eight-for-eight in the money, Harry Benoit’s Serape made the most of her 3-year-old debut, leading from go to woe to win by 8 ½ lengths. In winning against two of her Crescent City Oaks foes in a second-level allowance, she recorded the highest Brisnet Speed Figure of the field with an 89. With the deja vu rail draw/Brian Hernandez Jr. advantage, arguably Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ top forward rider winning 24% of his last 202 races onboard an “E” type, there’s little doubt that Brett Brinkman’s daughter by Cinco Charlie will send and set the fractions. Tabbed the 5-2 morning line favorite, Serape’s three show finishes all came in her three previous juvenile stakes attempts.
Stakes-tested six times over, including the win in August’s Louisiana Cup Juvenile Fillies, Thompson Racing’s Wholelottamo beat Jerry Cart’s Miss Jana by a head last out in the Take Charge Brandi. But those two stakes wins plus her maiden opener isn’t enough to earn morning-line favorite status, being designated 3-1 morning line second-favorite, likely because her speed figures fall short of the speed Serape just flashed in her recent win. Tommy Pompell will have his second go aboard the Mo Tom filly breaking from post five.
The field for the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks (race 3 at 1:00 pm CST) with post position, jockey/trainer and morning line odds: Harry Benoit’s Serape (post one, Brian Hernandez Jr./Brett Brinkman, 5-2 ML), is two-for-two going two turns after winning a first-level allowance by 8 ½ lengths last out at Fair Grounds in February; Jerry Cart and Marion Lanasa Jr’s Courtly Doc (post two, Alexander Castillo/Jerry Cart, 12-1 ML), is six-for-six in the money after winning her last two Delta Downs sprints in the mud; the second entry for owner and trainer Jerry Cart, Miss Jana (post three, Jose Guerrero/Jerry Cart, 5-1 ML), was a head short of winner Wholelottamo in the Take Charge Brandi last out; Earl and Keith Hernandez, John Duvieilh, and Steve Landry’s Dreaming of Neany (post four, Marcelino Pedroza, Jr./Sam David Jr., 6-1 ML), recorded her second win going a mile against first-level allowance company last out; Thompson Racing’s Wholelottamo (post five, Tommy Pompell/Jayde Gelner, 3-1 ML), racked up her second stakes victory last out beating Miss Jana by a head in the Take Charge Brandi; Phyllis Hodges’ Bode’s Connection (post six, Emanuel Nieves/James Hodges, 15-1 ML), broke her maiden against $12,500 claimers last out going two turns in her sixth start; William Yarmuth, Susan Yarmuth, and Coteau Grove Farms’ Mishpachah (post seven, Adam Beschizza/Bret Calhoun, 8-1 ML), goes for her second win having won first time out in November and finishing in the top four her next three outings; Billy Lawson and Jeanne Doi’s My Nanny’s a Hoot (post eight, James Graham/Eric Scherer, 8-1 ML), has two turf wins to her resume, including a last-out score in a first-level allowance going a mile; Whispering Oaks Farms’ Buckley Bunny (post nine, Kevin Smith/Steve Flint, 10-1 ML), upset the apple cart winning the Louisiana Champions Day Lassie at 93.20-1 in December.
Bertie’s Galaxy and Alterna Look to Transfer Dirt Hot Streak to the Costa Rising Turf
Majority of connections taking a green stab with their state-bred sprinters
Many of the participants entered in the overflow field of fifteen 3-year-old and up LA-bred turf sprinters for the 12th running of the $75,000 Costa Rising can be similarly summed up in one phrase – unproven on turf. Such uncertainty creates exactly the type of potential chaos that Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ bettors love to feast on, as well as the identity-defining win on which a breeder can hang their sire and dam’s turf-sprint hat. Eight entrants are untried or goose-egged on the turf, five have notched one green win, leaving only two of the fifteen with a trio or more grass scores. With the portable rail down after being set at 8 feet or further since March 3rd, the inside part of the course will be fresh and ready for these sprinters’ rail runs.
They may be unproven on the turf, but many of these sprinters have been scorching hot on the dirt, none more so than Alterana. Owned and trained by Keith Charles, the 5-year-old by Alternation has won seven of his last eight since being claimed by Charles for $5,000 last June. The highlight of the run came two back winning the five furlong Ragin Cajun on Delta Downs Premier night. Gerald “G Money” Melancon, who won his 5,000th race in 2021, has been up for all but one of Alterana’s mounts while in Charles’ barn (post nine, 8-1 ML).
In similar fashion, Allen Cassedy’s Bertie’s Galaxy comes blazing into the Costa Rising having won five of his last seven for Fair Grounds’ leading trainer Ron Faucheux. Though all of these have come on the dirt, the Greeley’s Galaxy 6-year-old did score in one of his two turf tries, back in August of 2020. Breaking from post seven, Jareth Loveberry is up again on the 7-2 morning line favorite after guiding the open length wire-to-wire romp in the Premier Sprint at Delta Downs, where Bertie’s Galaxy received a 98 – the highest career Brisnet Speed Figure of anyone in the field.
Three of Valene Farms’ Classy John’s four wins are stakes victories, including last year’s Costa Rising. The Songandaprayer 6-year-old only boasts one win from nine turf tries, but he is grade 2 placed on turf, having run third in the Turf Sprint at Churchill last April the start after his Costa Rising score. Bred by Tom Curtis and Wayne Simpson, Classy John will make his fourth start from Sturges Ducoing’s barn and star-rider Brian Hernandez Jr. who was aboard for the 2021 Costa Rising victory over X Clown will guide 9-2 morning line second-favorite from post two.
The field for the $75,000 Costa Rising at 5 ½ furlongs on turf with the rails down (race 6 at 2:33 pm CT) with post position, jockey/trainer and morning line odds: Israel Flores Horses’ Custom Deelite (post one, Aubrie Green/Andrea Ali, 30-1 ML), took a major step forward last race, winning a second-level, five furlong dirt allowance at Delta Downs by four lengths; Valene Farms’ Classy John (post two, Brian Hernandez, Jr./Sturges Ducoing, 9-2 ML), finished ½ length short against X Clown in a February state-bred optional claimer at Fair Grounds; Set-Hut’s X Clown (post three, James Graham/Jerry Delhomme, 9-2 ML), beat several in the field last out in a February state-bred optional claimer at Fair Grounds; Allen Cassedy and Winalot Racing’s Half Again (post four, Florent Geroux/Ron Faucheux, 8-1 ML), has been sharp in the mornings but has not raced since September’s 4th place finish in a third-level allowance at Louisiana Downs; Brandon Hebert’s Double Barrel Man (post five, Joel Dominguez/Eduardo Ramirez, 15-1 ML), is a 12-time winning 9-year-old making his second start for trainer Ramirez, having won his last outing at Delta Downs against $20,000 claiming company; Dale White Sr.’s Smooth Colliery (post six, Casey Fusilier/Dale White, Sr., 20-1 ML), a 7-year-old looking for win number ten, but he is 0 for 7 on the turf; Allen Cassedy’s Bertie’s Galaxy (post seven, Jareth Loveberry/Ron Faucheux, 7-2 ML), has won five of his last seven races, including last out’s Premier Sprint stakes score on the Delta Downs dirt track, but is only one for two on turf; Larry and Katherine Menard’s A Song for Arch (post eight, Adam Beschizza/Brett Brinkman, 8-1 ML), a turf specialist who tops the filed with five turf sprint wins, including two-back at Fair Grounds over X Clown and Classy John; owned and trained by Keith Charles, Alterana (post nine, Gerald Melancon, 8-1 ML), has won five in a row including the Premier Ragin Cajun two back on the Delta Downs dirt track, but is 0 for 3 on the turf; World War IV Racing’s Hail State (post ten, Joe Stokes/Allen Landry, 12-1 ML), has performed well on the turf, winning and placing over the summer at Evangeline Downs in his only two attempts; owned and trained by Jonah Fuselier, Jake the Band Man (post eleven, Jose Riquelme, 15-1), adds blinkers going for his fourth turf sprint win after finishing third to X Clown and Classy John in a February state-bred optional claimer at Fair Grounds; Land G Racing Stable’s Yankee Seven (post twelve, Marcelino Pedroza Jr./Eduardo Ramirez, 8-1 ML), won his last outing sprinting on Sam Houston’s turf course against second-level allowance foes. Also eligibles include: Treanor MD’s Black Sword (post thirteen, Vicente Del-Cid/Ronnie Averett, 10-1 ML), makes his second turf start after winning Delta Downs optional claiming dirt contest last out; D.J. Stable, Cash is King and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Swot Analysis (post fourteen, Tyler Gaffalione/Mark Casse, 6-1 ML), took a major step forward winning a state-bred optional claiming dirt sprint at Fair Grounds by open lengths last out; Gulf Heaven Farms’ Slither (post fifteen, Emanuel Nieves/Ronnie Ward, 12-1 ML), looks to try turf for the first time after exiting a game place-finish to Black Sword in a February Delta Downs optional claiming dirt contest.
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