Fair Grounds stakes recap (with Hodges Photography photos):
(New Orleans – March 21, 2020) – In a victory that held meaning beyond the purse and the points, Juddmonte Farms’ homebred filly Bonny South made a statement and provided an emotional salve when she rallied widest of all down the stretch to prevail in the $400,000 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) for 3-year-old fillies, the third and final local prep for the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1).
Contested at 1 1/16-miles, the Fair Grounds Oaks was worth 100-40-20-10 points to the top four finishers towards the Kentucky Oaks, which has been postponed until Sept. 4 due to the coronavirus pandemic. For trainer Brad Cox and the Juddmonte Farms team, Bonny South’s triumph resonated on a deeper level as she was the workmate of undefeated Taraz, who was euthanized following a training accident last month.
“Obviously she’s a very nice filly,” said Cox, who won three graded stakes on Saturday’s card including the $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) will Wells Bayou. “She was a workmate to an unbelievably nice filly we lost a couple of weeks ago. This filly has just stepped up immensely. Even when we were walking up and handing her to the pony, we were like wow she looks like she is bigger and stronger. She is getting better every day.”
Fair Grounds was the scene of Bonny South’s maiden victory last December and she demonstrated her affinity for the track again Saturday. Sent off at 6-1 odds on the heels of an allowance optional claiming victory at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 15, Bonny South bided her time at the back of the six-horse field in the Fair Grounds Oaks while pacesetter French Rose led through a quarter-mile in :24.30 and a half-mile in :47.91 with Stop Shoppin Tammy in second.
Much of the focus was on 1-5 race favorite Finite in the wake of her powerful victory in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes presented by Fasig-Tipton (G2) on Feb. 15. As Stop Shoppin Tammy ranged up to challenge French Rose on the far turn, Finite looked poised to make good on her expectations when she joined the fray three wide and took over the lead in early stretch.
Bonny South was making her own run at that point under jockey Florent Geroux. Just past the sixteenth, the daughter of Munnings advanced to the outside of eventual runner-up Tempers Rising and showed another gear on her way to hitting the wire 2 ¼ lengths in front in a final time of 1:43.57 over a track rated fast.
“I ride her with a lot of confidence,” said Geroux, who also had a monster day with his win aboard Wells Bayou. “Last time out she beat a very nice filly. Today, of course, I thought about Finite, and how she has been running well. I was just hoping she would take a step down, and we would take a step up. The Oaks is usually in about 5 weeks, but we will have to wait a little longer. Hopefully she is still running in September.”
Antoinette was third, 1 ½-lengths behind Tempers Rising with Finite throwing in a disappointing effort to finish fourth.
“She looked good at the top of the stretch then just didn’t go on like she usually does,” said Scott Blasi, assistant to Steve Asmussen, trainer of Finite. “She wasn’t her usual self today but we will regroup with her and go forward.”
Out of the Tapit mare Touch The Star, Bonny South now boasts three wins from four starts with $323,350 in earnings.