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A look at Monday’s Fair Grounds stakes quintet

Fair Grounds stakes preview by track’s publicity department (Hodges Photography photo of Excess Magic)

New Orleans (December 24, 2021) – If Sunday’s “Road to the Derby Kickoff Day” card wasn’t enough, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots doubles up on the post-holiday cheer with five more stakes on Monday, December 27. The 10-race program begins at 1:05 p.m. CT (2:05 p.m. ET). The five added-money events comprise the “All Stakes” Late Pick Five (races 6-10).

“I don’t think any of the races have come up easy,” trainer Tom Amoss said of the Sunday and Monday Fair Grounds programs. “I’ve got a lot of young horses entered on both days. Usually when I am running that many, I can look at a spot and say yeah, I like my horse in here. I can’t do that with any of these races. These are some of the best horses I have for next year, so I don’t know if I should be worried about what I’ve got in my barn or just recognize that the Fair Grounds is a launching pad for a lot of really good horses.”

Some Will Stick to Sprinting, Others Will Stretch Out

With one eye on the future, soon to be 3-year-old prospects meet in Monday’s Sugar Bowl & Letellier Memorial

A pair of 75,000, six furlong sprint stakes restricted to 2-year-olds are on the Monday docket – the Letellier Memorial for the girls and the Super Bowl, which drew a field of nine boys.

The Letellier launches the added-money action in race six (3:24 p.m. CT), and thus the “All Stakes” Late Pick Five as well. Trainer Brad Cox holds a pair of aces in Jim Bakke and Gerry Ibister’s Girl With a Dream, the 5-2 morning line favorite, and James Paliafito, JoAnn Adams and Anna Marie Carrico’s Com’ On Sweet Luv, the co-second choice at 3-1.

The runaway winner of her career debut in late July at Ellis Park, the daughter of Practical Joke proved to be no threat to the queen of the division in Echo Zulu in her follow-up start at Saratoga, finishing a distant eighth after some early trouble in the Spinaway (G1). Since then, she finished second at Keeneland in advance of an off-the-pace, first-level allowance score at Churchill Downs.

“We really liked her going into the Spinaway,” Cox said. “We would have never shipped her up if we didn’t think she had a shot. She trained well over the track, but she did not get involved like we had hoped. Two back (at Keeneland) I thought she was home free, but she leveled off late and got nailed. Last time she didn’t get away as well as she had been, but it obviously worked out because she was able to get the job done. She’s been a hard horse to read with how good she is, but this race sets up for her to get some black type.”

Florent Geroux, who rode Girl With a Dream in her first three starts, will be back aboard on Monday, and the duo will leave from post two.

With only two races on her resume, Com’ On Sweet Luv is the more lightly raced of the Cox duo. On debut at Indiana Grand in late October, the daughter of Jimmy Creed chased the speed of the Steve Asmussen charge Optionality, but proved to be no match.

“I liked this filly a lot first time out, but she ran against a filly (Optionality) that had an experience edge,” Cox explained. That filly came back to win two stakes after that maiden victory, one at Zia Park and one at Remington, and she ran really fast in those races. Given the fact that quality filly beat us last time, we liked her even more in her second start, and she ran big.”

Dismissed at odds of 5-1 by the betting public, Com’ On Sweet Luv made short work of her local maiden foes on November 27, forcing the issue early before crossing the finish line 2 ¾ comfortable lengths in front.

“She moved a big jump forward in her Ragozin number and it looks like it will be competitive against the group,” Cox said. “She’s a really hard trying filly. I like her. She’s easy enough to train, let’s see if she can take a step forward.”

From post five, regular rider Marcelino Pedroza, Jr. will guide Com’ On Sweet Luv.

Also installed at 3-1 in the program is Joel Politti’s Microbiome, who served notice in her career debut at Saratoga in mid-July, wiring her eight foes by 5 ½ lengths in the 5 ½ furlong dash.

“She prepared really, really well early on, so well that we wanted to run her at Saratoga,” Amoss said. “The condition book comes out early, we knew the race was there, and we knew everyone would be pointing their best filly towards it. We felt really good about her and she ran well.”

The next two races didn’t go nearly as well. She pressed the pace and tired to fifth in the Adirondack (G2) at the Spa, and followed up with a fourth in the one mile Sorority at Monmouth, once again losing ground in the stretch.

“It is really easy for young horses in particular to get a little overwhelmed with their race when they debut,” Amoss explained. “Looking back at it, I think she was. She came back and trained fine, but then she got a little hot in the paddock the next time we ran her which is why I associate that with nerves. She didn’t show nerves at all the race after that, but once again, she got hot. We just threw too much at her for the summer of a 2-year-old season, so we just stopped on her. She’s had her time off (3 ½ months), she’s come back a more mature horse and I think she is going to run well for us in a very difficult race. If i am a handicapper, I am certainly paying attention in the paddock and on the track for those nerves. It could be the difference between winning and losing.”

Based on bloodlines, one would guess this daughter of Twirling Candy out of a Smoke Glacken mare would stick to sprinting, but Amoss isn’t so sure.

“Her pedigree is really a contradiction,” Amoss said. “If you look at the dam side and see who the broodmare sire is, that shouts sprint. Yet, her mom, her best races were going around a route. I don’t know how to judge it. Certainly, we haven’t lost hope on the idea of using this race to move forward to a route.”

James Graham will get his first opportunity aboard Microbiome, who will break from post six.

The remainder of the field with post position, jockey/trainer and morning line odds is as follows: Elements Racing’s Implosion (post one, Adam Beschizza/Steve Margolis, 6-1); Rebel Stables’ Red Hot Moon (post two, David Cabrera/Tina Hurley, 10-1 ML); Stone Bridge Investments’ Runnin Happy (post four, Mitchell Murrill/Eric Heitzmann, 15-1 ML); HP Thoroughbreds’ Julesforyou (post seven, Colby Hernandez/Brent Toups, 20-1 ML); and Rebel Thoroughbreds’ Mystique Saboteur (post eight, Brian Hernandez, Jr./Steve Margolis, 6-1 ML). — Kristufek

Nine colts and geldings entered the Sugar Bowl, which is carded as the day’s finale at 5:22 p.m. CT. David Campbell, Douglas Arnold and Marc and Clement Winston’s Higher Standard has been installed as Mike Diliberto’s lukewarm 3-1 morning line favorite for trainer Tom Amoss.

A dominant winner of his career debut at Churchill, the son of Into Mischief was most recently seen finishing second as the 4-5 favorite in the Advent Stakes at Oaklawn.

“After he broke his maiden the attraction of going to Oaklawn was the complexion of the field,” Amoss explained. “It was quick back, we knew that. It involved a ship, we knew that as well. Looking at how the race was coming up, we thought, it was still worth our while to do it. Reflecting on it, I think he ran his race. Look, I’ve been known to be critical of riders so I won’t hold back on you here – I thought he (Florent Geroux) moved too soon, and it cost us in the end.”

James Graham, who was aboard for the debut, reunites with Higher Standard from post nine.

“The horse has come down to Fair Grounds and has trained very well,” Amoss said. “I like our post. In a race I think has a lot of speed and we will be able to sit accordingly. He’s shown he can rate, he can sit off pace and that will be really important in this race. I do think his pedigree and his style suggests he’s a pure sprinter.”

A winner at first asking at Fair Grounds for trainer Al Stall, Jr., Spendthrift Farm’s Underhill’s Tab will test stakes waters for the first time on Monday.

“We like him,” Stall said. “He looks and acts like a $400,000 horse (Ocala March 2yo in training sales price. “His workmate is Peaceful Waters who ran a good race up at Churchill (second on debut on 11-27). We thought it was a good team all the way along. I separated them and one ran up there, one ran down there. That’s just me assessing the talent.”

Breaking from the rail, the son of Unified popped out off the turn and ran down a stubborn foe in Boss’ Dialin In.

“We had to kind of ease out of the one-hole and go across heels and around a couple horses. If you look at the replay, he did it smooth as silk and then ran up to them nicely in the turn. He was a little green down the lane. Overall, I thought he ran a really good race with more left in the tank. He’s breezed twice and everything has been right on schedule. We are looking forward to running him. This race fits perfectly. He is a strong horse that can take whatever we are giving him right now. He’s a smart horse. He seems like he should improve after that race, both in his cardio and mentally.”

Underhill’s Tab is out of the multiple stakes winning sprinter Mykindasaint, but by Saint Ballado, there some route influences in the pedigree.

Higher Standard winning Nov. 14 at Churchill Downs. Coady Photography

“He’s a smart horse,” Stall said. If things would go well (on Sunday), if he finishes with some interest, a two-turn race would probably be next. After two sprints and he’s just turning three. I think he is comfortable with himself and I don’t think he’d have a problem mentally staying the trip, whether he’s bred to do it to a certain degree I don’t know, but it (routing) is definitely in the back of our minds.”

Colby Hernandez gets the return call on Underhill’s Tab from post four (4-1 ML).

The adjudicated winner of the Jean Lafitte Stakes last out at Delta Downs over a mile, Dean Maltzman’s Kaely’s Brother broke his maiden in his start prior at Keeneland for trainer Brad Cox.

“I like shortening him back up,” Cox said. “He is a hard trying horse. I’m not sure that he really wanted that mile last time over that track. It can be a little demanding. But he ran well. But I think we got him back doing something he is more comfortable doing.”

At 6-1 in the morning line from post four, Marcelino Pedroza, Jr. will get his first try aboard this son of Twirling Candy, who does have some grass influences in the pedigree.

“I’ve thought about the turf. If at some point the right opportunity presents itself, it’s something we might look at. We’re hopeful this horse can be effective over one turn on the dirt or maybe stretch out on the turf.”

Twice a winner from five starts, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Blue Kentucky was last seen winning a first-level allowance sprint at Churchill Downs for trainer Wayne Catalano.

“He ran huge the other day (at Churchill), so we are excited about him,” Catalano said. “I like the way he’s training. He’s doing good. He had two maintenance works, and then five eighths the other day. We set him down and he gave me a good work.”

Both of Blue Kentucky’s wins have come sprinting. When stretched out to a one-turn mile at Churchill in a Halloween allowance, he made a wide, middle move before flattening out to finish sixth of ten.

“When it comes to more distance, I ran him in that mile race and I don’t know what to say about that,” Catalano said. “I’m sure we are going to try him (around two turns) at some point soon, but I just don’t know. For right now, we’re going to hope to get the job done on Monday.”

The remainder of the field with post position, jockey/trainer and morning line odds is as follows: Bloom Racing Stable and David Bernsen’s Chattalot (post one, Reylu Gutierrez/Steve Asmussen, 7-2 ML); Godolphin’s Freelancer (post three, Adam Beschizza/Brendan Walsh, 6-1 ML); Special Breed (post five, Aubrie Green/Andrea Ali, 20-1 ML); Glockenburg’s Magician Stone (post six, Jose Vega/Gennadi Dorochenko, 30-1 ML); and Dream Team One Racing Stable’s Hoist the Gold (post eight, Brian Hernandez, Jr./Dallas Stewart, 6-1 ML). — Kristufek

A Turn the Calendar Turf Experiment — Six Dirt Specialists
Entered to Face Five Tough Turfers in Woodchopper 

Concert Tour entered for “off the turf” only, according to Cox

Five of the Woodchopper Stakes eleven entries were 2021 Triple Crown nominees who spent their 2-and-3-year-old campaigns focused on one thing — dirt routes. But four days before turning 4-years old, there’s no better opportunity than the sophomore restricted $75k Woodchopper Stakes going a flat mile to sneak in a grass run to satisfy connections’ curiosity.

We know one of those will only run if the race is rained off the turf, Gary and Mary West’s Concert Tour. Since transferred to trainer Brad Cox, Concert Tour was one of the big buzz horses on the Derby trail after winning the Rebel (G2) by 4+ lengths, but regressed when trying and losing two more races.

“I don’t know what was going on with him, but I really, really like the horse,” Cox said. “I’m in a little bit of a spot where I am going to have a hard time finding a good race for him, a good comeback race. That was my thought when entering. But he won’t run unless it does come off.”

With the dry and warm forecast, that likely whittles the field to ten runners and changes the case for favoritism. Morning line oddsmaker Mike Diliberto has Concert Tour at 3-1, and Point Me By as the 9-2 second choice. The lightly raced colt trained by Eddie Kenneally has only competed on grass, winning two out of his five races, including the Bruce D (G1) at Arlington Park, though no runner in that field has gone on to accomplish anything noteworthy. Drawing post 7, Adam Beschizza rides this colt by Point of Entry for the third time and hopes to improve on their 6th place finish last out in the Bryan Station $150k at Keeneland on October 30.

From there it’s anybody’s guess who will win. Diliberto’s morning line odds put 7 horses between 6-1 and 12-1, including 4 horses at 8-1. Two of those 8-1 morning line horses are trained by Bret Calhoun.

4 for 4 on the dirt, Calhoun’s Who Took the Money won on turf last out in the Louisiana Champions Day Turf with a scorch-the-earth turn of foot to make up 8.5 lengths in the final 1/16. The gelding by Street Boss took advantage of a hot pace set by duelers Mangelson and Mr. Four Sevens, but still, the late turn of foot was visually stunning.

“This race wasn’t even on the radar until after Louisiana Champions Day,” Calhoun said. “It was such an impressive race. This is the last 3-year-old race, so I had to start looking at it. The next Louisiana-bred stake for us doesn’t come up for quite a while, and with the draw so far out, we entered. I don’t know 100% if we are going to run or not, but right now, he came out of the race very well and it looks like this is a very viable option.”

Deshawn Parker Jr returns to ride Who Took the Money from post 2.

Calhoun’s other entry, Excess Magic, has scored 3 wins and 2 seconds in 6 turf tries. Though this colt by Magician has won twice going two turns, his last race was a 1 length victory at Fair Grounds in an allowance optional claiming turf sprint. Reylu Gutierrez returns from that late-kicking victory lap to break from the far outside post 11.

“I think this is his kind of race.,” Calhoun said. “The flat mile is ideal for him. I honestly think 5 ½ furlongs is kind of short for him. If you go back and watch the replay of that race, it was pretty impressive. He was kind of bottled up in some traffic, he really got a good seam and he exploded. The one thing this horse has always had is turn of foot. I feel optimistic going into the race with him as well.”

Not seen since the Rebel (G2), it looks like 6-1 morning line shot Big Lake (post 3, jockey Florent Geroux) will be involved in heating up the front end for the Calhoun closers. After finishing 5 lengths behind Concert Tour in the Rebel, Steve Asmussen put this colt by American Pharaoh on the shelf. The morning workouts suggest this two-time winner has a third win coming his way soon, but on turf? His dam Resistivity won impressively first time over the lawn with a Bris speed figure that would be competitive against this field, and American Pharaoh’s progeny win 13% of their turf routes. Asmussen also sends out 13-time turf starter Hidden Enemy (post 1, 10-1 ML, jockey David Cabrera). By Galileo, this colt’s one win did come going 1 mile on the Fair Grounds turf course.

Filling out the field: 4-for-4 turf miler Temper Tantrum (post 4, 8-1, jockey Jareth Loveberry) makes his third start for trainer Armando Hernandez; Bernard Flint’s 4-time dirt winning front-runner Warrior in Charge (post 5, 15-1 ML, jockey Marcelino Pedroza Jr.); Dallas Stewart’s Arabian Prince (post 6, 20-1 ML, jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.) tries turf for the second time after a decent first go; Joseph Saffie Jr.’s Awesome Gerry (post 9, 8-1 ML, jockey Corey Lanerie) has not won as a 3-year old so it makes sense to experiment on the turf with a horse who posts impressive Bris speed figures; and 4-time dirt winner Rightandjust (post 10, 12-1 ML, jockey Colby Hernandez) looks for consecutive wins and to improve off a first turf effort two races back.

Post Time is 3:53 pm CT. The Woodchopper is race 7 of a 10-race card. — Kilroy

Additional Quotes:

Brad Cox on removing Concert Tour’s blinkers.

“He was forward enough training, we’d like for him to be forward enough when he’s running but we want him to be able to relax. Based off what I have seen I did not feel the need for blinkers at the current time. He’s an older horse now, often times when they get older they get more mature not only physically but mentally and they don’t need blinkers to stay focused.”

Lonely on the Lead No More: Field of Front Runners in the Broussard

Moon Swag should benefit from the pace, but
Cheetara’s speed figures suggest she can sustain the likely duel

The majority of the entries in the 57th running of the $75k Joseph E. “Spanky” Broussard Memorial Stakes have a need for early speed. Going 1 mile 70 yards on the dirt should be no problem for these front-running routers, but half the field of 8 filles and mares have won gate to wire. None of those four have won in a duel, and only Velvet Crush has been involved in one on June 6th at Monmouth in the Lady’s Secret where she faded to 4th even after setting modest fractions. Will we see alternative tactics? Or do we have the perfect set-up for an off the pace rally?

Morning line third choice Moon Swag (7-2) would likely benefit most from a pace meltdown. One of two 3-year-olds in the field, Moon Swag has not won since her first two races in her brief 2-year old campaign, including the Manzano Stakes at Albuquerque. Transferring to Brendan Walsh’s barn, she made her third start in last year’s Letellier at Fair Grounds, then began her journey on the Kentucky Oaks trail, coming up short in the Silverbulletday, finishing third to Clairiere and Travel Column in the Rachel Alexandra (G2), and a distant 4th in the Ashland (G1). Last out on October 1 in the $150k Seneca at Churchill Downs, she finished third and posted her career highest Bris speed figure in a race that benefited the front runners. That won’t be the case on Monday in the Broussard.

“It’s a good spot for her,” Walsh said. “She has legitimized herself–she’s turned out to be a better filly than I thought she was going to be. I thought her last run was very good. Listen, when she came to me at first, she was such a lunatic. I didn’t think she was going to do a whole lot, her temperament was going to come against her. But to be fair to her she has really gone the right way. She has got the talent to step up into stakes company. Maybe she could be a nice graded stakes filly for the coming year.”

Breaking from post 7, Walsh gives the nod to first-time rider Brian Hernandez Jr.

No other horse in the field but Cheetara has won a stakes race. And if one of the front runners can sustain a duel, Cheetara’s late pace figures suggest it’s her. The 5/2 morning line favorite 4-year-old filly by Daddy Long Legs repeated her highest Bris speed figures in sprint races at Colonial Downs, her first two races after transferring to trainer Ignacio Correas barn from Chile. But even though her figures were lower in her next two races, she did score a route win on October 24 going 1 1/16ths miles at Keeneland against allowance optional claimers. Colby Hernandez will look to break to the lead from post 2.

The other logical late kicker, Audrey’s Time (3-1 ML), will break from the outside in post 8. Owned by Lothenbach Stables, trainer Neil Pessin’s 4-year old filly by Uncle Mo has shown steady improvement throughout her 15 race career. Her last win was two back going 1 ¼ miles against second-level optional claimers at Churchill Downs. Last out she tried graded stakes company for the first time, finishing a distant third over a sloppy course behind Envoutante and Bonny South. Regular rider Corey Lanerie is up and in her last two races he has put her in the race earlier, no further back than two lengths from the leader at every call.

The likely front runners include: trainer Grant Forster’s Microcap (post 3, 8-1 ML, jockey James Graham) who was ¾ length short of Matera in the $85k Mari Hulman George Memorial at Indiana Downs on July 7. With only one race since transferred from trainer Chad Brown to Mike Stidham’s barn, Velvet Crush (post 5, 8-1 ML, jockey Mitchell Murrill) had tried two Saratoga graded stakes as a 3-year old but has not won since April 15 at Aqueduct, wire-to-wire in the mud against second-level optional claimers. Tap Dance Fever (post 6, 20-1 ML, jockey Angel Suarez) beat two next-out winners in a first-level options claiming race at Delaware Park on September 25, then trainer Gerald Bennett tried her on turf last out where she faded to third.

Presser Judy’s Way (post 4, 8-1 ML, jockey Orlando Mojica) ran well for trainer Carlos Silva to post a 94 Bris speed figure–the highest in the field–when losing by a neck two back against second-level optional claimers at Indiana Downs on November 2nd.

The other likely late charger, Powder River (post 1, 8-1 ML, Adam Beschizza) has regressed in her last three races for trainer Norm Casse since taking a late summer break.

Post Time is 4:22 pm CT. The Spanky Broussard is race 8 of a 10-race card. — Kilroy

Evenly Matched Baker’s Dozen 3-year Old Turf Routers Test Their Luck, Maturity in Pago Hop

Calhoun’s Lovely Ride tries turf and Walsh’s Princess Theorem looks to flex form

Arm Candy, the tepid 7-2 morning line favorite in The Pago Hop $75,000 drew unlucky post 13, the far outside in a field of competitive 3-year-old fillies going one mile on the turf. On a day when the rail will be at 0 after being between 10, 20, and 26 feet over the last 3 weeks, the outside likely will not be the best going for Steve Asmussen’s three-time winner who’s career best Bris speed figure 89 is seventh best in the field. The purse is up for grabs for the filly who has matured the most for this last race of each’s 3-year-old campaign.

The winner of highest career Bris speed figure from this field goes to… none other than first-time turfer, Lovely Ride. Trainer Brett’s Calhoun’s four-time winner, including the August 24 Cathryn Sophia $150k Stakes at Parx (where she earned that 93 Bris going wire-to-wire), draws post 11 and gets jockey Reylu Gutierrez.

“I’m excited to try something new with her,” Calhoun said. “We’re looking to the turf to see if she can move forward, and it’s the last 3-year-old opportunity of the year, so you got to take a shot there, and we get to learn something about the surface. She’s been a smaller, lighter filly, but she seems to be getting better all the time. I thought her race at Parx was really good. It was a situation where we didn’t want the lead, she kind of found herself there, they kind of bum rushed her and I thought they were all going to run by her, but she dug in and went on with it.”

Lovely Ride is 8-1 on the morning line and will likely need to work out a stalk and pounce trip for things to work out for her, or as it’s referred to around Fair Grounds, a “Reylu Rally.”

After running an impressive 2nd at Fair Grounds on November 26 against optional claimers where she was bumped out the gate, fell back, then went 4 to 5-wide around both turns, stakes winner Princess Theorem should love every bit of her run breaking from post 2. A late kicker, she is surrounded by early speed and jockey Adam Beschizza should have no trouble settling in and saving ground. Brendan Walsh trains this 6-1 morning line filly by Nyquist and out of Princess Haya.

“There were times last year I didn’t think she was totally right,” Walsh said. “Since we brought her back this year, she won that stake at Colonial, and I think we finally have her right and going in the right direction soundness-wise. I was never totally happy with her when she was younger, but physically now she’s done really well and gotten stronger. I loved her last race. I thought it was her best. Over the course of time, I don’t see any reason why she can’t become a pretty competitive filly as a 4-year-old. I wanted to give her a run on the course, and I think it will benefit her in the Pago Hop.”

Racing against older last out and only losing by ½ length, there is no doubt Barista will take action at the windows. It took More Than Unusual and Bellagamba to hold back trainer James Baker’s tactical two-time winner on October 27 at Keeneland. With solid morning workouts since, culminating in a bullet on December 17, jockey James Graham will have all the horse he needs breaking from post 3.

Likely benefiting from the rail draw and privileged by her early speed is Touch of Class (20-1 ML, jockey Orlando Mojica). Trained by Bernard Flint, this 8-time starter/8-time sprinter will no doubt send and see if she can hold on. Her last race was an impressive turf sprint win at Fair Grounds on December 10 where the pace dynamic set up for a closer but she sat one length off through ½ and took over in the stretch.

Vying for the early lead will be trainer Cherie DeVaux’s speedy Amiche (post 4, 10-1 ML, jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.). Two-time winner out of four turf route tries, last out on Thanksgiving at Fair Grounds she beat first-level allowance company and earned her career best 85 Bris speed figure.

To her outside, trainer Matt Shirer’s Suki (post 5, 10-1 ML, jockey Deshawn Parker Jr.) has flashed early speed, winning wire-to-wire at 40.20-1 last out on the Churchill Down dirt going 1 1/16 miles against first-level allowance company. With two wins on the turf, and a trainer who wins 30% of his last 23 dirt-to-turf races, this Ten Strike Racing and Jeremy Sussman owned daughter by Upstart has as much chance as any in this field.

Others in the field who will likely be involved early include: Becca’s Rocket (post 8, 12-1 ML, jockey Jareth Loveberry) has won twice at this distance for trainer Scott Gelner including her last turf try three back against allowance company on August 18 at Evangeline Downs; Inajiffy (post 9, 20-1 ML, jockey Corey Lanerie) adds blinkers for trainer Joe Sharp and tries to get back to her winning ways after trying three turf sprint stakes against tough foes; Amalfi Princess (post 10, 8-1 ML, jockey Marcelino Pedroza Jr.) won for trainer Michael Maker at 6.5 furlongs in a first-level allowance at Kentucky Downs suggesting she will not have trouble getting the Pago Hop distance; and second-time turfer, Assertive Style (post 12, 15-1 ML, jockey Mitchell Murrill) who won impressively with a 91 Bris last out against 50k claimers in the mud at Churchill Downs–all four of his victories have come over a sloppy track.

Filling out the field: stakes-winner Out of Sorts (post 6, 8-1 ML, Colby Hernandez) sent out by Brittany Russell was last seen deep closing into 9th place at Aqueduct, but only 4 ½ lengths behind Plum Ali; and last-out synth maiden winner at Woodbine, Youens (post 7, 30-1 ML, jockey David Cabrera) who transferred from Angus Buntain’s barn to join Joe Sharp.

Post Time is 4:51 pm CT. The Pago Hop is race 9 of a 10-race card. — Kilroy

Additional quotes

Bret Calhoun on Lovely Ride

“She’s had quite a few races,” Calhoun said, “but I think she’s still learning and there are some aspects of her game she can improve on, but maybe this new surface will open up a whole new avenue for her. We try not to take anything away from her, but we would prefer to be in a stalk and pounce position with a target.”

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.