SYNCHRONY BACK FOR MORE IN MUNIZ; CALHOUN DUO TAKES ON UPSTART FEARLESS IN NEW ORLEANS CLASSIC
Altea (FR) lukewarm favorite in wide-open Benson Memorial
New Orleans (March 17, 2020) – Throughout a career that has now gone on longer than several of his rivals have been alive, a trip to Fair Grounds has always managed to serve as the litmus test to determine where Synchrony’s form lies.
It was over the New Orleans track where the 7-year-old son of Tapit earned his first win on turf back in 2017, thus setting himself on a path that has put him on the cusp of millionaire status. The oval has also been the site of three of his six career graded stakes victories, including his first graded triumph two seasons ago.
So often Synchrony has enjoyed his best days while residing in the Big Easy and the Pin Oak homebred will try and keep his streak of high-level consistency going this weekend when he breaks from post 12 in the field of 13 entered for the $300,000 Muniz Memorial Classic Stakes (G2).
The 1 1/8-miles Muniz is one of four graded stakes scheduled for Saturday’s Fair Grounds card, which will be highlighted by the $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2).
This weekend will mark Synchrony’s third straight appearance in the Muniz having won the race in 2018 and finished third to eventual 2019 Horse of Year Bricks and Mortar in last year’s edition. The chestnut horse has never been worse than third in six tries over the Fair Grounds turf course and was mostly recently second to fellow Muniz entrant Factor This in the 1 1/8-miles Fair Grounds Stakes (G3) on Feb. 15.
“Not too worried about the post (12) going a mile and an eighth,” said Mike Stidham, trainer of Synchrony. “We have a long run going into the turn and that actually gives him a chance to break and not be forced to go. He is tactical enough that he can get a little position and drop over before the turn. He’s had the one race back (off a four-month freshening) and has trained really well since. We are looking for a big effort.”
Synchrony is seeking his first win since hitting the wire in front in the King Edward Stakes (G2) at Woodbine last June 29, but his back class was enough to make him the 3-1 choice on the Muniz morning line. He will have Joe Bravo in the saddle this weekend as he looks to build on a resume that boasts nine wins from 26 starts and $938,652 in earnings.
When Factor This got the best of Synchrony in the Fair Ground Stakes, he did so by taking matters into his own hands. The gelded son of The Factor led every point of call that day to earn his first graded success by one length.
“With the rails down, speed can hold well, which is a plus for Factor This, who won that way last time,” said his trainer Brad Cox. “We will just have to see how the race unfolds. I have noticed an entry or two in the race that really don’t belong. They are just in there to assure a pace set-up. We’re not going to commit suicide with Factor This to get to the lead. It’s a mile and an eighth, we have a long run to the first turn to see how it sorts out.”
Factor This is part of a two-pronged entry from Cox as he will also send out the late-blooming Dot Matrix. The 7-year-old gelding began his 2020 campaign on a peak when he earned his first career graded stakes with a victory in the John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes (G3) at Sam Houston on Jan. 16.
“I feel like he is going into this race just as well as he went in the John Connelly,” Cox said. “He breezed fantastic on Saturday morning. Shortening up from a mile and a half distance of that race will work in Dot Matrix’s favor. This race comes up well timing-wise.”
A cut back in distance is also on tap for multiple Grade 1 winner Channel Maker, who normally makes his living over 11 and 12 furlongs. The Bill Mott-trained gelding has dropped his last six starts since winning the Man o’ War Stakes (G1) last May 11 but fell just a half-length short of taking the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (G1) in October.
“It’s all about the trip. He’s a difficult horse, he’s not an easy horse to ride,” Mott said. “It’s a little difficult to get the perfect trip with him. But if it happens, he usually shows up. We have been running him in longer races the last year. However, if you look back on him he has been effective at lesser distances as well. There was really nothing that fit into the schedule at this point in terms of going a little longer.”
$300,000 Muniz Memorial (G2), 4yo’s & up, 1 1/8 miles turf.
One year ago, Allied Racing Stable LLC’s By My Standards crossed the wire first in the featured Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) en route to his Kentucky Derby appearance. On Saturday, the now 4-year-old will headline a powerhouse field of nine older horses in the $400,000 New Orleans Classic (G2), to be run over 1 1/8th miles.
Following his eleventh place finish in the 2019 Kentucky Derby (G1) presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), By My Standards was given time off and was not seen for the remainder of his 3-year-old year.
“He was the buzz horse going into the Derby,” trainer Bret Calhoun said. “He ended up coming out of the Derby with a quarter crack and was a little more serious than we expected. We decided to regroup and give him as much time as he needed.”
Making his return to the races in an allowance race at Fair Grounds on February 9, By My Standards sat just off the early pace setters before taking command at the top of the stretch and drawing away impressively to win by an easy 6 lengths. The 4-year-old son of Goldencents looks to have matured not only mentally, but even more so physically.
“When he got back after his foot issue, he was training like he was going to be an even better horse,” Calhoun explained. “He has been a slow developing horse. He was slow to break his maiden. We were always high on him but he just couldn’t put it all together. This year, the way that he has grown up physically, and the way he trains, we think that he has the chance to be one of the top older horses in the country.”
The Calhoun trainee worked a bullet four furlongs on March 14, going the half-mile in: 47.40.
“He’s always been a really good work horse,” Calhoun said. “Believe me, that work was not intended. We were looking to go around: 49.50 or so. That horse just had a phenomenal work and sometimes you see a fast time like that and it looks good but what is more important is how they did it. I would say that work (Saturday) morning was an A plus plus work.”
By My Standards will break from post eight with jockey Gabriel Saez and is listed at 6-1.
Tom Durant’s Silver Dust, who finished second in this race last year, will look to make it back to back wins after defending his title in the Mineshaft Stakes (G3) last time out at Fair Grounds. The 6-year-old son of Tapit is also conditioned by Bret Calhoun.
“I would have preferred to not have to run them against each other,” Calhoun said. “They are both top horses and both can win the race. Both owners obviously deserve to be in there with the talent both horses have. It’s also the right thing to do by the horse moving forward. We think Silver Dust is going to have a long campaign this year and preferred to not have to ship him around this early in the year. This is a good graded stake race with a good purse and its home to him. We’re expecting a big race.”
Silver Dust will break from post six with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard and is listed at 2-1 on the morning line.
With patience shown throughout the early stages of his career, China Horse Club and Winstar Farm LLC’s Fearless is the “buzz” horse coming into the New Orleans Classic. The lightly raced 4-year-old will look to keep his perfect record alive after an impressive debut sprint at Gulfstream Park on December 22 and an 8 ½ length romp in a first-level allowance route on February 1.
“He’s a really big horse,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He just was immature and we had him a couple times and had to stop on him for some minor physical setbacks that kind of go along with being such a big horse. He was finally able to put it all together. I thought he was courageous in his debut to win sprinting and then he improved a great deal stretching out, so we’re going right to a stakes. I think he’ll handle the 1 1/8-miles. He has good tactical speed and he seems to be improving a little bit all the time watching him train.”
“I think I would expect him to be forwardly placed in here (the Classic), Pletcher continued. “Certainly, the way he finished last time, it seems like stretching out the extra 16th on Saturday will be to his liking. We’re looking forward to seeing how he handles the step up in class.”
Fearless will break from post three with Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard and is listed on the morning line at 9-2.
$100,000 Tom Benson Memorial presented by Dixie Beer, 1 1/16 miles turf, 4 yo’s & up, f&m.
Still eligible for a second-level allowance, yet group or graded stakes placed on four occasions, Swift Thoroughbreds, Inc., Madaket Stables LLC and Doheny Racing Stable’s Altea (FR) has been installed as the lukewarm 7-2 morning line favorite over ten older females for Saturday’s $100,000 Tom Benson Memorial presented by Dixie Beer, to be run over 1 1/16-miles of turf.
Imported from France at the end of her 2-year-old season, the now 5-year-old daughter of Siyouni (FR) was most recently seen finishing a narrowly beaten second in the Endeavor (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs for trainer Chad Brown. A maiden winner in her native land, Altea (FR) won a first-level allowance race on the Aqueduct green on November 16, putting an end to an 11-race losing streak. During that dry spell, she did finish second or third on eight occasions.
Altea (FR) is slated to break from post position two with Joel Rosario aboard.
Listed as the co-9-2 second choice in the program is Circle B Racing and Madaket Stables LLC’s Dream Passage. Claimed out of her maiden-breaking win for $40,000 back in July of 2018 at Belmont, the 6-year-old New York-bred daughter of Stormy Atlantic has won seven race for trainer Brad Cox, but only recently did she get her first taste of stakes company, finishing second behind Benson rival Winning Envelope (also 9-2 ML) in the Jersey Lily at Sam Houston.
“This will be her first race this winter at the Fair Grounds but she’s trained well here for several weeks now,” Cox said. “She had a great summer and fall last year in New York. Since then she was able to get some time off, and last time out at Sam Houston she got a little black type. Hopefully be able to add to that on Saturday.”
A pace pressing type, Dream Passage drew the rail with Florent Geroux aboard for the Benson.
“She’s coming into it good,” Cox said. “It is pretty obvious that she runs well on the front end. I know it is a big field, but from the rail we expect to be forwardly placed, if not on the lead.”
The 16-1 upset winner of the locally run Albert M. Stall Memorial last out, Robert E. and Lawana Low’s She’sonthewarpath has been installed as a 6-1 shot for the Benson.
In a stalking position from the rail early, the daughter of Declaration of War shifted out at the top of the stretch and finished best of all, drawing away late to win by two lengths for Chantal Sutherland, who will be back aboard on Saturday.
“She ran a big race against a quality field (in the Albert M. Stall Memorial),” trainer Steve Margolis said. “We are running back the same type of race and hope to get another good effort out of her. She came out of her last race good and 35 days between races suits her well.
A three-time winner as a sophomore, She’sonthewarpath’s biggest score previously came in the Ta Wee Stakes at Indiana Grand in July.
“She’s a 4-year-old now, and I’ve been noticing in her body that she’s getting stronger,” Margolis said. “She’s not a huge filly but she is really holding her weight. She has a nice, shiny coat, and everything is going really positive for her.”
She’sonthewarpath will break from post eight on Saturday.
$100,000 Tom Benson Memorial presented by Dixie Beer, 1 1/16 miles turf, 4 yo’s & up, f&m.
1. Dream Passage Geroux/Cox 9/2
2. Altea (FR) Rosario/Brown 7/2
3. Strike My Fancy Hernandez/Shirer 12/1
4. Fullness of Life (IRE) Graham/House 12/1
5. Notapradaprice Hernandez, Jr./Kenneally 8/1
6. Flower Party (IRE) Bravo/Stidham 20/1
7. Joy Nidera (ARG) Lanerie/Correas, IV 8/1
8. She’sonthewarpath Sutherland/Margolis 6/1
9. Winning Envelope Leparoux/Block 9/2
10. Desert Ride Bridgmohan/Howard 12/1
11. Santino Albarado/Pish 12/1
With an early first post of 11 a.m. CDT, the 12-race Louisiana Derby Day card will feature eight stakes worth a total of $2.425 million.
Previously run over nine furlongs on dirt, the distance of Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) will be run at 1 3/16ths miles for the first time on Saturday. The third and final local prep for the Run for the Roses, the Louisiana Derby is worth 100-40-20-10 points to the top four finishers on the Road to the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) presented by Woodford Reserve, which is now scheduled to be contested on Saturday, September 5.
Run at 1 1/16 miles, the 52nd running of the $400,000 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) for 3-year-old fillies offers 100-40-20-10 points en route to the $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), which is now scheduled to be contested on Friday, September 4.
A trio of Louisiana-bred events – the $75,000 Costa Rising Stakes, a 5½-furlong turf sprint, the $75,000 Crescent City Derby for 3-year-old males at 1 1/16 miles and the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks for females at 1 mile and 70 yards – are also on tap for Saturday.
As the first leg of their “Road to the Kentucky Derby” coverage, NBCSN will broadcast both the Fair Grounds Oaks and Louisiana Derby LIVE from 5 to 6 p.m. EDT. Ahmed Fareed, Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss will anchor the coverage.