Firstly, heartiest congratulations to California Chrome who took the World Cup in Dubai with a scintillating performance. Despite having to race wide throughout and a slipping saddle, he won with ease. He will have one or two more races before bowing out in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
On to US based racing and a mammoth 15 race card greeted attenders to Fair Grounds as the track put on its traditional end of season fare of graded and stakes racing, culminating in the $1m Louisiana Derby, the winner of which would be effectively guaranteed a place in the Kentucky Derby.
As we suspected in the big race, the key form indicators came from the Risen Star Stakes and the winner of that race, Gun Runner, went on to take the spoils by 4 ½ lengths under a confident Florent Geroux ride. Back in fourth was the luckless Mo Tom, who was, as in the Risen Star, hampered when making his stretch charge. Corey Lanerie was in the saddle and, safe to say, this will not be going in his scrapbook of finest rides and he was duly castigated by trainer Tom Amoss.
In truth, Lanerie rode an unnecessarily brave race, trying a rail-scraping route to make the run. Somewhat inevitably, he was hampered by a faltering pacesetter and had nowhere to go. Mo Tom deserves a bit of luck and maybe that will come in the “Run for the Roses” but his style of running needs luck and, with a maximum field guaranteed for THE Derby, he is going to need it and a super-cool and calculated ride.
Dazzling Gem ran a fantastic race, given this was his stakes debut and he was stepping into the highest level. He did get bumped and was tiring at the end but still held on for the show. He looks to have a big future.
In the Fair Grounds Oaks, connections of Land Over Sea were rewarded in their decision to travel cross-country and avoid the mighty Songbird with an ultimately comfortable win. It took her a while to get past the pace-setting Adore but she stretched away in the last half furlong to win by 4 ½ lengths. The winner’s cheque of $244k will certainly help pay for more shipping costs in the future!
Interestingly, six of the last 11 winners of the Fair Grounds Oaks have gone on to win the Kentucky equivalent. However, if Land over Sea wants to make it 7 from 12, she will have to find a way of beating Songbird, something she has signally failed to do so far.
There was a shock in the New Orleans Handicap, when Mike Maker’s S’Marvelous took the spoils at an unconsidered 20/1. There appeared no fluke about the win, S’Marvelous was well-positioned throughout and took the lead into the stretch and held on comfortably by 2 lengths. Maker’s other entrant, international Star (5/2 second favorite) ran well but never looked like pulling back the winner. He actually finished third but was awarded second following the disqualification of Jessica’s Star.
The only other graded stakes race outside Fair Grounds was at Santa Anita with the Grade 2 Santa Ana Stakes for fillies and mares over 1 1/8 miles. The race went to European import Tuttipaesi, who looked boxed in for most of the stretch but bravely went through a narrow gap to prevail by a neck. The odds on (4/5) favorite Her Emmynency weakened late to finish last of the five runners but did lose a shoe early on in the contest.