Dede McGehee’s Joe Sharp-trained Dolphus had the attention of the racing world before his debutand did not disappoint with a dramatic late-charging victory under Brian Hernandez, Jr. After breaking alertly in the six-furlong event, the half-brother to 2009 Horse of the Year and national darling Rachel Alexandra settled in fourth behind a legitimate 22.38 and 46.33 pace before being set down for the drive and running down his opponents for a three-quarter-length tally.
Bred in Kentucky by McGehee’s Heaven Trees Farm, Dolphus was born to relish the Fair Grounds. The son of Lookin at Lucky’s aforementioned star half-sister, also ridden by Hernandez when graduating, won the Fair Grounds Oaks in 2009. Their dam, the Roar mare Lotta Kim, won the Tiffany Lass Stakes to cap her brief four-race career in January 2004.
According to Sharp, the emblazoned chestnut came out of his effort well and will likely run next in allowance company around two turns before a possible attempt at stakes company in the Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes on.
STIDHAM STELLAR ON OPENING WEEK
Veteran conditioner Mike Stidham, routinely a high-percentage trainer, bested even his own standards with a stellar opening weekend. In a season that has already seen him win a Grade I and strike at a 17% clip – including more than $2.6 million in purses earned – the 57-year-old Neptune, NJ, native won with four of eight starters, with two seconds and two thirds for $96,290 in purses – $33,620 more than his closest competitor (Eddie Johnston).
“They’re all running so far, so we’re happy with that,” Stidham said. “We still have live horses and they fit the conditions, and that’s the key to any trainer’s success at a meet. You will see trainers come out firing like this and a lot of times it’s just that the horses they have are fitting the races provided. We will take it and we hope we keep it going!”
The multiple graded stakes-winning trainer is building upon a 2014-15 season that saw him finish seventh in the standings for purses and ninth for wins, while finishing second in both wins and purses on the grass.
LOVABLE LYSS GRADUATES IMPRESSIVELY FOR ROBERTSON
Hugh Robertson’s Lovable Lyss drew off impressively when graduatingafternoon. One of four winners on the card for Francisco Torres, the daughter of Big Brown tracked a 22.20 and 46.18 pace in the six-furlong event over the sloppy and sealed going before drawing off and being eased up late to a 3¾-length victory. The win earned her an impressive 96 Equibase Speed Figure and stamped the Kentucky-bred bay charge as one to watch at the current Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots meet for her owner-trainer.
“She ran well and I thought she’d run well,” Robertson said. “I think she should be able to run long after this, but you never know. The first time we ran her she got away poorly and ran green until the eighth-pole.”
On debut, on, the $7,000 Keeneland September 2014 sale bargain half-sister to stakes winner Bacopa Breeze was a driving photo-finish second behind next-out stakes-placed Carita at Arlington. Out of the unraced Stephen Got Even mare Dakota Rae – a full-sister to two stakes winners, including Grade III winner Time to Get Even – Lovable Lyss could enjoy stretching out for her connections. In the meantime, no decision has been made on her next race.
“I always thought she was a good filly,” Robertson said. “We took her back to the track (morning) and we’ll see from here was she’s like and go from there.”
CHOCOLATE RIDE TOPS TOUGHFEATURE
featured sixth race – a 1 1/16-miles allowance optional claiming event on the grass for sophomores and up, drew a salty field flush with stakes winners, including the top turf horse of the 2014-15 meet, Chocolate Ride. John Wentworth’s Brad Cox trainee did not scare off anyone else, as the race drew nine entries, including two main-track-only competitors.
A game gate-to-wire winner of both the Grade III $125,000 Fair Grounds and Grade II $300,000 Mervin H. Muniz, Jr., Memorial Handicaps in February and March, the son of Candy Ride has not raced since a poor start in the Grade I $500,000 Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day resulted in an eighth-place finish.
“He seems like he’s doing well,” said Ricky Giannini, Cox’s Fair Grounds-based assistant. “It’s his first race in a while, but these older horses get back into it a little more quickly than others. We’ve worked him five times. Instead of working him over the dirt, we’d rather get a race in him over the grass. Hopefully this will get him fit for the bigger races.”
According to Giannini, the four-time winner from 13 starts had 90 days off following the Turf Classic and could need the race. Otherwise, the Cox camp is very pleased with his work so far, including a five-furlong move in 1:01.60 on Nov. 21.
Some challengers of note in the stakes-worthy allowance include Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s $300,000 Dueling Grounds Derby runner-up Wireless Future, a two-time winner last season over the Stall-Wilson turf course, Donegal Racing’s dirt stakes winner Irish You Well, Team Block’s last-out restricted stakes winner Bold Rally and Louie Roussel, III’s promising multiple allowance winner Chip Leader. Both Wireless Future (fifth) and Chip Leader (10th) exit the Grade III $150,000 Hawthorne Derby on.
Multiple graded stakes-winning turf sprinter-miler Marchman worked a bullet half-mile in 48 flatfor trainer Bret Calhoun and owner Martin Racing Stable. The son of Sharp Humor exits a ninth-place finish in the Grade I $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Oct. 31.
Graded stakes-winning Louisiana icon String King worked a strong half-milein 48.80 for breeder-owner-trainer Charles C. Smith. The 7-year-old son of Crowned King has won five of his last six, including the Listed $75,000 Unbridled Stakes last out on at Louisiana Downs.
Spendthrift Farm’s promising sophomore stakes filly Harbour Island, second last out in the Listed $100,000 Instant Racing Stakes at Oaklawn Park onfor trainer Al Stall, Jr., worked a half-mile in 49.80 .
Multiple graded stakes-placed turf sprinter Positive Side continued his comeback with another easy move, working a half-mile in 52.80for trainer Grant Forster and owner Team Forster 131.
Columbine Stable’s stakes-placed Waging War continued his comeback with his third timed work since a layoff, going four furlongs in 49 flatfor trainer Al Stall, Jr.
Source: Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots