Louisiana Champions Preview Weekend features six stakes
The La-bred deck is stacked in favor of a big weekend for Dallas Stewart
Cross-entered Free Like A Girl’s connection must decide sprint or route
Brittlyn Stables’ familiar faces enter multiple stakes but will walk over from a new barn
New Orleans, La (Nov. 16, 2023) – The table is set for Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ 152nd season, and there’s an extra helping of Louisiana-bred stakes to feast upon one week ahead of the 99th running of Thanksgiving Classic. Three of the nine races carded for opening day on Friday, Nov. 17, are statebred stakes for females: The Doris Hebert, The John Valene, and The Donovan L. Ferguson. With 10 races slated for Saturday, the males will take centerstage in the three feature stakes: The Joseph R. Peluso, The Jacob V. Morreale, and the Larry D. Robideaux. Run in memory of departed members of Fair Grounds racing community, each carries a $75,000 purse and serve as the perfect springboard for Louisiana Champions Day on Dec 9. First post on both Friday and Saturday is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. (all times Central).
Friday’s spotlight will be on Louisiana-bred fillies and mares
Cross-entered in the Doris Hebert Memorial 6-furlong sprint (Race 6) and the 1 mile and 70 yards John Valene Memorial (Race 8), Gerald Bruno Jr., Chasey Pomier, and Jerry Caroom’s Free Like a Girl will look to return to form on Friday. Made the morning line favorite in both, 9-5 in the Hebert and 2-1 in the Valene, the sensational filly trained by Chasey Pomier is winless since taking the Distaff and Louisiana Legends Mademoiselle Sprint in early summer, both at Evangeline Downs. Vicente Del-Cid gets the call to help reverse the three-race slide, which will be his first race aboard the 13-time winner who would surpass $1 million in earnings if she were able to be victorious in whichever stakes her connections settle on.
It would be fitting if Sabra Tuff was able to seize the day in the John Valene. Owned by Valene Farms’ Murray Valene, Sabra Tuff’s first race against fellow statebreds is in a stakes named for Murray’s father, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 100. The daughter of Cross Traffic beat her odds finishing fourth in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), and more recently finished fourth to Randomized in the Alabama (G1). The 3-year-old’s stablemate Accommodate Eva runs in Race 9, the Donovan L. Ferguson, a 5 1/2 furlong sprint for juvenile fillies, and she has followed a similarly ambitious path, entering fresh off a 10th-place finish in the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
On Saturday, Nov 19 the focus shifts to Louisiana-bred colts and geldings
A field of nine La-bred juvenile males will line up in the starting gates for the Joseph R. Peluso Memorial Stakes, a 5 1/2 furlong sprint across the main track. In a wide-open affair of well-bred but lightly-raced juveniles, the DS Young Futurity winner, Tav Enterprises’ El Dinero, was tabbed as the morning line favorite at 7-2. The son of El Deal traveled wide when finishing third last out in the Louisiana Legacy at Delta Downs in October. Scheduled as Race 5, the Ferguson is the first leg of the 15% takeout $1 Pick 6. Post time is 2:45 p.m.
The confidence of Brittlyn Stable’s Behemah Star might be on the rise as soon as he scans the paddock ahead of the Jacob V. Morreale to find Touchuponastar, his brother by another mother, is not there. That foe has kept him out of the winner’s circle four times in the past year. In the field of nine, there are two others who have proven difficult for the 5-year-old, as Who Took the Money and Mangum both enter to take on Brittlyn Stables’ beloved son of Star Guitar. With two third-place finishes since Brittlyn Stables moved Behemah and the rest of their stars into the care of Shane Wilson, the 4-time winner will reunite with last year’s leading rider Rey Gutierrez, who triumphantly piloted Behemah in the 2022 Star Guitar Stakes. Written at 1 mile 70 yards across the main track, a distance at which Behemah has never finished out of the money, the Morreale will go as Race 7. Post time is scheduled for 3:45 p.m.
The Larry D. Robideaux Memorial promises to be a thriller as 13 statebred, male 3-years-old and up will rip through 6 dirt furlongs trying to assert their supremacy atop the division ahead of Louisiana Champions Day. In last year’s edition the pace boiled over setting up for a late rail run from Brian’s Iron Mike, and though new faces join the cast of familiar characters, the second running of the Robideaux could unfold in a similar fashion.
Cross-entered in the Morreale, Set-Hut’s Mangum gets the lukewarm 4-1 nod by morning line oddsmaker Mike Diliberto. Having carried low weight of 111 pounds in two of his last three stakes victories, if the Jeff Delhomme trainee were to run in the Robideaux, he would travel with 122 pounds and Treylon Albert on his back.
The 152nd racing season sees stakes purses rise to $9.7 million, the richest in Louisiana’s history
Trainer Larry Rivelli and jockey Ben Curtis are just the tip of the intriguing iceberg of new connections ready to compete for the 2023 – 2024 titles
New Orleans, La (Nov. 10, 2023) – While many famed connections look to continue their tradition of remarkable success at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, a litany of intriguing new players prepare for their first winter in New Orleans. Opening day is scheduled for Friday Nov. 17, 2023 and with 73 stakes on the docket worth a combined $9.7 million, the table is set to be one of the most competitive in the track’s 152-year history.
The 76-day meet features all the traditions that horsemen, horseplayers, and fans look forward to: The Road to the Derby series kicks off on Dec. 23 with the Gun Runner Stakes. Low takeout returns as the 50-cent Pick 5 and $1 Pick 6 both remain at 15%. On Saturday, Dec. 2, the Claiming Crown will be held at Fair Grounds, the first time since 2011. Stakes purses are up $1.2 million from last year, including an increase for the 99th running of the $200,000 Thanksgiving Classic. Marking the centennial of Black Gold’s derby successes, a celebration will be held on March 2 coinciding with the 66th running of the Black Gold Stakes.
Fair Grounds is fortunate to be the winter home of many of the top trainers in the nation, including Steve Asmussen, Brad Cox, Cherie DeVaux, Tom Amoss, Brendan Walsh, Michelle Lovell, Bret Calhoun, Michael Stidham, Greg Foley, and Ken McPeek.
A new addition to the backside for 2023 – 2024 is Larry Rivelli. “The Riv,” as he was known at Arlington Park where he won nine trainer’s titles, shipped in Two Phil’s to last year’s Derby preps ahead of that colt’s second-place finish in Kentucky Derby 149. One of Rivelli’s 41 stalls is reserved for his Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Champion, Nobals.
Beyond Rivelli, new barns include three young and hungry trainers from the NYRA circuit. Raymond Handal, Rob Atras, and Robert Falcone Jr. each have just shy of a dozen stalls which they will fill with classy turf runners and if plans hold true, a revolving door of claimers.
Two more fresh faces, Whitworth Beckman and Carlo Vaccarezza will also have a string at Fair Grounds.
The sport’s biggest names jump off the page of the 2023 – 2024 barn list, but next to them are horsemen who look to be the new lifeblood of the sport. Of the 19 trainers who are moving into Fair Grounds backside for the first time, six are in their first year of training: Jervon Broussard, Kelly Avant, Juan Sanchez, Yovani Munoz, Lane Johnston, and Igor Presniak.
The most intriguing new addition to the jockey colony is Ben Curtis. With over 1,000 wins to his name, Curtis has been one of the top riders in England for the past decade and was crowned the All-Weather Champion jockey in 2021. Curtis will be represented by agent Ron Faucheux, who after winning three trainer’s titles in a row stepped into a new role after the 2022 – 2023 meet.
Another new pilot is Jaime Torres, who in a little over a year’s time has already won 100 races, mostly across the NYRA circuit.
Last year’s top jockey, Rey Gutierrez, will return for his third year to defend his title. Gutierrez is joined in the jock’s room by the likes of Florent Geroux, Brian Hernandez, Jr. James Graham, Deshawn Parker, and Corey Lanerie, who in October won his 5,000th race.
Jockeys Aubrey Green, Erica Murray, and Sofia Barandela all plan to return after successful 2022-2023 meets, and these three women riders will be joined by apprentice jockey Kylie Wellington.
But Wellington won’t be the only apprentice hustling for mounts. She is one of five “bugs” who will receive a weight allowance, including Carlos Barbosa, Serafin Carmona, Yoel Navas, and Valentin Esquivel.
In 2023, the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve was yet again dominated by the talent traveling Fair Grounds’ “Road to the Derby” prep races, which produced three of the top four finishers in the Run for the Roses. With its signature progression, the series begins at 1 1/16 miles for the $100,000 Gun Runner (Dec. 23) and the Grade 3 $200,000 Lecomte (Jan. 20). The Grade 2 $400,000 Risen Star (Feb. 17) extends to 1 1/8 miles, while the Grade 2 $1,000,000 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (March 23) is a 1 3/16-mile test for the 3-year-olds.
Since 2019, three of the last five Kentucky Derby winners have run in at least one of these races (Rich Strike, Mandaloun, and Country House). Beyond that, the 2022 Kentucky Derby trifecta and four of the top six finishers of 2021 all traveled through Fair Grounds’ Derby preps.
The 2023 – 2024 racing season marks the 100-year anniversary of Black Gold’s Louisiana Derby victory. He was the first local champion to go on and win the Kentucky Derby. The 66th running of the $75,000 Black Gold Stakes (3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the turf) will take place on March 2, 2024 and will include a proper celebration with his connections’ family in attendance. Rosa Hoots became the first woman to have bred and owned a Kentucky Derby winner. The first horse ever to win the derbies of four different states, Black Gold was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1989.
In the offseason, Fair Grounds erected two new barns to replace those wrecked in 2021 by Hurricane Ida. Last year, Fair Grounds installed a new, state-of-the-art toteboard in the infield. The Stall-Wilson turf course is full grown and looking beautiful, ready for everyday use as well as the many stakes scheduled to be run across it, including the Fair Grounds (G3) and Muniz (G2) both presented by Horse Racing Nation.
Fasig-Tipton has again been named the title sponsor of Fair Grounds’ 2023 series for 3-year-old fillies. The Fasig-Tipton Tremé Triple consists of the Silverbulletday Stakes (ran on Jan. 20), the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra (Feb. 17), and the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) on March 23. The name of the race series is a tribute to the historic Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans that borders Fair Grounds Race Course. Last year, the series produced the winner of Kentucky Oaks 149, Pretty Mischievous, the first from Godolphin to be crowned in Lilies.
Relyne GI By Hagyard presents three graded stakes for older, open company going a route of ground: The Grade 3 Louisiana (Jan. 20), the Grade 3 Mineshaft (Feb. 17), and the Grade 2 New Orleans Classic (March 23). Hotel Monteleone is the official hotel of Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots, and Molson Coors is the official beer partner.
Celebrating its 25th year, the Claiming Crown returns to Fair Grounds on Dec. 2. Purses will range from $75,000 to $200,000. Another $25,000 in each race will be available in purse supplements for accredited Louisiana-bred horses. The eight 2023 Claiming Crown races all are for horses 3-years-old and up, with two of those restricted to fillies and mares. Headlining the card is the $200,000 Jewel at 1 1/8 miles for horses that have started for a claiming price of $35,000 or less in 2022-23. It is the second straight year that the series has gone to a Churchill Downs Inc. property.
Six $75,000 Louisiana-bred stakes are slated for opening weekend, Nov. 17 and 18. Fillies and mares take center stage on Friday in the Doris Hebert Memorial (6 furlongs), the John Valene Memorial (1 mile & 70 yards), both for 3-year-olds and up, and the Donovan L. Ferguson Memorial, a 5 1/2 furlong event for 2-year-old fillies. Saturday’s trio of stakes are a mirror-image in terms of age, distance and surface, including the Larry D. Robideaux Memorial, the Jacob V. Morreale Memorial, and the Joseph R. Peluso Memorial, respectively. Each is in its second year of running, but four are renamed from last year to honor departed members of Louisiana’s racing community.
The 76-day, 2023-2024 Fair Grounds racing season runs through Sunday, March 24. Regular post time will be 12:45 p.m. CT. There will be an earlier noon CT first post on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23), Road to the Derby Kickoff Day (Dec. 23), Road to the Derby Day (Jan. 20) Louisiana Derby Preview Day (Feb. 17), and Louisiana Derby Day (March 23).
New Orleans, La (March 22, 2023) – Cagliostro should count his lucky stars. The 3-year-old Upstart colt trained by Cherie DeVaux will be making his fourth start on Saturday in the $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Stepping forward in every race, he’s earned the right to be there, but he lucked out to find three women ready to tolerate his antics, to teach him the rules of barn life, and to capture his overactive mind to show him his potential as a racehorse.
Physically the potential has always been there, as trainer Cherie DeVaux recognized when selecting him at the 2-year-old Spring 2022 Ocala Sale. Mentally, well he’s a Thoroughbred, and each comes with their own challenges. Possibly the best way to understand the project known as David Ingordo, Talla Racing, James Spry, West Point Thoroughbreds and Nice Guys Stables’ Cagliostro is to know a few things about the real-life Cagliostro.
An Italian psychic healer and alchemist living in the 1700s, Cagliostro was also a scoundrel whose writings were burned by the Catholic Church. Infamous across Europe for his antics, so much so that the real-life Cagliostro was also the basis for Goethe’s title-character Faust, who sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads and lived a sinful life.
The parallels are uncanny, as the DeVaux barn has worked hard to sort out all the biting, the breaking loose, the misbehavior and get their Cagliostro back on the righteous path. The path of Kentucky roses, perhaps. But first, he’ll need to outrace eleven others in Saturday’s Louisiana Derby.
Cherie leads the team but her younger sister Adrianne DeVaux is the assistant trainer on the grounds and Rachel Beaulieu is the barn foreman. With Cherie at Ocala early in the week ahead of Cagliostro’s run in the Louisiana Derby, Adrianne and Rachel kept to task overseeing the 16 Thoroughbreds on the grounds, preparing Cagliostro for his first stakes race, and making sure their promising 3-year-old has plenty of bananas.
“He eats bananas everyday,” Adrianne DeVaux said. “His favorite part is the peel.”
A banana-loving colt, who in the beginning could readily be described as “bananas” – some things are just funny that way. Cagliostro, the Italian alchemist. Alchemy is a perfect way to describe the task which was laid upon the DeVaux barn as they’ve been hard at work melding Cagliostro’s reckless, unbounded mind with his raw physicality to transform it all into a new substance – a racehorse.
“When he first came into the barn, he was all over the place mentally,” Adrianne said. “He wasn’t focused on the track or in the barn. He wasn’t very friendly. You couldn’t put a lip chain on him, couldn’t put a bridle on him. He didn’t want to get medication, catching him in the stall was difficult. In July at Saratoga when Rachel (Beaulieu) joined our team I said ‘here, he’s your project. Work with him.’ Rachel was his punching bag for a while. He would grab her, bite her and she would stand there and take it, and he eventually realized he had one person who was in his corner. Rachel has helped to show him life’s not so scary.”
“It was a little bit of a struggle,” Rachel said. “When I showed up at Saratoga I saw this horse who was (reduced to) walking the shedrow because he kept getting loose when he went for a walk outside. I took it upon myself to be like ‘well, you are going to need to be able to walk like a well-mannered boy’.’”
Adrianne and Rachel have a subtle yet infectious joy to them. They are thoughtful and quick to infuse humor into any difficult task. They both put off an unflappable air, and once upon a time, Cagliostro was by all means a flapper. Another barn might have met his antics with forceful antics of their own. Not these horsemen.
“Patience is the key,” Rachel said. “Being calm. If anyone acts up around him, he’ll start freaking out.”
“He does like women, and I think being a team of women has been a big part of it,” Adrianne said. “In general women have the touch. Our stature, yes, but our demeanor – it’s Cherie, Rachel, and me. You have a team of women and a horse like him is able to understand ‘okay, it’s alright.’ Slowly he’s kind of realized everyone is here to help him. He’s had the same groom, he’s had consistency, and I think that’s really helped him. He loves Cherie, he loves Rachel, and well, he tolerates me.”
“For the most part, women don’t try to outmuscle the horse,” Rachel said. “If something happens, it’s like okay what happened? We figure it out, and do something different. Women know how to tolerate and give the horse space to learn. But if he crosses the line, then we let him know he crossed the line, correct him. It’s all about understanding how insignificant things become significant.”
After finishing sixth on debut at Saratoga as a 2-year-old, Cagliostro didn’t make his next start until January’s Lecomte undercard. He won his first start as a 3-year-old, then he stepped up to a salty allowance on the Risen Star undercard and would have made it two wins in a row if it wasn’t for Denington’s late jump past him at the wire. He’ll face Denington again in the Louisiana Derby.
“Most of the time you can tell horses what you want them to do,” Adrianne said. “(Cagliostro) has to have it spelled out for him. We can’t just show him two and two, he’s got to also know that it equals four. Then he’ll be like ‘oh, I got it now.’ Once he ran at Saratoga, he came back and you could see the wheels were starting to spin, like this is fun. Then he started getting into his works, and before he ran here (at Fair Grounds) he was still very green, but once he got into the race, he was like ‘wait a minute I got this.’ His third race here was even better. I think he realized that this is fun. He was having fun out there. Denington just surprised him and dropped him at the wire. But Cagliostro came back on in the gallop out.”
“From Saratoga to now he’s progressed so much,” Rachel said. “It was a team effort. Now that he’s getting bigger, I just kind of baby him,” Rachel said. “It’s cool to see his mind work. He’s always looking at things, assessing, analyzing. Cool to see him take it all in and not want to be so crazy.”
Whether mentally, physically, or both, every racehorse is an ongoing project, but Cagliostro’s story has a certain charm to it. The success the DeVaux barn has had with Cagliostro offers an insight into what many trainers are working with in our sport, specifically those with 3-year-olds currently in the thick of Derby and Oaks dreams. When they’re dreaming of roses, sometimes they’re dealing with bananas.
New Orleans, La (March 16, 2023) – With less than two weeks to go in the 2022-23 meet at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, there is a new leading trainer as Ron Faucheux has caught fire in the month of March. The Faucheux barn won their 33rd race of the meet in the finale on Sunday, March 12, capping off an eight-win week and claiming the lead for most wins for the first time this meet.
After winning with Janisthebeauty in the lid lifter on Wednesday, March 15, Faucheux leads all with 34 (24%), Bret Calhoun is one win back at 33 (25%), and Brad Cox has 32 (40%). (All stats are through the end of the day 3/15/23). Either of these three high-percentage barns could seal the deal in the closing days.
Faucheux has gone 15 for 32 since Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22) with a $4.08 ROI, a hot streak that could be the storybook cornerstone to three trainer titles in a row.
“Once I got the one title, just to compete and be in the conversation is enough for me,” Faucheux said. “Sure I’d love to win another, but if it doesn’t happen, I’m not going to be upset about it. If it didn’t happen the first year, I was going to be upset, I can promise you that. Even last year I just took it as it came. If it happens it happens, but I’m not stressed about it.”
One of the biggest successes for the Faucheux barn this meet has been the 3-year-old Allnight Moonlight. His win in the $75,000 Half Ours Stakes was a shift in the meet for a barn that didn’t have things go their way to start the year. Whether drawing poorly or having horses with minor setbacks, at first it seemed a three-peat was unlikely. On Feb. 25 Allnight Moonlight scored what would be the barn’s fifth tally from six starts in a week that began with Faucheux in third with19 wins. He trailed Calhoun’s 29 and Cox’s 27.
“I wouldn’t say that I am shooting for the title,” Faucheux said. “I’m going to place them where they belong and see how it pans out. If it looks like I’m close the last couple of weeks maybe we’ll try to shoot for it a little stronger. Trust me, I’m content having two titles. If I don’t get another, I’m fine. That’s two more than I ever thought I’d get.”
Besides Allnight Moonlight, Faucheux has a strong cast of sophomores and four of them were integral to the recent success: Not On Herb, Comanche Warrior, De Saix and Veterans Day each rung one up for the barn in March. Besides 3-year-olds getting it done, five of the eight wins last week came from class-droppers, often a sign the barn is getting aggressive to win the title.
“Honestly I always kinda do that,” Faucheux said. “With the way the purses are here at Fair Grounds, I always try to unleash a lot of horses. I open the stalls up for the babies we’ve got coming in, and you’d rather run for the decent money here than for half price over there (at other tracks in Louisiana).”
Prior to March, the story had belonged to Bret Calhoun and Brad Cox. Calhoun has landed in the top ten of the Fair Grounds standings 16 consecutive years and he finished as the runner-up three times (most recently in 2014-15), but he has never won the title.
“It would be nice to win, but it’s not our main objective,” Calhoun said. “The main thing is to try to win as many races and the most money as you can. To win a title you really have to do a lot of different things. You’ve got to have horses that fit in certain categories that you know those races will go all the time, condition horses, and cheaper horses. And you need to claim to run back, but we’re not going to do all that. It’s not that important to me, but I understand people doing it, but that’s not really what we’re trying to do.”
Calhoun’s first win at Fair Grounds came in 1996, and 576 of his 3,507 career victories have come in New Orleans.
“There’s no financial incentive, that’s why I try to run our horses in places where they can make the most money for the owners and us,” Calhoun said. “Making money for the owners, they’re likely to stay with you and keep sending you some more, so claiming and dropping and losing them money might look good in the win column but at the end of the day it doesn’t work out as well.”
Already with four training titles at Fair Grounds, the main focus of the meet for Cox is kicking off the campaigns for the Derby and Oaks contenders, and the barn has been second to none in terms of that. Ten open-company stakes races written for the crop of 2020 have been run so far this meet at Fair Grounds, and the Cox barn has won seven of them, most recently with Wonderful Justice in the Black Gold. Before that they scored with Angel of Empire in the Risen Star (G2), Instant Coffee in the Lecomte (G3), The Alys Look in the Silverbulletday, Jace’s Road in the Gun Runner, Corona Bolt in the Sugar Bowl, and Dazzling Blue in the Letellier.
“It’s been a great team effort throughout the meet with good riders, good grooms, and good hot walkers,” barn foreman Trace Messina said. “Everyone shows up every day and does what they have to do. It’d be great to win (the title) but right now the goal is to win the Louisiana Derby, the New Orleans Classic, the Fair Grounds Oaks. The trainer’s title is in the back of our heads, we do think about it, but we’re not going out of our way to win it. Ron (Faucheux) is catching fire so it could be hard. Still, we’ll give it our best shot.”
Messina is in his second year working with the Cox barn, but the New Orleans native knows the significance and history of winning the Fair Grounds title.
“I grew up coming to Fair Grounds as a kid,” Messina said. “Tom Amoss was running a clinic down here when I was growing up. Asmussen, too, every year. Growing up I remember Keith Bourgeois had a lot of business and did really well as far as Louisiana guys before Ron (Faucehux) took over the scene. There have been many great trainers who have come through here over the years. It’s not an easy trainer’s title to win.”
There are still a lot more races to sort out whether the 2022-23 title becomes Faucheux’s third in a row, Cox’s fifth, or Calhoun’s first. Already having drawn the races through Thursday, March 23, the Faucheux barn has 17 horses entered at Fair Grounds, the Cox barn has 10 entered (including potential sophomore stars Bishops Bay and Merlazza), and Calhoun leads all three with 18 entered to run.
New Orleans, La (Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023) – After breaking his maiden in January, Roger Smith’s Allnight Moonlight immediately stepped up to stakes company and stepped out in front to wire the inaugural $75,000 Louisiana Stallion of the Year Half Ours Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Going one mile 70 yards, Allnight Moonlight beat seven other statebred 3-year-olds by four lengths.
Piloted by Jareth Loveberry and trained by Ron Faucheux, Allnight Moonlight completed one mile and 70 yards in 1:43.94. He is now two-for-two since adding blinkers. The win in the Half Ours was Faucheux’s second on the day and sixth on the week. Sitting at 25 total wins to Bret Calhoun’s 30 and Brad Cox’s 28,Faucheuxis now in position to compete for his third straight trainer’s title.
“Ron (Faucheux) has really done a great job with this horse,” Loveberry said. “Stretching him out and putting the blinkers on, he got him going in the right direction. I made sure he got a good break and was able to take command after that. He’s a really nice horse and I want to thank the whole team.”
Breaking from the rail, Allnight Moonlight shot out to take control and set scintillating fractions of :23.50 and :46.29. After bobbling at the start, the 2-5 favorite Jack Hammer rushed to keep up and took a run at Allnight Moonlight in the second turn but came up empty. As Allnight Moonlight put more distance between himself and the field at every call, Benoit and Mangum ran well for second and third-place honors respectively. Never mustering a re-rally after being turned away, Jack Hammer held on for fourth.
“We’ve always been high on this horse,” Faucheux said. “The addition of blinkers helped him prove his talent in these last two races. I think the sky’s the limit with him. I love this horse, always have, even when he was running second or worse. We always thought he would be a true router, and he might even be best on the grass in the long run. He has the feet for it and the pedigree. I’m so happy for (owner) Roger Smith who is here with his grandson today. He’s been with me through and through, we’ve had a lot of fun. It’s a special (win).”
Stiff Drink, Gobot, Real Action, and My Lil Dude completed the order of finish.
Allnight Moonlight was sent off at 5-1 and returned $13.00, $7.40, and $3.80. He boosted his career record to 5-2-2-0 and earnings to $97,000.
Mansfield Racing’s Free Drop Maddy wired the field to win the inaugural $75,000 Louisiana Broodmare of the Year Buttercup’s Song Stakes, recording her third stakes victory during the 2022-2023 meet at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The sophomore beat seven 3-year-old statebred fillies by 2 1/4 lengths.
Piloted by Rey Gutierrez and trained by Bret Calhoun, Free Drop Maddy completed one mile in 1:39.47 for her first win going two turns. Her previous three efforts came at Delta Downs.
“Delta is a much different surface and (Free Drop Maddy) runs better here (at Fair Grounds),” Gutierrez said. “Bret (Calhoun) made some adjustments coming into this race, and she was extremely comfortable out there, very relaxed on the lead. Today was her first victory stretching out, and the credit goes to Bret and his team.”
Free Drop Maddy broke sharply and immediately took command, rolling through the early fractions in :24.57 and :48.22. New Destiny chased the leader early on before settling along the rail and biding her time for a late bid. Olivia G settled near the back early before making a bold, wide move to threaten in the stretch. Both of those two fillies ranged up behind Free Drop Maddy at the top of the stretch but neither could threaten as the winning filly kicked away. Olivia G beat New Destiny to the wire. Racing midpack throughout, Guitar Woman rounded out the superfecta.
“(Free Drop Maddy) is a small fast filly,” Calhoun said. “She’s like dynamite: little but powerful. Scheduling and hoping Delta’s track had tightened up had us back over there (in her last race), and I regret it. She doesn’t like that track at all.”
She Told You So, For Harper, Hopeitsmyluckyday, and Agami completed the order of finish.
Free Drop Maddy was sent off the 9-5 co-favorite and returned $5.00. $3.60, and $3.00. In joining the ranks of Surveillance and Oeuvre with her third stakes score of the meet, she boosted her career record to 8-4-1-2 and earnings to $272,800.
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.”
How High Can He Fly? Bron and Brow Shows Offensive Power Breaking His Maiden Against Stakes Company
Charco leads The Louisiana Futurity early, but proves 2nd best
New Orleans (December 31, 2021) – On the last day of his 2-year old campaign, Bron and Brow proves he has the makings of a horse on the rise. Twenty days after assistant trainer David Carroll said “He won’t be a maiden for long,” Gary Barber’s colt’s maiden win comes against stakes company in the $107,000 Louisiana Futurity over 6 furlongs on the dirt.
Second favorite 2.30-1 Charco was sent to the lead by jockey James Graham and he blitzed the opening fractions in 22.09 and 45.59 before tightly-pressing .90-1 favorite Bron and Brow drove by hitting the top of the paint in 57.77 and kept on for the score while drifting out to beat the buzzer in 1:10.85. Third favorite 2.50-1 Big Scully ran third throughout but never threatened, finishing 9 ¼ lengths back.
“He broke out a little right to be fair,” winning jockey Adam Beschizza said. “This horse is super talented and I know David [Carroll] and Mark [Casse] have believed in him since day one. We just had to overcome a little adversity there with the inquiry. He’s got a lot to learn, but he seemed to come out of that race very unexhausted so that just tells me he has a lot left in the locker there.”
Bred in Louisiana by J. Addock & Hume Wornall, after taking three shots Bron and Brow is 3-1-1-1 earning $91,820. After a third in November at Del Mar, this colt by Gormley was transferred from Peter Miller’s barn to the care of Mark Casse. Bron and Brow finished a troubled trip ½ length 2nd in the Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile Sprint. Like his namesakes, LA Lakers power-duo Lebron James and Anthony Davis, Bron and Brow has loads of talent–unlike them, he is still proving green in his races. After breaking out from the gate and bumping his neighbor, the stewards called for an inquiry, which was not acted on. Passing Charco and finishing in the stretch, he ran erratically in the stretch.
“We got the win in the end, ” assistant trainer David Carroll said. “A little worrisome there but he’s a very talented colt. I’m very happy for Mr. Barber, a great way to end the year. This horse has got a lot of talent–very unlucky in his last race when he got the bad trip but he went very fast as well. Today was a much different race. Adam rode a great race, very aware of the horse he rode last time for Mr. Asmussen [Charco] and he kept him on his target.”
Again, similar to his namesakes: he’s won his first, but can he hang another stakes banner?
“We feel there is more to come from this horse,” Carroll said. “Mark [Casse] and Mr. Barber will talk about two turns, but there is a race early next month if they wish to take advantage of it, going a mile, so maybe that will be his next race, but that’s something they will talk about–we’ll enjoy this race for now.”
The connections believe Bron and Brow can fly higher as he turns the page to his 3-year-old campaign. – Kilroy
Girls Futurity Winner Home “Free” Down the Stretch
Free Like a Girl wins her fourth stake of the season in runaway fashion
Making amends for her narrow defeat as the favorite in the Louisiana Lassie on Champions Day, Gerald Bruno, Jr., Carl Deville and Chasey Pomier’s (trainer) Free Like a Girl left no doubt as to who was best in the $109,600 Louisiana Futurity for the 2-year-old fillies.
Away alertly as the 1.30-1 favorite, the daughter of El Deal stalked the early pace of Serape (11.70-1) though fractions of 22.33 and 46.29. Cut loose by regular rider Pedro Cotto, Jr. at the top of the stretch, she quickly took command, extending her margin of victory to 6 ¼ lengths under the wire in a final time of 1:11.11 for six furlongs. Wholelottamo (14.20-1) outkicked Serape for the place spot. Half Page was scratched at the gate.
“We stuck with the plan to get her close to the pace,” Cotto, Jr. said. “When I got a chance, I put her in the clear, and she just did her thing today. I don’t think she’s even as good as she can get right now. That’s one thing that has impressed me about her. I think she’s just going to get better when she gets older.”
Sent off as the 2-1 favorite on Champions Day, Free Like a Girl was stuck in tight between horses while stalking from mid-pack. She fought on gamely to the wire, only to get swooped by a deep closing 93-1 longshot in Buckley Bunny late. On Friday, she left no doubt who was best in front of her many supporters.
“We are very grateful to have her,” trainer Chasey Deville Pomier said. “She’s been amazing for us. The breeders, all of the connections. We’ve had a great year with her for sure. My dad owns a part, my daughter is in on it, me, the other owner used to be dad’s assistant when I was young, we’ve known the breeders for a while, so yeah, it’s just a whole big ‘ole thing.”
The winner of the D. S. Shine Young Futurity at Evangeline and the Louisiana Jewel and the open company My Trusty Cat at Delta Downs in advance of the Lassie, Free Like a Girl has now won five times from 10 starts since debuting on May 8 at Lone Star. Bred by Kim Renee Stover & Lisa Osborne and purchased for just $5,500 as a yearling, she has now banked $281,473. She’s run a lot and accomplished quite a bit in less than eight months, but shows no signs of slowing down.
“Every day she trains great, we go day-to-day with her, as long as she’s training good, we keep going,” Pomier said. – Kristufek