Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Canadian classic winner Sir Dudley Digges will attempt to return to the winner’s circle for the first time since annexing the $1 million Queen’s Plate – the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown – when the son of Gio Ponti goes to post as the horse to beat in the 31st renewal of the $75,000 Woodchopper Stakes over about one mile on the Stall-Wilson turf course. A full field of 14, plus one also eligible, are slated to compete in the final turf stakes restricted to sophomores.
Trained by Mike Maker, Sir Dudley Digges enters off a fifth-place finish – beaten a mere length – in the Grade III Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 12. Said effort was his first since competing in all three Canadian Triple Crown races, including a solid second in the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes over 1½ grassy miles. Shortening up in trip, he gets the services of Florent Geroux from post eight.
Defeating him last time was Alice Mettler’s Joel Berndt-trained Hay Dakota, who defied his 29-1 odds with a neck win in the Commonwealth under Denny Velazquez. The son of Haynesfield has been consistent, finishing in the money in all seven of his turf starts, including four victories and a neck third in the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby on Aug. 27. Velazquez has the return call for the late-running bay gelding.
Winner of the Mystic Lake Derby was four-time stakes winner One Mean Man, who campaigns for trainer and co-breeder Bernie Flint and co-owner and co-breeder Ron Hillerich. A flashy gray full-brother to multiple graded stakes-winning turf filly Mizz Money, the son of Mizzen Mast is 3-for-5 at this trip, owns a stakes victory over this surface and has proven himself against the best turf sophomores when fourth – beaten 1¼ lengths – in the Grade I Secretariat Stakes back in August. Robby Albarado rides from post three.
Lloyd Madison Farms IV’s Zapperini has been nothing if not consistent against these types in his three runs on the turf. The Greg Foley trainee was fourth, a nose ahead of Sir Dudley Digges last out in the Commonwealth – a race in which One Mean Man finished seventh – and was 1½ lengths astern said roan rival in a rained-off $100,000 Jefferson Cup two back on Oct. 1, also under the Twin Spires. Brian Hernandez, Jr., rides the son of Ghostzapper, who broke his maiden last January over the local dirt, for the first time from post six.
Ikerrin Road (IRE) represents Team Tepin connections of owner Robert E. Masterson and trainer Mark Casse. The son of Iffraaj (GB) was sixth last out, beaten 1½ lengths in the Commonwealth’s quagmire photo-finish in what was his second domestic start following seven starts in England under the tutelage of John Quinn. David Flores picks the mount on the tactical bay colt from post 11.
The remainder of the field for the Woodchopper, which runs as the sixth of 11 New Year’s Eve races, is comprised of Explosive Kowboy (Miguel Mena, rail), Inside Straight (Geovanni Franco, post four), Royal Lion (Chya Johnstone, post five), Mav (Shaun Bridgmohan, post seven), Wildcat Wish (Luis Negron, post nine), Cordon (Alexander Reznikov, post 10), Way Striking (Richard Eramia, post 12), Tiznoble (Mitchell Murrill, post 13) and Dolphus (Gabriel Saez, post 14). Seeking the Soul (Colby Hernandez, 15) is also eligible.
One race later, 2-year-old Louisiana-bred fillies will square off in their division of the $100,000 Louisiana Futurity over six furlongs of Fair Grounds’ main track. Whispering Oaks and Relentless Racing’s Steve Flint-trained Sashimi Blaster has a class edge over her 13 rivals, having won the $150,000 Louisiana Jewel last out over a two-turn mile at Delta Downs on Nov. 19. The daughter of Quality Road drew post six under Robby Albarado.
Chief among her rivals is a pair of local maiden winners from the barn of Al Stall, Jr. Stacey Moak’s Quarter Carat (Florent Geroux, post two) negotiated a step up to two turns last time and cuts back for stakes company, while Joe Agular’s Sharp Henny (Colby Hernandez, rail) steps slightly up in trip after wiring a 5½-furlong maiden on Nov. 20.
Singing a Song (Hector Santiago, post three), Suzie’s Dream (Gabriel Saez, post four), Actif Storm (C. J. McMahon, post five), Princess Samurai (Miguel Mena, post seven), Foxy Miss (Francisco Torres, post eight), Southern Gold (Eddie Martin, Jr., post nine), Mr. Al’s Gal (Richard Eramia, post 10), Star Guitarist (Jose Riquelme, post 11), Miss Sid N Say (Donnie Meche, post 12), Hot and Ready (James Graham, post 13) and What’s the Point (David Flores, post 14) complete the field.
The final of the six-stakes holiday card is the colts and geldings division of the $100,000 Louisiana Futurity, topped by Jeff Drown and trainer Gary Scherer’s Jack Snipe’s, who will try to improve upon his third-place finish last out in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile on Dec. 10. Drawing the outside post 14 in the full field, the son of Half Ours will be ridden by Donnie Meche.
Norman Stables’ Lonnie Briley-trained multiple stakes-placed Street Honor will try to regain form for his connections when Gabriel Saez breaks with him from post eight. The son of Street Boss was fifth last out in the same event.
Phyllis Hodges and Randy Schiender’s Sweet Hodges-trained Tigerstorm, another son of Half Ours, will run for the first time since the summer for an 18% off-the-layoff barn when he breaks from post nine under James Graham. The gray gelding was a sharp maiden winner first out in July and then faltered as the 7-5 favorite in the $50,000 Louisiana Cup Juvenile on Aug. 6 last out.
Armanno (Shaun Bridgmohan, rail), Charlie Ballado (Miguel Mena, post two), Tooth (C. J. McMahon, post three), Just Due (Francisco Torres, post four), Run Away Ralph (Robby Albarado, post five), Grand Argument (Marcelino Pedroza, post six), Il Est Vite (Colby Hernandez, post seven), First After Break (Richard Eramia, post 10), Pops Legacy (Coby Bourque, post 11), Run Bayou (Eddie Martin, Jr., post 12) and Set Hut (Hector Santiago, post 13) complete the lineup.
Source: Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots