Calumet Farms’ Optimizer
won his second graded
stakes event of the meet, edging clear to win Saturday’s Grade III,
$150,000 Fair Grounds Handicap by two lengths as the even-money
favorite. Chuck and Ella Lou Hagaman’s Bim Bam
for second in a field that scratched down to five after many trainers
elected not to test the “soft” Stall-Wilson Turf Course.
Optimizer had won last month’s Grade III Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap
over the same course as the first in a three-race graded stakes series
that will end with the Grade II Mervin H. Muniz Memorial Handicap on
Louisiana Derby Day, March 30.
“His performance was as top-shelf as it could possibly have been,” said winning jockey Jon Court.
“We were in and out trying to find the best part of the track and, when
it came down to it, I did venture down on the inside and I got back to
the outside; we were trying to find the firmest spot out there and it’s
all pretty soft. But he handled it well enough to save some ground and
make that move towards the lead down on the inside and that put us in
the winner’s circle.”
Optimizer returned $4, $2.60 and $2.20, increased his career earnings to $626,942 and completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:56.06.
AJ Suited Racing Stables’ Two Months Rent ran an even third, followed by Willcox Inn and Cavalero.
SNUGGS AND KISSES UPSETS DAISY DEVINE IN $75,000 BAYOU HANDICAP
Barrett Bernard’s Snuggs and Kisses responded gamely when engaged by James Miller’s odds-on favorite Daisy Devine in Saturday’s listed $75,000 Bayou Handicap and proved best by a head following a thrilling stretch duel.
In a race taken off the turf and run on the main track at 1
1/16-miles, Daisy Devine was unable to sustain her grass greatness with a
126-pound impost but that should take nothing away from the gameness
shown by the winner.
“We weren’t going to run if the race had stayed on the grass,” said winning trainer Tom Amoss.
“The whole idea was to run if it came off the grass. Daisy Devine is a
great filly. Obviously, she is a great turf filly. So, maybe a
little vulnerable today on the dirt and we were able to take advantage
Ridden by Rosie Napravnik, Snuggs and Kisses
returned mutuels of $11.20, $3.60 and $2.20, accomplished the distance
in 1:45.38 after early splits of 24.30 and 48.48 and increased her
career earnings to $288,020 with her 12th win in 32 career starts.
“At the three-eighths pole Daisy Devine was kind of creeping up on us
and I said, ‘Oh boy, here she comes,’ but my filly really stuck it out
and kept her nose in front the whole way,” said Napravnik.
Daisy Devine paid $2.40 and $2.10 and also went over the $1 million
mark in lifetime earnings while finishing three-quarters of a length in
front of Shadwell Farm’s Ausus, who returned $2.20 to show.
SUNBEAN STRIKES AGAIN IN $60,000 GENTILLY STAKES
Brittlyn Stable’s Sunbean made it three straight wins over the local oval with a 4 3/4-length tally in Saturday’s $60,000 Gentilly Stakes,
a race restricted to sophomore accredited to Louisiana-breds that was
scheduled for the turf but run over the main track at a mile and 70
After being allowed to settle early, the bay son of Brahms, who was scratched out of the Grade II Risen Star Stakes in favor of this event, came outside rivals when set down for the drive and drew off with mild urging by jockey Colby Hernandez.
Backed down to odds-on favoritism by the fans after winning the $105,000 Louisiana Futurity here on New Year’s Eve, the Al Stall Jr. trainee
returned mutuels of $3.80, $2.80 and $2.10, toured the distance in
1:42.76 and increased his career earnings to $131,769 with his third win
in four lifetime starts.
Autumn Hill Farms Racing Stable’s Hopeful Notion finished second, paying $5.60 and $4 while 5 3/4-lengths in front of Dan Lynch and Merrill Scherer’s Nubin Ridge, who returned $3.20.
Glen Warren and Andrew Leggio Jr.’s Skip the Pinot set early fractions of 23.64 and 46.76 before tiring.