Four-time local riding champion on hand to raise awareness for Thoroughbred Aftercare
New Orleans (February 4, 2022) – On Saturday, March 4, retired jockey and horse advocate Rosie Napravnik will be on site at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots to spearhead the third annual “New Vocations Day at the Races.”
A four-time local riding champion who was instrumental in the opening of the New Vocations facility in Covington, Louisiana, Napravnik will join host Joe Kristufek on the live feed during the racing day to help build awareness, promote success stories and inspire donations for Thoroughbred aftercare.
“I am elated to be having our third annual New Vocations Day at Fair Grounds,” Napravnik said. “Since its inception, our Louisiana satellite facility has been a great success and it’s my honor to dedicate a day to promoting local aftercare by showing off the horses and the work that these ladies have done right here in Covington. This year I am excited to have New Vocations executive director Anna Ford also joining Joe and me on set to talk about the program!”
Held for the first time at Fair Grounds in 2021, the “New Vocations Day at the Races” has raised over $10,000 in unique donations from fans and people within the industry, including horsemen, horse owners and jockeys.
“Before and after my riding career, I’ve been exposed to a lot of the other things that horses can do, and that’s a big part of the reason why I’m so passionate about it and why it’s so important to me,” Napravnik said in regards to Thoroughbred aftercare. “I have a lot of experience in the other disciplines and I’ve seen retired racehorses really excel. I got my first off-the-track Thoroughbred back in 2008 and watching him transform, his potential, his trainability, his eagerness to do something else and to learn new things and please really inspired me. After riding so many of those horses and seeing how much they put out for us on the racetrack, it’s just something I can’t avoid making a part of my life.”
For the first time this year, owners, jockeys and trainers can contribute a financial donation to the Louisiana chapter of New Vocations directly through the horsemen’s bookkeeper. Contact Emily Miller or Diana Bosco at 504-948-1254. In addition, contributions are welcome through the New Vocations website — visit https://horseadoption.org/donate and click the button with Rosie’s picture on it in the top row to complete the process.
“We are very excited about the success we’ve had with the success we’ve had putting on this show,” Napravnik said. “So many influential people within the industry have jumped into action, making donations and encouraging others on social media to do so as well. We are very grateful for the HBPA and the horseman in Louisiana for supporting our efforts. Our program continues to expand, and we are excited to share our growth from the past year.”
Napravnik, who won 1,878 races in her ten-year career, retired in 2014 following her Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) win with Untapable. In 2012 she became the first female rider to capture the Kentucky Oaks (G1), guiding Believe You Can to victory, and she won the race again just two years later with Untapable. She is married to trainer Joe Sharp and together they have two sons, Carson and Tucker.
“Rosie is one of our favorites,” said Fair Grounds senior director of racing Jason Boulet. “It’s great to have her back at the Fair Grounds to help shed light on such an important cause and to share her valuable insight with the fans. We look forward to continue to build on the success of this event year after year.”
Recognizing the need for expanded Thoroughbred aftercare in Louisiana, Napravnik reached out to New Vocations, the largest racehorse adoption program in the country, in the fall of 2019. With Napravnik taking on a leadership role under the umbrella of New Vocations, they received a start-up grant from the Right Horse, which allowed the program to open a facility in Louisiana.
“The Right Horse grant funded almost half of running the program for the first two years,” said New Vocations Thoroughbred program director Anna Ford. “That really helped us get on our feet. Then the Louisiana HBPA stepped in and have helped the program grow and ultimately serve more horses.”
Since opening their doors in 2019, the Louisiana division of New Vocations has served 174 horses. There are currently 22 horses in the program.
“Moving into our fourth year, our Louisiana facility continues to thrive and our team has done a wonderful job with each horse that has entered the program,” Ford said. “The continued support from Louisianan HBPA has played a huge role in the facility’s success. We are also seeing more and more local owners, breeders and trainers reach out to utilize our services as well as support our efforts. We are grateful to have the Fair Grounds hosting another New Vocations Day at the Races. We hope the event will continue to raise awareness about our Louisiana facility and the services we provide to the racing community.”
Race 7 on Saturday’s card will be dedicated to New Vocations and racehorse aftercare. Representatives from Fair Grounds at the Louisiana HBPA will be on hand to present a $117,000 check, $27,000 of which comes directly from the track. This represents the amount accrued the past 12 months as part of the “starters match” program.
“New Vocations is an organization the Fair Grounds is proud to support each year,” said Fair Grounds president Doug Shipley. “Their dedication to rehabilitating, retraining and rehoming horses deserves the upmost respect. We encourage everyone interested to support this amazing cause.”
On Saturday, Napravnik will join track announcer John G. Dooley on the pre-race “Fair Grounds Today” show and partner with simulcast host Joe Kristufek during the racing card to provide information on how to donate a horse, how to adopt a horse, and how fans can contribute to the cause. She will also share adoption success stories, which will be supported by video of retired racehorses thriving in their second careers.
“I want to help make sure that horses have the opportunity to do something after racing because they really deserve it,” Napravnik said. “They have so much life ahead of them when their racing career is over. I can’t ignore that, especially in a place like Louisiana that has such a high demand for organizations to help bridge that gap.”
In addition to promoting Thoroughbred aftercare awareness, Napravnik will also offer her race-by-race selections via the “expert picks” videos on twinspires.com and the Twin Spires app, and on the simulcast feed.
“During my riding career, I never handicapped to pick the winner, I handicapped to make my horse the winner,” Napravnik said. “But there’s a lot of insight I can give on how each of the riders could see the race unfolding and how it might play out from a pace and trip perspective. I truly enjoy being on the show and handicapping the races with Joe so it will be another fun and exciting day as we raise awareness and funds for aftercare in Louisiana!”
Scores four wins on Louisiana Derby Preview Day,
including a 13-1 Risen Star Upset with Angel of Empire
New Orleans (Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023) – Trainer Brad Cox sent out his 2,000th career North American winner Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, saddling Spendthrift Farm, Steve Landers Racing, Martin Schwartz, Michael Dubb, Ten Strike Racing, Jim Bakke, Titletown Racing, Kueber Racing, Big Easy Racing, Winners Win, Michael Caruso, and WinStar Farm’s Bishops Bay (1-2 favorite) to a three-quarters of a length victory over stablemate First Mission in Race 5.
“I want to thank the team, the owners, and the horses,” Cox said. “It’s been a great run and it’s been a long road. I’m glad to have two colts who showed up here and ran well, I’m proud of both. I think they have bright futures.”
The 42-year-old native of Louisville, Ky. closed to within three victories of the milestone entering Saturday. Beginning with Comparative in Race 2, then Merlazza in Race 4, the Cox barn quickly won with their first two entries on the card. Having two entries in Race 5, there was no doubt in the homestretch that Cox was about to hit 2,000–the only question was which horse would be the one to do it for him as his other entry First Mission headed Bishops Bay with one-sixteenth to go. With Florent Geroux aboard, the Uncle Mo Colt Bishops Bay battled back against his workmate, beating him to the wire.
Steve Asmussen had two entries in Race 5 as well, and sitting at 9,999 career wins, he and Cox were in the paddock at Fair Grounds with the potential to saddle their milestone winner. After posting a win at both Sam Houston and Oaklawn earlier in the day, Asmussen was unable to score another.
“It’s an amazing number that Steve is about to hit,” Cox said. “I have no shot of catching him. He works as hard as anybody. To do what we do every day, trying to develop horses, it’s a tough game. To do it for as long as he has, as well as he has, it’s amazing.”
Cox started working in racing under trainers Burk Kessinger, and Jimmy Baker. Later he became the assistant trainer under Dallas Stewart. Brad started his first horse in 2004, and has since gone on to win each leg of the Triple Crown and the Longines Kentucky Oaks twice. He has racked up nine Breeders Cup victories, including the Classic with Knicks Go (2021) and the Distaff twice with Monomoy Girl (2018 and 2020).
“I knew we were getting close a couple of races back, and I’m glad to give it over with,” Cox. “Honestly, I just wanted to get it over with. We’ve got some live shots later in the day so we’re hopeful to keep it rolling.”
Later in the card, Cox would score a 13-1 upset in the Risen Star (G2) presented by Lamarque Ford-Lincoln, giving him four wins on the day.
Already with four training titles at Fair Grounds, Cox sits in second in the 2022-23 standings with 27 wins, two behind Bret Calhoun.
Risen Star Possibles Curly Jack and Two Phil’s lead this week’s notable workouts
New Orleans, La (Feb. 2, 2023) – The 80-day meet at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots hit the halfway mark last Thursday, Jan. 26. Here is an overview of the storylines so far. (Note: all stats cover racing through Sunday, Jan. 29).
Two trainers are having an especially remarkable meet, as Bret Calhoun leads all with 26 wins in 87 starts (30%) and Brad Cox is currently in second with 21 first-place finishes, accounting for 42% of his starters.
Cox’s success in the Derby and Oaks prep races accounts for five of those wins, taking the Lecomte (G3), Silverbulletday, Gun Runner, Sugar Bowl, and Letellier.
Three jockeys have risen to the top with Rey Gutierrez leading all with 37 wins. Jareth Loveberry is in 2nd with 34 wins. Both Gutierrez and Loveberry joined the colony last year, finished in the top ten, and are now vying for their first riding title at Fair Grounds. 4-time title winner James Graham sits in third with 33 wins; he’s fighting to make it three years in a row on top.
Godolphin leads the owners with 9 wins in 19 starts (47%). 15 of their runners have finished in the top three (79%). Lothenbach Stables is in second with 8 wins.
Though they don’t have the barns to compete for the titles, here are two of the trainers who deserve recognition for their success in the first half of the meet. Patricia West has racked up 7 wins in 24 races, including her first stakes victory coming on opening day when A G’s Charlotte won the inaugural Big World Stakes. Justin Jeansonne, too, has sent out live runners left and right, winning with eight of them from 34 runners.
The race is on for the apprentice title, and with 13 total Brianne Culp has the 5-win advantage over Sofia Barandela and Treylon Albert.
Returning to the colony this year, Florent Geroux and Corey Lanerie both picked up where they left off when it comes to their winning ways. Geroux, who scored his 2,000th career North American victory here last week, has won 34% of his mounts and Lanerie 21%.
With three sprint stakes wins at the meet – in the Thanksgiving Classic, the Scherer, and the Kenner – the Keith Desormeaux-trained Surveillance leads all horses with $225,000 in earnings. Older router Happy American is 2 for 2 at the current stand, winning both the Tenacious and the Louisiana (G3) for Neil Pessin.
For Louisiana-breds, no one has been more impressive than Touchuponastar, stretching out for the first time to win the Louisiana Champions Day Classic. But the sprinter Bron and Brow deserves mention for backing up his allowance win with a game victory in the inaugural Gary Palmisiano Stakes.
Work tab (notable morning workouts from the past week at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots)
Working in company, Curly Jack fired a bullet for trainer Tom Amoss. The Iroquois-winner ran down two stablemates while breezing 5 furlongs in :59.80.
“It’s the work I was looking for with what we were trying to accomplish (having him work in company),” said Amoss.
Curly Jack is pointed to the Risen Star (G2) on Feb. 18.
Last seen in the Silverbulletday, Forest Chimes breezed 4 furlongs in :48.40 for trainer Jason Barkley (6th best of 59 at that distance). No race has been circled yet for this impressive lightly-race filly.
Exiting the Lecomte (G3), a race in which he pulled up late, the Steve Asmussen-trainee Echo Again reappeared on the work tab, clocking 4 furlongs in 1:02.60 (13th best of 18).
Wednesday, Feb. 1
After finishing second in the Lecomte (G3), trainer Larry Rivelli sent Two Phil’s out to breeze 4 furlongs on Wednesday morning with Jareth Loveberry aboard. He went :50.40, the 24th best of 46. Two Phil’s is pointed to the Risen Star (G2) on Feb. 18.
Not having raced since breaking his maiden at Saratoga in August, Disarm posted his fourth local workout on Wednesday. The 3-year-old colt, who could target Louisiana Derby Preview Day on Feb. 18, covered 5 furlongs in 1:01.60 (5th best of 21).
Monday, Jan. 30
A winner on debut for trainer Steve Asmussen, the 3-year-old colt First Defender breezed 5 furlongs in 1:01.40, the best at that distance compared to three workers total.
Fair Grounds Welcomes “The Real Players Inside the Backstretch”
New Orleans, La (December 17, 2022) – One of the most anticipated Louisiana-bred juveniles to emerge at the beginning of the 2021-2022 meet, Gary Barber’sBron and Brow impressed his fans as much as he left them scratching their heads. The Mark Casse trainee would win going away one race and then lose by multiple lengths the next. The talent was never in doubt and the public kept going back to the well. He was bet to favoritism in four straight races at Fair Grounds, but getting his mind in the race and finding the right distance took some dialing in.
On Thursday, Dec 15, the sophomore son of Gormley returned from a 6-month layoff and put his talent on full display, earning a career-best 94 Brisnet Speed figurein a second-level allowance for statebreds. With Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard, Bron and Brow beat a stout field to the front and put more distance between them at each call to win by 3 lengths in the end.
“He came back from the farm doing fantastic,” assistant trainer on the grounds David Carroll said. “We gelded him and he filled out nicely coming into this. Brian (jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.) put him into the race early and (Bron and Brow) ran his race.”
After debuting at Del Mar and finishing third, Bron and Brow entered the 2021 $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile. He had a troubled trip, lost by a 1/2 length, and after the race, his connections weren’t shy about their belief that he wouldn’t be a maiden much longer. Three weeks later he won the 2021 $100,000 Louisiana Futurity, pulling off the always impressive maiden win against stakes company.
“After winning the Futurity, we tried two turns with him, but that didn’t suit him,” Carroll said. “Last year he wasn’t finishing his races for whatever reason, but he ran well up at Woodbine over the summer. We’ll look to keep him going short. He came out of Thursday’s race looking super, and we’re looking at the Palmisano Stakes for him.”
The 1st running of the $75,000 Gary P. Palmisano Memorial Stakes is for Louisiana-breds going 6 furlongs and will be run on Jan 7.
Fair Grounds Welcomes The Real Players Inside the Backstretch
With video camera and microphone in hand, Rasi Harper and Maurice Davis, the team behind The Real Players Inside the Backstretch, spent four days traveling virtually every inch of Fair Grounds – backside and front. Their mission is to celebrate the “real players” of horse racing – grooms, hot walkers, trainers, exercise riders, etcetera – and to capture the oral history of the sport from the people who have dedicated their lives to it. Louisiana Champions Day served as the perfect occasion and backdrop, as so many horsemen from across the Pelican state descended upon New Orleans.
With a channel on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, the content they have created has gained widespread popularity across the sport. Hailing from Saratoga Springs, Ny, the duo began their project at their home track, but they have since visited the other NYRA tracks, Churchill Downs, Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, and others.
“I chose to come here instead of the Breeders’ Cup,” Rasi Harper said. “Fair Grounds has got it. The horsemen here, the old-timers, everybody here is speaking to me about what this sport is all about.”
It began with a post on Twitter asking “Who should we visit at Fair Grounds?” Relying on clandestine run-ins and following these leads from social media, they found the legendary horsemen “Dead Eye” and John Bruno, revered trainer Neil Howard, groom Big B, soft-spoken Louisiana legends Pat Mouton andLeslie Balthazar, and many others who have dedicated their lives to racing and to Fair Grounds, whether anyone knows it or not.
“It’s all about turning the camera on others, it’s not about me,” Harper said. “The people I speak to possess a deep knowledge and we’re all about listening to what they have to say.”
NEW ORLEANS, La. (December 10, 2022) – The commanding speed in the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, Set-Hut’s Touchuponastar overcame a slow break to lead through all calls and pour it on late to win by 4 3/4 lengths over Behemah Star. The Star Guitar-sired exacta had plenty in the tanks after coasting through soft fractions, keeping the odds-on favorite Who Took the Money at bay.
Touchuponastar, a lightly raced-3-year-old trained by Jeff Delhomme, ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.66 to collect his first career stakes win. Timothy Thornton rode the winner for Delhomme family, Jerry, Jeff, and ex-NFL quarterback Jake.
Pausing for an instant after the gates flew upon, Touchuponastar recovered quickly, hustling by the early challenger Highland Creek in the early going to set fractions of 24.55 and 49.34. He received no pressure as Highland Creek kept 1 1/2 lengths back to his outside. Behemah Star made his move to take over in second through the final bend but never menaced Touchuponastar who extended his lead to six lengths at the stretch call. Who Took the Money stalked wide in sixth before beginning a late move that never threatened the winner but was game enough to beat Ballinonabudjet for third.The rest finished well back.
“We knew he was a special horse all along,” Timothy Thornton said. “We knew we were coming here to beat Who Took the Money, but when I was able to get that first quarter as slow as I was going, I thought Calhoun’s horse (Highland Creek) was going to pressure me. When they left me alone, I knew I was going to have plenty left, and he was definitely able to show how special he is today.”
Touchuponastar is a son of Guitar Star out of the Lion Heart mare Touch Magic and was bred in Louisiana by Coteau Grove Farms. The four-time winner returned $12.40, $5.60 and $3.00 as the 5-1 third betting choice in the field of seven older males.
Cosmic Train, Highland Creek, and Maga Man completed the order of finish. Beauregard was scratched.
Touchuponastar netted $60,000 for owner Set-Hut LLC and now boasts career earnings of $163,100 from a record of 4-1-1 in 6 starts.
“He’s young and has a big future ahead of him,” trainer Jeff Delhomme said. “We were leaning towards the Classic the entire time (instead of the Sprint). We didn’t run in the prep because earlier in the career we swung back in three weeks and we think that ended up being a little too fast. It opens a lot of doors for us to be able to get nine furlongs, even outside Louisiana-bred horses.”
In other stakes action on the Louisiana Champions Day Card, Kendel D. Standlee’s Big Chopper rolled from off a 44.79 opening half mile to win the $100,000 Sprint going away at 6-1 for trainer Scott Gelner and jockey Corey Lanerie. He was followed home in the trifecta by longshots Relentless Dancer (15-1) and Mike J (46-1). After pressing into a hot pace, 2-1 favorite Bertie’s Galaxy finished last of the 12.
In the $100,000 Ladies Distaff, Thomas Galvin’s A.G’s Charlotte proved her upset win in the Big World last month was no fluke, but this time she was forced to close into moderate fractions instead of having the table set for her. The circumstances were different, but the results were the same as she scored by a narrow margin under a heady, rail-skimming ride by Marcelino Pedroza, Jr. as the 5-2 second choice for trainer Patricia West. The pacesetter Winning Romance, who walked through an opening half-mile in 49.19, battled gamely but finished secondas the 3-5 public choice. Fort Polk, last year’s Distaff winner, settled for third.
In the $100,000 Ladies Sprint, Brittlyn Stables’ Ova Charged made short work of her overmatched rivals, rolling home in gate-to-wire fashion to score by 4 ¾ effortless lengths at the 1-5 chalk for Jose Camejo. Free Like a Girl, Spirited Beauty and Snowball completed the order of finish. With the win, Evelyn Benoit’s Brittlyn Stables extended their record of Champions Day wins to 15.
In the $100,000 Juvenile, Kevin Stedman’s Late September (5-1) broke inward from the starting gate, wired the field, and eventually survived a claim of foul to give trainer Jose Camejo his first of two Champions Day wins on the card. It was one of three scores on the day for Fair Grounds’ leading rider Jose Luis Rodriguez. Tumbarumba, the 3-5 favorite, was severely compromised at the start, but he rallied on nicely to be second in front of Calicoco, who checked in third.
In the $100,000 Lassie, Mansfield Racing’s Free Drop Maddy (6-5 second choice) battled for the lead from the rail, took over on the turn for home and built the lead in the stretch before holding off the slow starting 1-1 favorite Norah G to win by a diminishing neck. It was far back to Tensas Candy in third.
The two starter races were won by the mare Zydeco Music (7-5) for owner Richard Anthony Tompkins, jockey Jose Rodriguez and trainer Shane Wilson and the gelding Dixie Street for owner Vanessa Motta, trainer Sean Alforish and jockey Tracy Hebert respectively.
After Dominating the Classic & Distaff Preps, Who Took the Money and A G’s Charlotte Have Louisiana Champions Day Encore on their Mind
$850,000 in purses across eight stakes attracts Louisiana’s best Thoroughbreds and horsemen
New Orleans, La (December 8, 2022) – The standouts from Louisiana Championships Preview Weekend return to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Saturday, Dec 10. They’ll face some familiar foes and some fresh runners as horsemen from across “The Boot” ship in, while stabled barns step out, on Louisiana Champions Day. For the past 31 years this card has brought together the stories and aspirations of Louisiana-bred participants. Big barns versus small, Delta Downs’ form versus Fair Grounds’ finest. Runners with graded stakes aspirations versus those who’ve never cared to look past the horizon of the state line. The intrastate storylines will line up in the gates of one of the eight stakes, all racing for a share of the $850,000 combined purse total. With 79 runners entered out of 133 nominations, post time for race 1 on the nine-race card is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. CT.
On Nov 19, Who Took the Money reasserted his dominance in the Scott’s Scoundrel Stakes, the prep for the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, notching the umpteenth stakes victory for trainer Bret Calhoun. The day prior in the Big World, the prep for the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Distaff, A G’s Charlotte’s splendid run earned her trainer Patricia West her first stakes score. Statewide differences there will always be, but Calhoun’s Classic entry and West’s Distaff filly both have a reputation for doing things their way, a similarity that rings true to all Louisianans.
“A G’s Charlotte has a mind of her own,” Patricia West said. “She has that her way or the highway kind of attitude. At Louisiana Downs she ran up the heels of other horses when the rider wasn’t getting her to their outside. That cost us because if she does that a time or two, then she’ll be like I gave you what I had and you keep stopping so I’m not going any more. ”
Inked as the second-favorite in the 1 1/16 miles Distaff at 3-1 in the morning line, Thomas Galvin’s 3-year-old A G’s Charlotte will look to stay a head in front of the Big World place-finisher, Allied Racing’s 8-5 morning line favorite, Winning Romance. Finishing a head in front at the wire will come down to the mind she brings to the race. Marcelino Pedroza, Jr. gets the command performance after he piloted to the Mo Tom filly’s liking in the Big World. Scheduled as race seven, post time for the Distaff is 4:27 p.m. CT.
Made the overwhelming 4-5 favorite in the morning line for the Classic, Allied Racing’s homebred Who Took the Money has five stakes wins to his name, including on this day in 2021 when he first put his electric turn of foot on display winning the $100,000 Turf.
“Who Took the Money has got a mind of his own and he decides when he wants to go,” Calhoun said. “Deshawn (Parker) says he’ll ask him for something and he won’t give him anything. Then he’ll sit a little while longer and finally he’ll ask him again, and maybe only then will he give him the answer. Who Took the Money does his own thing and waits until he thinks it’s time.”
On an all-stakes, three-race win streak, the son of Street Boss has put ten lengths between him and his foes. Those races were between seven furlongs and 1 mile 70 yards. The Classic is run at 1 1/8 miles, which should suit his running style even better. Slated as race eight with a post time of 4:59 p.m. CT, how soon after that Who Took the Money will make his bid is entirely up to him.
Stakes advances are below in the order they will be run on the card.
GEORGE ALLAN BRYANT LOOKS FOR FIRST LA STAKES TO CAP OFF THE YEAR HE BEAT CANCER: ANGELA CELERITY IN THE LADIES STARTER
Thompson Racing’s 3-year-old filly Angela’s Celerity will take on six older females going six furlongs in the $50,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Starter for state-breds who have started for a claiming price of $5,000 or less in 2021-2022. The recent addition to George Allan Bryant’s barn makes her third step up in class since he claimed her for $7,500 on Oct 12.
“I added blinkers last out,” Bryant said. “She missed the break and made a mad dash late and galloped out in front of a really tough bunch of open fillies. Delta’s stretch isn’t very long and she made up ground. I believe she is a sprinter and I think the Fair Grounds stretch will suit her.”
Less than a year into his career as a trainer, this will be Bryant’s first runner at Fair Grounds. Last year at this time, Bryant was in the throes of his battle against Stage 4 oral cancer, which he beat, ringing the bell on Jan 28, 2022.
“My dad (George R. Bryant) was a trainer and I always loved going to the barn with him and working with him,” Bryant said. “He retired right before my cancer and after my cancer I realized that if I were to die and never train on my own, I would really regret it. So I went all in, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love this sport and the horses.”
Bryant brought his barn in from Texas and sent out his first runner in Louisiana this past August at Louisiana Downs. After winning one in Bossier City, he moved down to Vinton. He’s sent out 18 runners at Delta Downs and racked up three wins and one third through Dec 6. Having faced stakes-level company twice before in Texas, Saturday will be Bryant’s first entry at this level in Louisiana. Adam Beschizza will ride the 15-1 morning line longshot Angela Celerity from post No. 6.
Puzzling Priority finished third in the common allowance race with Angela’s Celerity Nov. 19 at Delta. The 4-time winning 4-year-old has flashed some speed, but she seems to run best with a target. Her trainer Lee Thomas has had early success this meet at Fair Grounds, winning three races from nine starters through Dec 7. Tabbed at 9-2 by Mike Diliberto, Portilla drew post 7 and will be guided by Pedro Cotto, Jr.
Only a head separated Ourperfectprincess, Zydeco Music, and Galaxy Thirtysix as they filled out the trifecta in Fair Grounds’ opening day finale. Gina Ney’s Galaxy’s Thirtysix got the win flying late but the other two did all the dirty work on the front end, dueling from go-to-woah.
Scheduled as race 1 with a 1:15 p.m. CT post time, here is the complete field for the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Starter from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line odds): Rockett Magic (Colby Hernandez, Edward Romero, 20-1 ), Ourperfectprincess (Jose Riquelme, Kenneth Hargrave, 3-1 ), Galaxy Thirtysix (Rey Gutierrez Rey, John Ney, 2-1), See Sassy Run (Devin Magnon, Ricky Courville, 12-1), Zydeco Music (Jose Luis Rodriguez, Shane Wilson, 9-5), Angela’s Celerity (Adam Beschizza, George Allan Bryant, 15-1 ), and Puzzling Priority (Pedro Cotto Jr., Lee Thomas, 10-1).
NOT ON HERB LOOKS TO DEFEND HIS COURT IN THE JUVENILE AGAINST TWO BRED BY COTEAU GROVE
Of the seven colts entered in the 6-furlong $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile, two are bred by Couteau Grove: Tumbarumba and Late September. Both are serious contenders, but as the winner of the Peluso Stakes, it’s Not On Herb’s court until another 2-year-old proves otherwise.
Ivery Sisters Racing’s Not On Herb proved yet again that the best offense is a good defense. Striking the front in the Peluso, the First Samurai juvenile fended off a late bid from Late September by not holding back at the top of the stretch and keeping the field at bay. In the final strides, Calicoco rallied late to beat out Late September for second. The two-for-two speedster out of Ron Faucheux’s barn, Not On Herb – a reference to Pelicans’ forward Herb Jones – breaks between the two Coteau Grove-bred runners in post No. 6. Jockey Jareth Loveberry will likely look to execute a similar game plan but the 7-2 morning line signals bettors might get a juicier price.
“He was out on the track on Friday (Dec 2) and moving well,” Faucheux said. “He impressed us in the Peluso, and we’re excited to see what this guy can do in the (Juvenile).”
Louisiana-bred 2-year-olds can run but they can’t hide from Tumbarumba. In his gate-to-wire maiden-breaker last month at Churchill Downs, Amerman Racing’s son of Oscar Performance earned a 91 Brisnet Speed figure, more than 10 points higher than any other last-out effort in the field. Florent Geroux took trainer Brian Lynch’s call and will ride the 5-2 favorite from post No. 5.
Coteau Grove Farms bred another main threat in the Juvenile, Kevin Stedman’s Late September. The son of Munnings broke his maiden against restricted company going 4 1/2 furlongs last May at Churchill. After that, he flew to England to run in the Group 2 Coventry at Royal Ascot, where he finished last. Returning to Louisiana, he won the seven furlong Legacy at Delta Downs in October and then ran a hard-trying third over a sloppy track in the Peluso opening weekend at Fair Grounds. Already with nine wins under his belt, newcomer Jose Luis Rodriguez will stay aboard, breaking from post No. 7.
Tye E. Smith’s Calicoco showed some serious late kick in the Peluso slop and could be dangerous with a move forward in his third race. Trainer Shane Wilson keeps the reins in the hands of Alex Castillo, and both have been hot through the opening weeks of the meet, each with seven total wins (as of Sunday), only one coming as a combo.
Scheduled as race 3 with a post time of 2:15 p.m. CT, here is the complete field for the Juvenile Stakes from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line odds): Ranch Water (Timothy Thornton Timothy, Allen Landry, 15-1), Calicoco (Alexander Castillo, Shane Wilson, 6-1), Half Full (Colby Hernandez, Eduardo Ramirez, 9-2), The Boss Soss (Joe Stokes Joe, Allen Landry, 6-1), Tumbarumba (Florent Geroux, Brian Lynch, 5-2), Not On Herb (Jareth Loveberry, Ron Faucheux, 7-2), and Late September (Jose Luis Rodriguez Jose Camejo, 4-1).
CALHOUN AND WEST CLASH IN THE LASSIE AS FREE DROP MADDY AND NORAH G LOOK TO REPLICATE THEIR BIG OPENING DAY RUNS
Take your pick from opening day. Both Free Drop Maddyand Norah G looked sensational winning their respective races, and both of their trainers report they are entering the six furlong $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie ready to take on each other and the rest of the eight fillies.
After a dull outing at Delta Downs in the Jewel Stakes, Mansfield Racing‘s Free Drop Maddy took a tremendous step forward winning the $75,000 Ferguson, her second stakes victory, with July’s Texas Thoroughbred Association Futurity being her first. Fair Grounds leading trainer (as of Sunday) Bret Calhoun, who won this race in 2009 with Speedacious, teams up with jockey Rey Gutierrez.
“I was very impressed with her last race,” Calhoun said. “She’s coming into this race every bit as good. I don’t think the extra (1/2 furlong) distance is an issue for her at all. In fact in some of her races she might have done better going longer.”
The daughter of Free Drop Billy drew Post No. 4 and earned morning line favoritism at 8-5.
One of two wins on opening day for owner Tom Galvin and trainer Patricia West, Nora G’s 9.5-1 debut stunner had all the hallmarks of what most connections hope to see from their juvenile. She overcame a slow beak and a wide trip, showed her mind was on running when positioning towards the front, and finished strong through the wire, winning by 3 1/4 lengths.
“I think she wants to go two turns,” West said. “She kind of ran like a sprinter the other day but that was just her first time. I feel good about her going into the race. She’s super smart. She’ll overcome things. Nothing bothers her. That is a lot especially with fillies because they get themselves beat with their brains. She’s the coolest cucumber in the barn, so I feel really good about her.”
This Fast Anna filly earned an 85 Brisnet Speed figure last out, and any improvement on that will keep Free Drop Maddy’s hooves full from gate-to-wire as they both have shown forward positioning. Deshawn Parker retains the mount and will guide Norah G from post No. 2.
Scheduled as Race 4 with a 2:45 p.m. post time, here is the complete field for the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line odds): Tensas Candy (Alexander Castillo, Jorge Lara, 7-2), Norah G (Deshawn Parker, Patricia West, 3-1), Louisiana Liberty (Mitchell Murrill, Steven Flint, 8-1), Free Drop Maddy (Rey Gutierrez, Bret Calhoun, 8-5), Don’tcallmepatsy (Jose Luis Rodriguez, Shane Wilson, 10-1), Louisiana Cowgirl (Emmanuel Nieves, David Gomez, 20-1), Starship Jambalaya (Adam Beschizza, Scott Gelner, 12-1), Addi Bug (Jack Gilligan, David Gomez, 12-1).
OVA CHARGED STRUTS INTO LADIES SPRINT, BUT FREE LIKE A GIRL READY AND WAITING
Brittlyn Stable’s Happy Ticket Stakes winner Ova Charged headlines a field of six older fillies and mares entered in Saturday’s $100,000 Louisiana Champions Ladies Sprint, going six furlongs on the dirt track.
Trained by Jose Camejo, the 6-5 morning line favorite has dominated the division, going 4-for-4 in Louisiana. She took this last year following a thrilling battle with the Prioress (G2) winner Cilla. Graded stakes-placed herself at Belmont in the Victory (G3), Ova Charged has the talent to take on open company, and after her walk-in-the-park win in the Happy Ticket over Louisiana Champions Preview Weekend, her connections let it be known after that race they hope to bring their 4-year-old by Star Guitar to the national stage in 2023. Drawing post No. 5, just inside of her stablemate Spirited Beauty, Ova Charged will get the services of newcomer Jose Luis Rodriguez, who has won four for Camejo out of 12 starts.
Think this race will be handed to Ova Charged on a silver platter? Think again. With multiple graded stakes placings notched in her belt, GeraldBruno Jr., Carl Deville, Chasey Pomier, and Jerry Caroom’sFree Like A Girl is the kind of force the lightly-raced Ova Charged has not had to face since Cilla. Owner/trainer Chasey Pomier has entered the 3-year-old filly by El Deal against the likes of Society in the Charles Town Oaks (G3) and Juju’s Map in the Remington Park Oaks (G3). She was stunned by the 93-1 shot Buckley Bunny in the Lassie on this day last year, but returned to Fair Grounds three weeks later to win the Louisiana Futurity. A versatile filly, she’s dangerous on the lead around two turns and from off the pace down the stretch in sprints, she ran a dull fifth over a muddy track last out at Delta Downs in the Treasure Chest. Legging up for the 17th time, Pedro Cotto Jr. has the rail draw.
Scheduled as race 5 with a 3:23 p.m. CT post time, here is the complete field for the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line odds): Free Like a Girl (Pedro Cotto Jr., Chasey Pomier, 7-5), Snowball (Colby Hernandez, Samuel Breaux, 8-1), Wupkar (Brian Hernandez Jr., Bret Calhoun, 8-1), Half Koo Koo (Marcelino Pedroza Jr., Sam David Jr., 20-1), Ova Charged (Jose Luis Rodriguez Jose Camejo, 6-5), and Spirited Beauty (David Cohen, Jose Camejo, 6-1).
A WIDE-OPEN INAUGURAL RUNNING OF THE STARTER IS POSITIONED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NEW 15% TAKEOUT PICK 6 AND LATE PICK 5
The form, the class level, the speed figures – there’s little difference between the ten older males who entered the 5 1/2 furlong $50,000 Louisiana Champions Day Starter.
Of the ten evenly-matched runners, Mike Diliberto hung 4-1 morning line odds on the favoriteAlterana upwards of 20-1 on last-out winner Inthealy, foreshadowing that the first edition of this race will be a strong betting event.
Winalot Racing’s two entries, Secret Vista and Mr. Production, both could wreak havoc and offer betting value.
Leading trainer around these parts for two years straight, Ron Faucheux sends out Mr. Production, who dueled in the slop against optional claimers on opening weekend. The seven-time winner showed once again how dangerous he is with the lead. Beat to the wire by fellow Starter foe Cryptozonic in the final strides that day, Mr. Production faced pressure the entire way, and he fought back gamely when headed late. Inked at 9-2, the 6-year-old horse will break from post No. 5 under Jareth Loveberry.
Secret Vista ran on this day last year, but in the Louisiana Champions Day Classic. In his next start, trainer Justin Jeansonne claimed him for $12,000 then moved him up in class where he won a $15,000 claiming race, earning a new top speed figure in the process.
“We claimed him and shortened him up and he looked good,” Jeansonne said. “We ran him twice last year at Fair Grounds and then being a 5-year-old, we decided to keep him on the bench and target this meet. He’s doing good coming into this and he should be sharp.”
Breaking from the far outside in post No. 10, Adam Beschizza will reunite with 12-1 Secret Vista after riding him in both his starts out of Jeansonne’s barn last meet.
Scheduled as Race 6 with a 3:45 p.m. CT post time, here is the complete field for the $50,000 Louisiana Champions Day Starter from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line odds): Jeb’s Lucky Eight (James Graham, Frank Pennino, 10-1), Cryptozonic (Alexander Castillo, Joseph Foster, 5-1), Alterana (Gerard Melancon, Keith Charles, 4-1), Inthealy (Erika Murray, Whitney Zeringue, Jr., 20-1), Mr. Production (Jareth Loveberry, Ron Faucheux, 9-2), Golden Palace (Emanuel Nieves, Cesar Govea, 6-1 ), Reckless Ransom (Mitchell Murrill, Joseph Foster, 6-1) Dixie Street (Tracy Hebert, Sean Alfortish, 6-1), Zelig (Deshawn Parker, Gary Johnson, 8-1), and Secret Vista (Adam Beschizza, Justin Jeansonne, 12-1).
A G’S CHARLOTTE ENTERS THE DISTAFF LOOKING TO BACK UP BIG WORLD PERFORMANCE
Five runners from the Big World will look for revenge on Thomas Galvin’sA G’s Charlotte in the 1 1/16 miles $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Distaff. The 3-year-old Mo Tom filly surprised many by coming from ten lengths back with a late run to nail Winning Romance by 3/4 length. At 9.90-1 she earned not only her first stakes victory, but the first for trainer Patricia West.
“She’s doing great, hasn’t missed a lick,” West said. “She’s exactly the same going into this race as she was heading into the Big World. She’s the most consistent filly. She doesn’t disappoint.”
Deemed the 3-1 second-favorite in the morning line, A G’s Charlotte will begin from post No. 6 carrying jockey Marcelino Pedroza Jr.
After firing a big effort when leading the charge behind run-off leader Cheapskate Diva in the Big World, a second-place finish left Allied Racing’s Winning Romance’s connections scratching their heads.
“I really haven’t been able to figure out how we got beat,” her trainer Bret Calhoun said. “We might have had to move a little bit early with the horse on the lead being loose. Honestly I thought she would win that day and was disappointed she didn’t win. Hopefully she’ll bounce back and get the job done. She went into that race fantastic and she’s coming into his race doing fantastic.”
Deshawn Parker retains the mount on the 8-5 favorite in the Distaff and will look to break sharply from post No. 3. The 2022 Lanerie Stakes winner finished second to Fort Polk in this race last year.
Steve and Pat Roe’s Fort Polk finished third in the Big World and has not won at the stakes-level or on the dirt since winning the 2021 Distaff. The 6-year-old Behindatthebar mare is seeking her tenth win as her trainer Pat Mouton eyes his first win of the Fair Grounds meet. Made 4-1 in the morning line, Emmanuel Nieves will stay aboard to break from post No. 8.
Scheduled as race 7 with a 4:27 p.m. CT post time, here is the complete field for the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Distaff from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line odds): Lutie Mo (Joe Stokes, Allen Landry, 20-1), Eve’s Delight (Alexander Castillo, Garland Goins, 12-1), Winning Romance (Deshawn Parker, Bret Calhoun, 8-5), Cheapskate Diva (James Graham, Joseph Felks, 6-1), She’s Gone d’Wild (Rey Gutierrez, Bret Calhoun, 10-1), A G’s Charlotte (Marcelino Pedroza Jr., Patricia West, 3-1), Wholelottamo (Adam Beschizza, Jayde Gelner, 12-1), and Fort Polk (Emmanuel Nieves, Patrick Mouton, 4-1).
FIVE FROM THE SCOTTS SCOUNDREL ENTER THE $150,000 CLASSIC ALONG WITH THREE FRESH FACES
Eight older males were entered for Saturday’s 1 1/8 miles $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, including Allied Racing’s Scott’s Scoundrel Stakes winner Who Took the Money. Finishing with his signature late burst of interest, his to 2 1/4 lengths margin didn’t dissuade the runner-up and third place finisher, Behemah Star and Highland Creek, from taking another shot at the 4-5 morning line favorite. They’ll be going farther this time, but that might only play into the son of Street Boss’ hands.
“I love one mile and 1/8th for Who Took the Money,” Calhoun said. “Most of his recent races he’s broken, settled in back, and made that late run, finishing up very strongly. I think the distance will be a positive for him.”
Deshawn Parker has been aboard this free-thinker seven out of his last eight races, winning each but the Star Guitar Stakes last spring where he took damage from both sides out of the gate and his rally to the 1 1/16 miles finish line fell short. His stablemate Highland Creek finished ahead of him but it was Behemah Star’s shining moment, winning the race named for his sire. Who Took the Money’s longest journey in his 13-race career will begin from post No. 7.
Finishing second behind Grand Luweege in 2021’s edition of the Classic, Highland Creek enters this year with faster figures but fewer recent wins. Penned at 6-1 in the morning line, the other Allied Racing-owned Calhoun-trained runner prefers to press the front of the pack, and time and again has shown the tenacity to dig in when the finish line is in sight.
“I thought he ran too good to lose in the last race,” Calhoun said. “He ran extremely hard, did all the dirty work, and ended up getting nailed late. He doesn’t give me any reason to think he’s not going to bring that race right back. I think he can be on the pace or off it if need be. Last time we just happened to find ourselves up in positions and went along with it.”
Adam Beschizza will work from post No. 4 to figure out the proper tactics to return Highland Creek to the winner’s circle.
Cross-entered in the Sprint, Set-Hut’s Touchuponastar’s presence in the Classic could keep all these familiar runners on their toes. Over eight lengths better than the field when winning his last race on the lead going seven furlongs at Delta Downs, no other runner than Who Took the Money and Maga Man has posted a Brisnet Speed figure as high as the 97 he earned. This will by far be the toughest competition he’s faced. Trainer Jeff Delhomme brings Touchuponastar’s regular jockey Timothy Thornton in from Delta, and with his gate speed he’ll have first dibs on the rail breaking from post No. 3.
Other top horses entered into the Classic include Brittlyn Stable’s Behemah Star who has three wins on the local track and George Messina and Michael Lee’s Ballinonabudjet who will make his first start out of Brad Cox’s barn since being claimed for $20,000 out of a resounding open company score at Churchill on Nov. 18.
Scheduled as race 8 with a 4:59 p.m. CT post time, here is the complete field for the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line odds): Maga Man (Joe Stokes, Norman Miller III, 20-1), Cosmic Train (James Graham, Jerry Delhomme, 20-1), Touchuponastar (Timothy Thornton, Jeff Delhomme, 6-1), Highland Creek (Adam Beschizza, Bret Calhoun, 6-1), Behemah Star (Jose Luis Rodriguez, Jose Camejo, 9-2), Ballinonabudjet (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 8-1), Who Took the Money (Deshawn Parker, Bret Calhoun, 4-5), and Beauregard (Rey Gutierrez, David Gomez, 20-1).
AN OVERSUBSCRIBED FIELD OF 16 ENTERED FOR THE $100,000 SPRINT
Trained by Ron Faucheux, Bertie’s Galaxy ran a valiant second in last year’s edition of Louisiana Champions Day Sprint before getting worn down at the wire by stablemate Monte Man. A two-time Louisiana Legends Sprint winner at Evangeline Downs, the 6-year-old gelding finished sixth as the odds-on favorite in the prep named for his legendary stablemate Monty Man last month. Bertie’s Galazy will face many of the same foes on Saturday, including the neighbor in the gates who hindered his chance at winning.
In the Monte Man, Brian’s Iron Mike broke from the 1 hole and took a hard right, cutting off the speedster Bertie’s Galaxy who broke from post No. 2, putting him seven lengths behind the field. At 7-2 in the morning line, the lukewarm favorite Bertie’s Galaxy drew post No. 12 and will be ridden by Jareth Loveberry.
“He worked (Saturday Dec 3) and looked great,” Faucheux said. “He came out of the Monte Man doing well. They got the jump on him and he couldn’t get in a good spot. He’ll be ready to roll in the Sprint.”
Immediately to his inside is the Monte Man Stakes-winner Brian’s Iron Mike in post No. 11. After piloting Hat Racing’s 3-year-old by Iron Fist to his first stakes title, Joe Stokes retains the mount and if he retains the strategy, the break will be everything. Mike Diliberto pegs him as the 5-1 second favorite. One of two with those honors and odds.
Cross-entered in the Classic, Set-Hut’s Touchuponastar’s presence in the Sprint could shake things up. The owner of the field’s highest speed figure has won his last two races by over 15 lengths, but in an abbreviated 3-year-old season, the son of Star Guitar has yet to win a stake. Trainer Jeff Delhomme brings Touchuponastar’s regular jockey Timothy Thornton in from Delta and he’ll aim to overcome post No. 14.
Scheduled as race 9 with a 5:45 p.m. CT post time, here is the complete field for the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line odds): Jax Man (Marcelino Pedroza Jr., Sam David Jr., 15-1) Schnell (Deshawn Parker, Shane Wilson, 20-1) Big Chopper (Corey Lanerie, Scott Gelner, 10-1), Janets Jay Jay (Jamie Theriot, Howard Alonzo, 20-1), Mike J (Pedro Cotto Jr., Lee Thomas, 50-1) Win Ya Win (Adam Beschizza, Jose Camejo, 10-1), Takes Two to Tango (Rey Gutierrez, Luis Garcia, 8-1), Yankee Seven (Emmanuel Nieves, Cesar Govea, 20-1), Unified Report (Brian Hernandez Jr., Dallas Stewart, 12-1), Creole Charlie (James Graham, Howard Alonzo, 10-1), Brian’s Iron Mike (Joe Stokes, Allen Landry, 5-1), Bertie’s Galaxy (Jareth Loveberry, Ron Faucheux, 7-2), Relentless Dancer (Gerard Melancon, Keith Bourgeois, 10-1), Touchuponastar (Timothy Thornton, Jeff Delhomme, 5-1), AE Scarlettsblackjack (Jose Luis Rodriguez, Sarah Delany, 6-1), and AE Feisty Fist (Mitchell Murrill, Steven Flint, 12-1).
New Orleans, La (December 5, 2022) – After a four-year absence from racing, jockey Jamie Theriot, 43, has returned to the saddle at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. On Sunday Nov 27, Theriot returned to the winner’s circle after giving Imindycatbirdseat a perfect ground-saving trip before tipping out and charging home to score in the day’s finale.
“It’s a great feeling that’s indescribable,” Theriot said walking back from the winner’s circle. “(Imindycatbirdseat) looked live on paper. I drew the one hole so I was like you know what, I’m going to give him the shortest trip, and if I have horse at the quarter pole, he’ll be the best today. And he was.”
Theriot now has 615 career wins at Fair Grounds, the fourth most of all active jockeys in the colony behind James Graham, Corey Lanerie, and Brian Hernandez, Jr. One of many brilliant riders from the Lafayette area, he rode his first race at the original Evangeline Downs, also known as the cradle of jockeys.
Taller than most riders, gaining the necessary fitness while maintaining weight off an extended time away was a challenge.
“Of course the last two pounds were the hardest thing,” Theriot said. “It was a very tall mountain to climb, but when I got to a certain weight, at a point in time you’ve got to finish the dance. It was a grind and is still a grind day-in and day-out.”
From riding six winners on June 8, 2008 at Churchill Downs to winning two Breeders’ Cup races in 2010 with Chamberlain Bridge in the Turf Sprint and Dubai Majesty in the Filly and Mare Sprint (both saddled by Bret Calhoun), Theriot has proven his talent on our sport’s biggest stages time and again. He’s also won leading rider titles at Evangeline Downs (2001), Oaklawn Park (2003), and Fair Grounds (2008).
“My first day back in the saddle breezing in the morning it was like I had stopped just yesterday,” Theriot said. “Don’t get me wrong there were little thingsI had to adjust but my timing was there. I knew I’d be a little rusty, the cobwebs would be there, but for the most part I was ready.”
In 2018, Theriot served a short stint riding for Ramapatee Gujadhur at Champ de Mars Racecourse in Port Louis, Mauritius. He rode the rest of 2018 based in Lone Star Park and Remington Park where he last rode Dec 5, 2018 before hanging it up to pursue other career opportunities.
“His attitude, his enthusiasm to come back and ride again is through the roof,” said Theriot’s agent David Heitzmann. “We’re working for a variety of trainers. A lot of Kentucky guys are still coming down and we expect to ride for some of those. The feedback has been really really good. We’re going to do our best to start off fast. And if he can ride the card, he’ll ride the card.”
Through Sunday Dec 4, Theriot’s record is 18-1-3-4. His win came riding for trainer Tanner Tracy. Through his prime when based at Fair Grounds, Theriot took a lot of mounts for trainers Bret Calhoun, Al Stall, Tom Amoss, Mike Stidham, and Joe Duhon.
“I’m thankful for the trainers who are giving me the opportunity and who believe in me.” Theriot said. “This is another step to show them I can still do this.”
Sophie Doyle to compete in Friday’s International Jockey Challenge in Saudi Arabia
New Orleans (February 25, 2020) – It’s been a mix of successes, obstacles and setbacks, but one thing is certain, the 2019-2020 racing season has been one of enlightenment for the ladies of the Fair Grounds jock’s room.
They each have unique backgrounds and are at different stages of their careers, but when it comes to the spirited competition they live every day, Sophie Doyle, Chantal Sutherland, Erica Murray and Aubrie Green are each other’s greatest supporters.
“I feel like sometimes women can get a little bit catty and I think it is better off to be happy and positive,” Doyle said. “Coming into this meet, I was determined to transform the (ladies) jock’s room into a place full of warmth and good, positive energy.”
According to Doyle, their home away from home was painted and decorated. The pink lights cool the energy and meditation music relaxes the environment. When they’re not riding, the female jockeys often do yoga, exercise, and work on their fitness.
“It’s homey and comfortable and I think the atmosphere and the mindset has helped all of us go out there and ride really well,” Doyle added. “We are having a great time in the room and rooting for each other to do well. If you’re having a bad day, we pick each other up. We turn the page and go back out there with a clear head and the right frame of mind.”
Winless from just two mounts here last season, Erica Murray is Fair Grounds’ leading lady with 15 victories this season and she’s in the midst of the best run of her six-year career.
“It is so awesome,” Murray said. “It is so nice to ride with women who support each other. I grew up idolizing Sophie and Chantel, so being able to ride with them is amazing. I know Aubrie (injured) isn’t riding here right now, but we still support each other in every way. It has been such a tightknit room. We all give advice and root for each other. It is very uplifting.”
Injured on January 5 when her mount Stang’s Galaxy flipped in the gate and was scratched, Green was forced to undergo surgery to repair ligament damage in her left ankle.
“When the horse flipped and pinned my ankle, she actually tore a major ligament that holds the tendons in place,” Green explained. “Because of that, my tendons were dislocating.”
Prior to the injury, Green had five Fair Grounds wins at the current stand, including a memorable score aboard 8-1 shot Pound for Pound in the Louisiana Champions Day Classic. She hopes to get back on horses in mid to late April.
“I haven’t been in the room for a couple weeks, but I walk in today and you can just feel the love,” Green said. The camaraderie is great. We all support each other, and are genuinely happy when one of us wins instead of being jealous or mad. Usually when you have a group of girls together you have a lot of cattiness and jealousy. This meet we decided we weren’t going to be like that. We wanted to try to support each other and build each other up. It’s changed the dynamic of our whole meet.”
With 1,007 career wins, 22 graded stakes scores, and a trio of grade one triumphs aboard Game On Dude, Sutherland is easily the most accomplished of the Fair Grounds’ female riders, but most of those successes came earlier in her career in her native Toronto and in Southern California.
She’s been a TV star and featured in magazines, but since moving her tack to Fair Grounds and Kentucky, Sutherland is pressing the reset button, to an extent. A crafty ride aboard She’sonthewarpath put her into the winner’s circle following the Albert M. Stall Memorial Stakes less than two weeks ago, and she’s is enjoying this stage of the career journey with Sophie, Erica and Aubrie.
“I’m really happy how we have all bonded and supported each other,” Sutherland said. “I think Fair Grounds has done a great job re-painting the room, giving us really nice TVs and great sofas. It is just a really nice place to live in. We are here so often, so we are all really grateful for that. We are just like sisters!”
Born in England, Doyle comes from a racing family. Her mother Jacqueline is a former trainer and brother James is an accomplished European jockey. She enjoyed success as an apprentice rider back home before crossing the pond into the United States, where she has won 289 races. Last year she won trio of graded stakes with Street Band – the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), the Indiana Oaks (G3) at Indiana Grand and the Cotillion (G1) at Parx. The Cotillion marked the first grade one victory of her career.
This week, Doyle will embark on what she hopes will be another fruitful adventure, as she travels to Saudi Arabia to compete against 13 of the best riders in the world, both male and female, in Friday’s International Jockeys Challenge.
“Ten years ago, we (female jockeys) couldn’t go and race there,” Doyle said of Saudi Arabia. “I’m curious to see just how different it is now.”
Saudi women are treated as second class citizens. They can’t wear clothes or make-up that show off their beauty. Public transportation, parks, beaches and amusement parks are segregated in most parts of the country. In 2015, Saudi Arabia proposed hosting the Olympic Games, but only if the events for women were eliminated.
Times are changing. In 2017, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi state schools announced offering physical education classes to both boys and girls and they began allowing men and women to attend sporting events. The following year, a royal decree granted women the right to drive vehicles.
“Even though they are allowed to drive now, they still have to have a man present in the car with them,” Doyle said. “I went to Aman one year to get my Visa one year and the woman told me they weren’t allowed to drive cars and that they had never seen it. We took the car off road and I drove them all around this back village. They all had faces of disbelief. Driving a car is just one of many freedoms we take for granted.”
“I think the Jockey Challenge will continue to help make a difference in the way women are viewed and treated,” Doyle continued. “I think it’s great that they are trying to horse racing to showcase women competing against men. It’s a display of respect for women, and it shows a belief that we do know what we are doing out there (on the track). It will be so refreshing for the women of Saudi Arabia to be able to come to the races and experience us competing against the men. They probably haven’t seen anything like it, and we want them to feel a sense of pride right along with us.”
Fourteen riders will compete in four races, with the winner taking home $30,000. Doyle will be up against some top riders from all over the world, including Mike Smith, Frankie Dettori, Yutaka Take, Olivier Peslier and Emma-Jayne Wilson.
“I am really excited for Sophie,’ Green said. “It and it is an opportunity that I think we all would love. We are all so proud of her, it makes me want to cry.”
“I think it is so amazing,” Murray said. “She is such a good representative for the Fair Grounds jockey colony and women riders.”
“It is super exciting,” Sutherland said. “I am so happy for her. I think it is a great opportunity. I hope she does really well. She is a wonderful person to represent the United States.”
According to the press release promoting the event, the International Jockey Challenge “reflects the values of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which lays out a program of targets for diversification and increased sporting participation among Saudi’s young people.”
On a larger scale, Vision 2030 is a plan to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism.
Doyle, who has spent some time in both in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, departed Tuesday night with the hopes of riding Thursday at Meydan in advance of Friday’s event in Saudi Arabia. She’s looking very forward to the competition, but also to having her voice heard.
“You always want to try to support other women and try to help them, not just in your own country, but around the world,” Doyle said.
You can follow the journey and successes of the female riders at the Fair Grounds on Twitter via their personal accounts @sophiedoyle77, @jockeychantal, @EricaAmazing and @jockeygreen and the hashtag #fgbellariders.
“Hopefully maybe other female jockeys around America will follow our example and create a bella hash-tag unique to their racetrack,” Doyle said. “Horse racing is the only sport where women compete directly against men. We face an uphill battle in the States and even more so around the world. By showing the support we have for each other in the Fair Grounds’ ladies jock’s room, I hope we set a good example for others and can continue to raise awareness.”