In what appears to be a wide-open renewal of the $75,000 Letellier Memorial at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Keith Plaisance’s recent acquisition Taleoftheprincess appears poised for a big effort. Trained by Michelle Lovell, who has won with three of her first seven starters this meet, the daughter of Tale of the Cat was a gritty gate-to-wire winner under Colby Hernandez on Nov. 27 over the course and six-furlong distance of the Letellier in an allowance/optional claiming event.
“She ran a really nice race last out and I know it’s quick back for her being only three weeks, but we need to give her a chance,” Lovell said. “She’s doing really well and Colby rode her really well. What I like about her is she is very tough. She gave a lot that day, but he never hit her, so I think she still has a little in the tank.”
One race prior, on Oct. 13 at Keeneland, the dark bay 2-year-old filly was claimed for $40,000 by Lovell and Plaisance after winning said 6½ furlong event. Before that, she ran a mid-pack fifth in a salty Kentucky Downs maiden event going a grassy mile.
“I watched her in person at Kentucky Downs and I liked her,” Lovell explained. “Even though it looked like it might have been too far for her, she kept trying and digging. My owner liked her, too, so we decided to claim her (at Keeneland).
“The (post six) draw is perfect for us,” she concluded. “Hopefully she can sit off the pace, but last time she showed more speed than I thought she would and did it easily. She can place herself where she’s comfortable.”
CHOCOLATE RIDE PRIMED FOR 2016-17 SEASONAL BOW
There is little more to say about Chocolate Ride and his love for Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ Stall-Wilson turf course, but that does not mean the 6-year-old son of Candy Ride (ARG) will not amplify that point when he makes his 2016-17 seasonal debut over the New Orleans oval in the $75,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial.
Drawn in post three for the 1 1/16-miles event, the GenStar Thoroughbreds-owned bay gelding has been lethal on the local sod and once again partners with Florent Geroux. He was assigned 9-5 morning-line favoritism in a tough, talented field of accomplished turf allowance and stakes horses. Trainer Brad Cox is confident that we will see that brilliance again in what will be Chocolate Ride’s first race since May 7.
“It’s the second time we’ve brought him back off a layoff like this and we feel he’s as good this year as he was last year when he won (on Nov. 27, 2015, by three lengths),” Cox said. “The big difference is we came back in a allowance last year and this year it’s a stakes. Is he 100% - probably not off a layoff, but the big thing with him is how he’s moving and he’s doing that very well.
“When he breezed on Saturday, we didn’t ask him to do a lot, but you wouldn’t know the difference between breezing and galloping with how well he was moving,” Cox continued. “He’s doing really well and hopefully this will catapult us forward to the rest of the grass stakes here that he has won before.”
Cox entered three in the Diliberto. While GenStar’s cross-entered Almasty will instead run in the $75,000 Bonapaw Stakes earlier in the card, newly acquired Western Reserve – owned by Marc Detampel – will go up again his stablemate and 10 others in the Diliberto.
“Western Reserve is a horse that we just got out of the sale and he breezed extremely well the other day,” Cox said. “We think he could be a decent horse in the handicap division on the turf here, even with Chocolate Ride in there. He’s still eligible for a three-other-than, but those races are difficult to get to go, so we are running him here.”
HOGY LEADS POTENT BECKER ONE-TWO PUNCH
William Stiritz and his private conditioner Scott Becker have a tough twosome for Saturday’s $75,000 Bonapaw Stakes, topped by 7-year-old warhorse Hogy. A winner of nearly $800,000 in purses and 15-of-38 career starts, the black son of Offlee Wild enters the 5½-furlong event on the strength of a solid victory in a conditioned allowance event over fellow graded stakes winner Power Alert (AUS) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4. A winner of 6-of-12 at this trip, he looms a serious late-closing threat, especially with the presence of speedy stablemate Small Fortune, who already owns an allowance victory over this course and distance this meet, in the mix.
“Everything is going well for him right now,” Becker said. “He got a decent pace and nice trip at Churchill and came out well. We’ve just been waiting for this race.
“He’s one of the main reasons – and turf horses like him in the barn – I came down (to Fair Grounds with a string) this year,” Becker continued. “Last year I sent him to California to Doug O’Neill and we couldn’t get a race to go for him, so he’s actually had a light campaign and is fresh. The surface is better for winter racing at the Fair Grounds than at other tracks and I think that helps him, too. He’s a special horse and the key is just giving him the rest when he needs it. We’ll keep him around as long as we can and hopefully will have him another year or so.”
Small Fortune, a son of Munnings with five victories from 11 starts, has blossomed in four consecutive turf sprint gate-to-wire victories. The Illinois-bred wheels back on just two weeks’ rest.
“(Small Fortune) is a very good, very fast horse in his own right – especially on the turf,” Becker said. “I don’t see any reason not to run them both.”
HIGH HOPES REMAIN FOR DAZZLING GEM
Steve Landers Racing’s Dazzling Gem, who starts in Saturday’s $75,000 Tenacious Stakes over a mile and 70 yards at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, has been one of trainer Brad Cox’s favorite horses in the barn since the son of Misremembered began his sophomore season with two inspiring Oaklawn Park victories. Following a big third-place effort in his third start in the Grade II Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, he wheeled back in three weeks to finish fourth in the Grade I Arkansas Derby. Taking the conservative route, he then caught a muddy course and finished third in the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes on Preakness Day at Pimlico.
Given five months off, the bay colt came back in a one-mile Keeneland allowance against his age group and faltered to finish sixth of seven. Last out, the promising sort returned to form with a gritty neck victory when removing blinkers in 3-year-old allowance company at Churchill Downs on Nov 19.
“We’re hoping that this is the next step in what will be a big 4-year-old campaign for him,” Cox said. “We think he can become a decent horse in the handicap division and this will get him where we want him to go.
“It was probably an error on my part putting blinkers on him in his first race back,” Cox continued. “Last time he had to work to win, but (jockey) Joe (Rocco, Jr.) said he had something left. This will be his third race off the layoff and first time against older horses, but we think he’s ready.”
Bret Jones’ undefeated homebred Running Mate, the favorite for Saturday’s Sugar Bowl Stakes against fellow juveniles, worked a smart half-mile in 48.80 for trainer Larry Jones on Monday morning.
High-profile filly Royal Obsession returned to the tab for trainer Steve Asmussen, working a half-mile in 51.20 for owners Stonestreet Stables and Regis Racing. The daughter of Tapit has lost her last four since winning a local allowance, including an 11th-place finish in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks.
Brereton C. Jones’ homebred graded stakes-winning 5-year-old horse Albano continues to work well for trainer Larry Jones, working a half-mile in 49 flat on Tuesday morning. The son of Istan was last seen finishing third in the Governor’s Day Stakes at Delaware on Sept. 10.
Recent turf course record setter Blarp worked a half-mile in a sharp 48.40 on Thursday for trainer Tom Amoss and owners Robert L. Persons and Earl Conrad Sanderson, Jr.
Brereton C. Jones and Timothy C. Thornton’s Grade I-winning 4-year-old filly Include Betty worked a half-mile in 49.40 on Wednesday morning for trainer Tom Proctor.
L. T. B., Inc. and Hillerich Racing’s One Mean Man worked five furlongs in 1:02.40 for trainer Bernie Flint on Thursday morning. The multiple stakes-winning graded victor was a disappointing seventh last out in the Grade III Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs.
Source: Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots