Stacey Moak’s Sweet Hodges-trained Half Cajun ($28.20, $10.60 and $5.80) stayed an undefeated 2-for-2 with a smart front-running victory in the colt and gelding division of the $95,770 Louisiana Futurity to cap a 10-race New Year’s Eve card at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. A flashy gray Louisiana-bred son of Half Hours from a classy Canadian female family, the gelding set splits of 22.06, 46.08 and 58.56 en route to a 4½-length win under Richard Eramia in 1:12.08. The effort was his first start since a gate-to-wire victory at first asking in a Louisiana Downs turf sprint maiden on and the $57,462 winner’s purse improved his career earnings to $72,462.
Second was Valene Farms’ Eric Heitzman-trained John’s Luck ($4 and $2.60), whose conditioner launched a disallowed claim of foul alleging interference from the winner entering the far turn where the son of Old Fashioned had to take up off the heels of the winner. Ultimately rallying for the runner-up spot, the chestnut gelding was 2¾ lengths clear of Ironwater Farms Join Venture’s Henry Johnson-trained Icy Gentleman ($3) in third.
“This is a really nice horse,” Eramia said. “We were a little worried about not having enough time to get him ready, but he does everything easy.”
Hodges echoed those sentiments.
“When we won the race at Louisiana Downs he busted a muscle and we had to lay off,” the veteran conditioner said. “When we got him ready, we entered him in a non-winners-of-two and that didn’t go, so we had to run him in this off of works. I didn’t feel like he was 100 percent fit because a race is worth three or four works, but he’s a nice colt who has done everything right and is a pleasure to train.”
“It really feels good,” Moak added. “You go through a lot of horses trying to find a useful horse and when you find one that’s more than useful like this, it’s what keeps you in the business. (Hodges) is a longtime friend and I appreciate his patience.”
G’s Josh, Anterior, Rock N Sake, Blue Tizzy and Chattanoogan completed the order of finish.
Earlier in the card, the girls had their chance in the $95,770 fillies division of the Louisiana Futurity. Roger Smith’s morning-line and post-time favorite Smittys Cougar ($3.80, $2.80 and $2.20) did not disappoint her fans as she dismantled seven other Louisiana-bred foes by 9¾ lengths, covering the six furlongs in 1:12.20 after carving out earlier fractions of 22.23, 45.99 and 58.54 under Jose Valdivia, Jr.
Second was JRita Young Thoughbreds’ Joe Duhon-trained Rita’s Fifty Seven ($4.20 and $2.60), whose apprentice rider Erica Murray lost her whip at the top of the stretch. It was another 2¼ lengths back to Wells Watson and Robert Davis’ Al Stall, Jr.-trained Thegoodwitch ($2.10) in third.
Smittys Cougar, trained by Ron Faucheux, won for the third time in five starts and improved her lifetime earnings to $118,312.
“It was just a matter of getting comfortable,” Valdivia said. “She was going fast, but was well within herself. When I called on her past the quarter-pole, she was there for me. She was very strong.”
“We were concerned after her last effort, however Jose rode her perfectly today,” Faucheux said. “We just freshened her up after her last start and she exploded for us. We’ll look to try her on the grass eventually, but right now against sprinting Louisiana-breds, she’s as good as they get.”
Carmen’s Rose, Mink Coat Mimi, Reality Is Great, Wave Goodbye and Custom Paint Job completed the order of finish.
Source: Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots