Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s Gator Zone pressed the pace of Ice Wine Stable’s To My Valentine in Saturday’s $75,000 Allen LaCombe Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, gained the advantage over that rival in the late stages and proved best by a head at the wire in the about 7 1/2-furlong affair for 3-year-old fillies over a Stall-Wilson Turf Course rated soft.
Trained by Steve Margolis and ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, Gator Zone returned mutuels of $10.40, $5.80 and $4.20, accomplished the distance in 1:36.78 and increased her career earnings to $88,400 with her second win in four lifetime starts.
“Every time she goes out there she gives you everything she has,” said Bridgmohan. “I let the other horse go to the lead and I stalked them. As soon as she gets the lead she tends to idle a little bit, which she did again today, but she is very alert and aware of what is going on around her.”
The victory was the second stakes win of the day for Bridgmohan, who had won the $75,000 Black Gold Stakes earlier in the afternoon aboard Sam-Son Farms’ Up With the Birds.
It was the second straight win of the day for the Klein family and Margolis, who had won the previous race with Stay Put, a horse who was fifth in the Grade II Risen Star, also fifth in the Grade II Louisiana Derby and placed fifth in the Grade I Belmont Stakes three years ago.
It was also the second straight LaCombe victory for the Kleins, Margolis and Bridgmohan, who won last year’s LaCombe renewal with Gator Zone’s half-sister, Miz Ida.
“She’s followed her sister’s footsteps,” said Margolis. “It was great.”
To My Valentine, who set early fractions of 26.56 and 52.60, paid $7 and $4.20 to place, while finishing 2 1/2-lengths in front of Pin Oak Stable’s Overheard, who returned $3.40 to show.
UP WITH THE BIRDS FLIES HOME FIRST IN $75,000 BLACK GOLD STAKES
Sam-Son Farms’ Up With the Birds, unhurried early, commenced a rally outside rivals when set down for the drive and was up to best Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Animal Style by a head in the late stages of Saturday’s $75,000 Black Gold Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Making his first start since winning Canada’s $250,000 Coronation Futurity last Nov. 10 at Woodbine, the favored Up With the Birds returned mutuels of $5.20, $2.80 and $2.20 while increasing his career earnings to $243,116 with his third victory in four career starts. He toured the about 7 1/2- furlongs over a Stall-Wilson Turf Course rated soft in 1:35.84.
“He’s a pretty nice colt,” said winning rider Shaun Bridgmohan. “He has a big profile after winning that race in Canada last fall and I’ve been getting on him in the mornings here so I know a little bit about him. I was pretty confident he’d get the job done today.”
Trainer Malcolm Pierce said he would be taking his sophomore son of Stormy Atlantic back to Canada this year with the main goal being the Queen’s Plate but might stop off and give him a race at Keeneland on the way north.
“It would be too quick to try and run him back here with that turf course being as tiring as it was today,” said Pierce.
Animal Style pressed the early pace, took command in the stretch run, could not withstand the winner in the last strides but was easily second best, paying $3.20 and $2.40 while finishing five lengths to the good of Fox Hill Farms’ Cairo Six, who returned $3.60 to show.
Ice Wine Stable’s Skylander made the pace with splits of 25.50 and 49.78 before tiring.