Big Chopper Scores Win in the Edward J. Johnston Memorial; Fort Polk Grinds Out Red Camelia

Big Chopper (right) gets a nose in front to win the Edward J. Johnston Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds. Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr.

Fans were treated to a thrilling 2023 edition of the $75,000 Edward J. Johnston Memorial as Big Chopper held off a fast-charging Who Took the Money for a nose victory. The versatile colt won the Louisiana Champions Day Sprint on dirt earlier in the meet.

Trained by Scott Gelner and ridden by Corey Lanerie, Big Chopper completed about one mile 1:42.18 over the “firm” Stall Wilson Turf Course with the rail remaining 34 feet out.

“There are not many like that that can change their style and run well at any distance,” Lanerie said. “Going into the race I really thought I would be the pace. But he broke within himself today and he relaxed. If he would have gotten any bit rank on the backside, someone would have run him down.”

The stretch battle began around the far turn when Big Chopper split front-running foes Maga Man and Mangelsen, who tallied early quarter-mile fractions of :25.78 and :52.05. Lanerie began to ask Big Chopper for his best run as Budro Talking came flying into the mix and Who took the Money gathered his run down the center of the course. Big Chopper gamely fought to stay in front of Budro Talking and as the wire neared, Who Took the Money surged forward in the photo’s flash, which showed only a nose difference between Big Chopper in first and the 1-2 favorite Who Took the Money in second. It was another nose back to Budro Talking in third.

“He got overlooked again today,” Gleaner said. “Every time I’ve run him here, people always say turf, and I’ve never had a chance to run him many times on the turf.  Today he showed up and got it done. He can sprint or go long, dirt, or turf. He represents himself well. I didn’t know Eddie (Johnston) that well, but I knew him, and I was glad just to be in this race and honored to win it in his name.”

At 15-1 Big Chopper rewarded his backers with payouts of$33.60, $8.00, and $5.00.

After a mid-pack stalking trip, Smarty Alex finished fourth followed in order by Wicker Rose, Maga Man, Mangelsen, and Highland Creek.

Big Chopper improved his overall mark to 17-5-4-1 with earnings of $260,333. The 4-year-old son of Shackleford out of the Unusual Heat mare Miss Well Molded was bred in Louisiana by Kendel Standlee.


Fort Polk with jockey Emanuel Nieves holds off challengers to win the 47th running of the Red Camelia Stakes at Fair Grounds. Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr.

Patricia and Steve Roe’s Fort Polk overcame the field of eight fillies and mares in the stretch to win the 47th running of the $75,000 Red Camelia Stakes. Finishing less than a length shy of winning last year’s edition, this is the first turf stakes victory for Fort Polk, whose only other stake victory came in the Louisiana Champions Day Distaff on the dirt in 2021. The 7-year-old Louisiana-bred beat seven older fillies and mares by 1/2 length.

Piloted by Emanuel Nieves and trained by Pat Mouton, Fort Polk completed about one mile in 1:42.31 over the “firm” Stall Wilson Turf Course with the rail remaining 34 feet out.

“Everything worked out how we wanted it,” Nieves said. “I got in a good position, avoided traffic, and when I asked her, she was ready to go.”

Flashing speed from her outside draw, Cheapskate Diva fought for the lead in the early going and held it while setting opening fractions of :24.79 and :49.92. While three others chased the front-runner, Fort Polk found midpack position going three-wide, A G’s Charlotte saved ground on the rail behind her, and Wholelottamo kept her eyes on the field from the back. Fort Polk dug in eyeball-to-eyeball with Cheapskate Diva, bid past, and then had to fend off 9-5 favorite A G’s Charlotte’s bid from the rail. Wholelottamo came flying from the back but too late as Fort Polk got the best of the late-runners. A G’s Charlotte finished second, Wholelottamo in third, and Cheapskate Diva held on for fourth.

“It’s easier to win tough races like these when you’ve got the horse,” Mouton said. “She’s easy to train, responds well to it, and gives you her best all the time.”

Blessed Anna, Free Like a Girl, and Eve’s Delight completed the order of finish. Winning Romance was scratched after flipping in the paddock prior to the race.

Fort Polk was sent off at 9-2 and returned $11.60, $5.80, and $3.60. She boosted her career record to 41-10-7-11 and earnings to $384,460.

Net a Bear Reasserts Her Dominance Winning Red Camelia

Net A Bear with jockey Colby Hernandez aboard wins the 46th running of the $60,000 Red Camelia Stakes at Fair Grounds. Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr.

Formful Fort Polk doesn’t give an inch, but settles for second

New Orleans, LA (March 5, 2022) In a workmanlike performance, Maximo Lamarche and Frederico Deltoro’s Net a Bear bested her three rivals in the 46th running of the $60,000 Red Camelia Stakes, reasserting her claim yet again as the top Louisiana-bred mare. A versatile 6-year-old who keeps getting better, Net a Bear is now perfect from three starts in 2022. Always ready and willing for trainer Allen Landry, Net a Bear followed up a dirt score in the Premier Distaff at Delta Downs with Saturday’s win on turf.

“She pretty much does whatever you ask,” Allen Landry said. “She is in fine form.”

Traveling a mile over the Stall-Wilson turf course, the odds-on .60-1 favorite Net a Bear tracked the leading pair, while 3.40-1 Offspring’s front-running bid did little to discourage 3.90-1 Fort Polk from tightly pressing less than a length off the 24.47 and 48.84 early calls. Fort Polk took over off the second turn and held the advantage into the stretch, while Net a Bear loomed, gearing up for her late kick down the center of the course. She slowly grinded by Fort Polk late, winning by ¾ of a length and stopping the timer in 1:40.65 with the rail eight feet out on a firm course. It was another four lengths back to Offspring in third and Blessed Anna finished last of the four.

Jockey Colby Hernandez took his first spin aboard Net a Bear, following Landry’s instructions to a T.

“He (Landry) told me not to let her fall too far out of it and don’t rush her up,” Hernandez said. “She broke into a good spot. Down the lane she switched leads and went about her business getting the win.”

Landry has had the 6-year-old mare by Awesome Bet in his barn since the beginning. He notched her fourth win in seven turf starts at Fair Grounds, including the 2020 Red Camelia. Net a Bear now has a lifetime record of 31-11-6-6 with $561,670 in the bank.


Top three from Louisiana Champions Day Return in Red Camelia

All the best LA-bred fillies and mares have tried, but few can beat Maximo Lamarche and Federico Deltoro’s Net a Bear. Winner of five of her last six and six of 11 turf starts overall, half-million-dollar earning 6-year-old mare looks for career win number 11 in Saturday’s 46th running of the $60,000 Red Camelia Stakes for 3-year-olds and up going 1 mile over the Stall-Wilson turf course at Fair Grounds. Seven-time stake winner, including the 2020 Red Camelia, 9-5 morning line favorite Net a Bear’s best runs have come on the turf, though she exits a dirt stakes score winning the Premiere Distaff at Delta Downs in February.

The last Time Net a Bear lost on turf was last year’s Red Camelia when she finished second to Oak Tree Stables’ Offspring (post two, Jareth Loveberry/Louie Roussel III, 7-2 ML). With three wins on the lawn, all of those have been at the 1 mile Red Camelia distance. Previously trained by Edward Johnston, Offspring makes her second start for trainer Roussel after finishing third last out behind Net a Bear and Blessed Anna.

Putting on quite the run herself, Steven and Pat Roe’s Fort Polk has won 4 out of her last 6–losing to Net a Bear twice in that stretch. But the Patrick Mouton-trained Fort Polk had her say over Net a Bear and Winning Romance in the Louisiana Champions Day Distaff. That was on the dirt course, and when they faced each other again in February, Net a Bear got the win in the Premiere Distaff at Delta Downs. Jorge Guzman will guide Fort Polk from post five as the morning line 5-2 second-favorite.

After taking the lead at the mile call, Wayne Davis’s Blessed Anna ended up third last out when going 1 1/16 miles on the Stall-Wilson turf course. Making her third start for trainer Shane Wilson, Blessed Anna looks for a second win on the grass, though finishing in the exacta seven out of nine times (post four, James Graham, 5-1 ML).

Allied Racing’s Winning Romance sped to the lead and held for 2nd, beating out Net a Bear in the Louisiana Champions Day Distaff. Making her second career start on turf, “Midas Man” Bret Calhoun looks to continue his success transferring dirt horses to the turf course. Calling upon Deshawn Parker to break from the rail, Winning Romance will likely be loose on the lead (9-2).

Whispering Oaks Farm’s Tecate Time looks for her first win on turf and at two turns in the Red Camelia. The three-time winning 4-year-old finished third last out in an allowance at Delta Downs (post three, Mitchell Murrill/Steve Flint, 12-1 ML).

Carded as race four, the first of three turf stakes races on the day, post time is scheduled for 2:35 pm CT.

Offspring Turns Tables in Red Camelia

Homebred Upends Ladies Turf 1-2 Finishers Room to Finish, Net a Bear


Offspring with Brian Hernandez, Jr. aboard captures the 45th running of the Red Camelia Stales at Fair Grounds. Hodges Photography; / Lou Hodges, Jr.


Oak Tree Stable’s homebred Offspring took advantage of a race flow that played to her strengths, got first run on defending champion Net a Bear, and easily held that rival at bay for a 1 ¾-length win in Saturday’s $60,000 Red Camelia for state-bred fillies at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The win helped make amends for her third-place finish as the favorite behind Room to Finish and Net a Bear in the local Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Turf in December.

Brian Hernandez Jr. kept Offspring (3.20-1) in close attendance to a dawdling early pace, as Marywood got loose and carved out tepid fractions of 25.10 and 50.65. Meanwhile, even-money favorite Room to Finish was a compromised fifth along the rail early and Net a Bear took all the worst of it, as she settled in last in the field-of-8. The tempo quickened entering the far turn. Marywood came under fire and Offspring was produced 4-wide while taking dead aim on the leader, with Room to Finish taking an inside route and Net a Bear rallying widest of all. Offspring took charge in deep stretch as Marywood relented and Net a Bear closed fastest of all to secure the place by a half-length over the game pacesetter, with Room to Finish a disappointing sixth. Offspring finished the about 1-mile distance in 1:39.80 over a firm Stall-Wilson Turf Course.

“We were able to get the perfect trip from the outside,” Hernandez Jr. said. “We were able to slide over to the 2-path and here on this grass course it makes a big difference to save all the ground as much as possible and that’s what we were able to do today. It makes it easy when you have a filly like her that was taking me there the whole way.”

Oak Tree Stable bred Offspring, a 5-year-old daughter of Into Mischief, but sold her at auction for $130,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company June 2018 Two-Year-Olds & Horses of Racing Age Sale. She went 3-for-13 for trainer Carlo Vaccarezza , which included a pair of state-bred optional-claiming wins over the Stall-Wilson in March of 2020, then struggled in a pair of off-the-board finishes in Kentucky last September and October.

Trainer Joe Sharp claimed her for her breeders for $62,500 at Keeneland in October with an eye to the state-bred grass stakes this winter in New Orleans and Offspring rewarded her old but new connections with a strong third here behind Room to Finish and Net a Bear in the Ladies Turf. She hit the board in a pair of off-the-turf races here in January and February but clearly relished getting back to the Stall-Wilson while moving her lifetime mark to 4-for-17.

“She’s really just had tough luck with the weather this meet and we obviously know grass is her preferred surface,” Sharp said. “She’s just an honest mare that’s made a living all winter off-the-turf and making he best of bad situations. I was happy for her to be able to get the stakes win that she needed for her future.”

Room to Finish couldn’t double up on her Ladies Turf win over her two biggest rivals while running for the fourth time at the meet for trainer Wayne Catalano. The 6-year-old daughter of Giant Oak was also second in the open Marie Krantz Memorial in January and entered off an eighth-place finish in the open Albert M. Stall Memorial March 6. Room to Finish hugged the rail much of the way in the Red Camelia under Adam Beschizza but couldn’t deliver her patented late run behind the slow early fractions.

“The pace didn’t help,” Beschizza said. “She’d rather be held together than having to chase her. I was happy and comfortable where I was but they just didn’t come back to me. She was beaten fair and square.”


Red Camelia Stakes
Fair Grounds, 3-14-20, @ 8 furlongs (turf)
Four-year-olds and upwards, Accredited Louisiana Bred, Fillies and Mares, $60,000

NetA Bear_F_3-14-2020
Net A Bear, with Timothy Thornton aboard, wins the Red Camelia Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, LA. Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges Jr

Awesome Bet–Edacious Reality
Breeder: Lora Pitre & Elaine Carroll
Owner: Maximo Lamarche and Federico Deltoro
Trainer: Allen Landry
Jockey: Timothy Thornton

Is Too
Midshipman–Tensas Salt
Breeder: J. Adcock & Montgomery Equine Center
Owner: Baronne Farms, LLC
Trainer: Edward J. Johnston
Jockey: Miguel Mena

Tap Dance Star
Star Guitar–Dance by Em
Breeder: Virginia Lazenby
Owner: Virginia Lazenby Racing Stable LLC
Trainer: Oscar Modica
Jockey: Mitchell Murrill



Now a three-time stakes winner, Net A Bear takes the shortest way around to victory

Saving ground about five lengths behind the early pacesetters through moderate fractions of :25.35 and 50.06 for the about one mile turf distance, Maximo Lamarche and Federico Deltoro’s Net A Bear cut the corner turning for home and powered away down the stretch to score her second stakes win of the meet in the $60,000 Red Camelia Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Sent off at odds of 6-1, the lone 4-year-old filly in the field of older Louisiana-bred mares finished 2 1/2 lengths in front of the pacesetter Is Too, stopping the clock in 1:39.68 over firm going. It was another length back to Tap Dance Star in third. The even-money favorite Room to Finish failed to fire and crossed the line sixth of seven.

It was on December 15, 2019 in the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Turf that Net A Bear made her first career start over the Fair Grounds’ turf course, a race in which she closed while wide to win at odds of 12-1. Following that stakes score, the daughter of Awesome Bet finished third and fourth respectively in a pair of allowance races, the first of which was run in the mud. Now a three-time stakes winner, Net A Bear boosted her career record to 16-4-3-4 with earnings of $195,270.

“A lot of speed scratched so we were a little concerned about the pace up front,” winning rider Tim Thornton. “We knew we couldn’t take her out of her game so I just let her relax back there and we saved some ground. The rail opened up turning for home and when I asked her to go through, she did.”

“She’s more mature now,” Thornton continued. “She tends to be a bit of a nervous filly but she’s starting to settle down before the races. I think that’s helping her as she continues to progress.”

“It looks like she’s just getting better and better with each start,” trainer Allen Landry said. “When the rail opened up I knew she would come through that gap. She sometimes gets caught wide but as soon as the rail opened up today Tim (Thornton, jockey) took advantage of it.”

Is Too, the winner of the Louisiana Cup Distaff in August at Louisiana Downs, held on gamely to finish second.

“She made the lead and that’s what we were looking to do,” jockey Miguel Mena said. “She ran a wining race she just got outrun by a nice horse today. It looks like she’s back on her game.”


5-year-old mare is in form, looking for her first stakes win


New Orleans (March 11, 2020) – West Point Thoroughbreds, Forge Ahead Stables LLC, and Jerry Caroom’sRoom to Finish is a five-time winner, but on Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, she’ll aim for her first career stakes triumph as Mike Diliberto’s 7-2 morning line favorite in the $60,000 Red Camelia Stakes. Restricted to older Louisiana-bred fillies & mares, the Red Camelia is scheduled to be run over about one mile of turf. It is carded as race seven of ten with a scheduled post time of 3:24 p.m. CDT.


An impressive first-level allowance winner in late November, Room to Finish followed up with a game second in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Turf on December 15. Following a head-scratching fifth place finish in a second-level, open company allowance on the Fair Grounds’ turf on January 25, Room to Finish bounced back with a decisive victory last out, closing from just off the pace to win a conditioned state-bred allowance against many of same turf foes she will meet again on Saturday. 


“She’s a really honest mare,” trainer Wayne Catalano said. “She’s been in form lately and we’re really happy with how she’s doing.”


“She doesn’t want to be too close to the pace,” Catalano continued. “She just wants to be left alone and make her own run when she feels like it. She sometimes will get herself closer to the pace but that’s all on her own, she doesn’t like to be asked to do that early on. She didn’t run too well in that race two back where she finished fifth. She was kind of forced to be up there with the first flight and she didn’t like that. She doesn’t like to be rushed. There is some speed in the race (on Saturday) but we’re just going to let her put herself wherever she wants to be and hope she shows that closing kick.”


Colby Hernandez, who currently sits second in the Fair Grounds jockey standings, will be back aboard on Saturday, as the pair break from post nine.


Maximo Lamarche and Federico Deltoro’s Net A Bear will look to score her third career stakes victory in the Red Camelia. Following a win in the Elge Rasberry Stakes at Louisiana Downs in early September, the 4-year-old daughter of Awesome Bet put in a solid third place finish in an allowance race at Delta Downs in October. She then shipped to Fair Grounds to score a 12-1 upset in the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Turf, 1 1/4th lengths ahead of Room to Finish. Since then, Net A Bear has put in both a third and fourth place finish respectively in her last two starts.


Net A Bear will break from the rail with jockey Tim Thornton aboard, and is listed as the 5-1 second choice on the morning line.


Completing the field for the Red Camelia Stakes (with post, jockey/trainer and morning line odds) are: Mariah’s Galaxy (post two, K. Smith/Arceneaux at 8-1), Tenpins Tempo (post three, Broussard/L. Thomas at 12-1), Eskenformore (post four, Graham/Hodges at 6-1), Marywood (post five, G. Saez/L. Thomas at 20-1), Mi Copa Rebosa (post six, Albarado/ Gelner at 20-1), Tap Dance Star (post 7, Murrill/Modica at 12-1), Hyper Piper (post eight, B.J Hernandez, Jr./David, Jr. at 8-1), Thegrayspider (post ten, Taylor/Shamsie at 20-1), Is Too (post 11, Mena/Johnston at 6-1), and Bermuda Star (post 12, Beschizza/Camejo at 6-1).

Dontmesswithjoanne Makes Powerful Stretch Run To Win The Red Camelia Stakes

Red Camelia Stakes
Fair Grounds, 3-17-18, @ 1 mile, turf, $60,000
Accredited Louisiana Breds, 4-Year-Olds and Upwards, Fillies and Mares

Pioneerof the Nile–Cinnamon Kisses
Breeder: Gulf Haven Farms, LLC
Owner: Zayat Stables, LLC
Trainer: Brad H. Cox
Jockey: Joe Bravo

Mr. Al’s Gal
Salute the Sarge–Spanish Ice
Breeder: J. Adcock & Neal McFadden
Owner: Brittlyn Stable, Inc.
Trainer: Justin Jeansonne
Jockey: Diego Saenz

Drosselmeyer–Changing Seasons
Breeder: James McIngvale
Owner: HP Thoroughbreds LLC (Brandon Hillman)
Trainer: Ricky Courville
Jockey: Ashley Broussard


By Ryan Martin

Zayat Stables LLC’s Dontmesswithjoanne ($12.60, $5.80, $4.20) laid well off the pace to score and made a big move down the top of the stretch to defeat ten other Louisiana-bred fillies and mares in the 42nd running of the Red Camelia Stakes over the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ Stall-Wilson Turf Course on Saturday afternoon.

Trained by Brad Cox, the 4-year-old daughter of Pioneerof the Nile was saving ground around the first turn and was unhurried throughout the early stages of the race. Meanwhile, Florida invader Viva Vegas set a slow pace early on and produced opening fractions of 24.05, 48.77, and 1:15.01. Mr. Al’s Gal tracked not too far behind in second. At the top of the stretch, Viva Vegas’ lead began to dwindle but she still appeared to have something left. However, Mr. Al’s Gal began to purse Viva Vegas to her inside and briefly took the lead, but was unable to hold off a charge from Dontmesswithjoanne who won going away with Joe Bravo in the irons. Mr. Al’s Gal ($6.60, $6.80) was second and 71-1 longshot Pera finished third ($19.60).  Dontmesswithjoanne finished in a time of 1:40.48.

“You had those times and with the soft turf I think they got a hold of it,” Bravo said. “With a filly like this you just have to make sure that she was happy. She picked herself and went with it. When you ride the best horse, it’s easy. That’s the bottom line.”

The Red Camelia Stakes was a first stakes victory for Dontmesswithjoanne, which pushed her career earnings to $158,695. She earned $36,000 from Saturday’s win. In 11 career starts, she has won four races with three seconds and one third.

Rounding out the order of finish were Pacific Pink, Viva Vegas, Inveniam Viam, Safari Calamari, P Boo, Temple Shadow, Tap City Baby and Beleiveinsomething.