Stakes recaps by the Fair Grounds publicity team of Joe Kristufek and Kevin Kilroy (Above: Hodges Photography photo of Excess Magic)
New Orleans (December 27, 2021) – We could Chattalot about the Lovely Ride jockey Reylu Gutierrez has been on in 2021, but during the post-Christmas stakes extravaganza at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the 26-year-old native of Rochester, New York, conjured up a little Excess Magic in the Big Easy.
Gutierrez won with seven of his 17 mounts the past two days at Fair Grounds, five of them stakes. His winning mounts returned a total of $209.20 for a $12.30 return on investment.
On Sunday he guided Gentle Soul ($35.00), Chess Chief ($22.20) and Halo Again ($30.80) to the Fair Grounds’ winner’s circle, and on Monday he followed up with victories aboard Hooperdrivesthboat ($83.80), Excess Magic ($6.60), Lovely Ride ($20.80) and Chattalot ($10.00).
“Feels great,” Gutierrez said after winning the final stakes of the day aboard Chattalot. “It’s a credit to (jockey agent) Jose Santos, Jr. No matter where he’s put me, we’ve been successful. We are calling Fair Grounds home, and we are doing very well. He does his due diligence. He does an excellent job with all of his riders. He puts me on these horses, and it’s for everybody, so I’m just thankful for Jose.”
For the year, Gutierrez has won 132 races while banking $4.8 million, both career highs, while taking on new racetracks and challenges seemingly every month. Entering Thursday’s card, he’s sits second in the Fair Grounds jockey standings with 17 wins from just 73 mounts (23%), three behind meet leader Colby Hernandez.
Two of Gutierrez’s Monday stakes scores came for trainer Bret Calhoun, whom he also credits for helping to jump start his career.
“When I ride for the Calhoun train it is really special,” Gutierrez said. “He’s one of the reasons I am here today.” – Kristufek
Excess Magic Gets the Bacon in Woodchopper
In the $75,000 Woodchopper, Gutierrez placed the William T. Reed homebred Excess Magic (2.30-1 favorite) in the perfect pressing position on the outside of the pacesetting 18.10-1 longshot Rightandjust through early fractions of 24.43 and 49.76. He put that rival away off the turn for home and then held safe of close second choice Point Me By (2.50-1) to win by 1 ½ lengths in a final time of 1:38.08 for the mile on turf.
“His other horse (Who Took the Money) was the one I was most afraid of, so I guess he did me a favor by scratching him from the race,” Gutierrez said. “Both tracks (turf and dirt) are playing the way I like to ride. He (Excess Magic) was coming from a sprint to a route so I let him be a horse, get out there, and get in good position. On the backside I could feel everyone on top of us, so I could tell we were going pretty slow. He was ready to go and when I turned for home, I said ‘let’s go get some bacon’. He was hungry. I was hungry. (Bret) Calhoun does a great job with his horses.”
The Woodchopper was the fourth win overall and first in a stake for Excess Magic (8-4-2-1), and it boosted his career bankroll to $164,171.
“He’s been a pretty consistent horse for us,” Calhoun said. He had a little injury last year and we had to back off. Being able to run in a sprint prepping for this (win on Nov. 26), it worked out great. The mile is ideal for him. He’s got tremendous turn of foot. Early on I was thinking we were a little (too) close (to the front), but that why I pay Reylu to ride him. He was right. The fractions were pretty slow and he had him right where he needed to be.” — Kristufek
Lovely Ride Works Out a Trip in Pago Hop
Already a stakes winner on dirt, Allied Racing Stables’ Lovely Ride proved her versatility by winning her first ever start on turf, taking the $75,000 Pago Hop in what was a hard-fought battle down to the wire. It was the second stakes victory on the card for the team of trainer Bret Calhoun and jockey Reylu Gutierrez.
Away alertly from an outside post, Lovely Ride sat fourth while in the clear, two-wide down the backstretch while chasing moderate early fractions of 24.17 and 49.30 set by the longshot (25.60-1) Touch of Class. With the front-runner wandering about, she ducked inside of her mid-stretch, took the lead, and held safe of the resurgent 3.10-1 favorite Amiche and the late closing Princess Theorem (6.90-1) to score by a game ¾ of a length in a final time of 1:38.56 for one mile on turf. Only 3 ¼ lengths separated the top seven finishers.
“I had a delightful trip,” Gutierrez said. “She has enough tactical speed. I was able to break and come over (from the outside post). That was the whole game plan, we wanted to save ground. She took to it well. I have to credit Mr. Calhoun and his brain because he has been brainstorming around with a couple of his horses and switching things up and he took the risk (of running on turf) given her pedigree. A lot of trainers don’t have the opportunity to do that, but he took his chance. His chess playing is paying off and he is making me look good and his horses look good, so credit to Mr. Calhoun.”
The winner of the Catherine Sophia on August 24 at Parx, Lovely Ride has looked dominant at times on dirt, but she’s been somewhat plagued by inconsistency.
“We thought pedigree-wise (by Candy Ride out of a Tiznow mare) she had a big chance to perform well on turf,” Calhoun explained. “Obviously this is the last 3-year old race of the year. We were kind of out of options and so we thought we’d take a chance. We really thought she would handle the turf. It looks like she handled it well, and I look forward to her being even better on it next time. She looked like she was a little bit lost on it early on. By the time she figured out where she was going and what she was on, she finished up big and galloped out huge. It is great to have multiple options. We’re just going to have to sit back and look at the condition books and see what race suits us best.”
With the win, Lovely Ride bolstered her resume to 9-5-1-1 with earnings of $284,160. — Kristufek
Chattalot Lets His Speed Do the Talking in Sugar Bowl
Entering Sunday’s action, trainer Steve Asmussen had zero wins to show from 21 starters to open the 2021-22 racing season at Fair Grounds. On the other side of Monday, he now has four wins with three of them coming in stakes. So much for that “slump.”
On the heels of a Sunday training triple, including stakes wins with Halo Again in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial and Epicenter in the inaugural running of the Gun Runner, Asmussen added a little icing to his holiday cake by winning Monday’s Sugar Bowl with the front-running Chattalot for Bloom Racing and David Bersen. It was the third stakes win on the card, and fifth in the last two days, for jockey Reylu Gutierrez.
Away alertly from the rail, Chattalot (4.00-1) maintained his inside position while neck in neck with the 1.60-1 favorite Higher Standard through contested fractions of 22.05 and 45.35. He put that rival away on the turn for home, and the fended off a stretch challenge from Underhill’s Tab (5.90-1) to win by a game, half-length in a final time of 1:10.03 for the six furlong on the main track. It was another 1 ¾ lengths back to Blue Kentucky in third. Higher Standards was 5 ½ lengths back in sixth.
“Today I just let him break and get his feet under him,” Gutierrez said. “I saw that no other horses were really getting away from him or going, so I just kind of took it to them. The rail has been good to me this weekend, so why not take it. When I saw (the favorite) Higher Standard just kind of pumping at the half mile pole, I was very confident.”
The winner of the first two starts of his career, the 2-year-old son of Midnight Lute was most recently seen finishing a tired fourth in the Lively Shively Stakes at Churchill Downs on November 27. With the win, he now boasts a record of 5-3-0-1 with earnings of $199,095. — Kristufek
Girl With a Dream was Filly With the Lead for a Brad Cox Letellier Exacta
Maybe it was more experience, maybe it was the break, maybe it was simply a matter that the most talented 2-year old filly won, but either way, the Brad Cox barn was front and center at Fair Grounds, sending out the Letellier Memorial Stakes $75,000 exacta with Girl With a Dream wiring the field and Com’On Sweet luv running second.
“She broke sharp,” jockey Florent Geroux said of the winner. “I thought she was the best in the field. We didn’t know what to expect [in terms of running style]. We know she can be forwardly placed, but last time she came from the back at Churchill. I just felt I had the best horse in the race and she broke sharp so I took it from there. If someone wanted to go faster than me I would have let them go but that’s not how the race unfolded, how everything played out.”
In a dirt sprint race where it was unclear how the front end would unfold, jockey Florent Geroux capitalized on a sharp break from his mount. By Practical Joke and owned by Jim Bakke and Gerry Isbister, Girl With a Dream was last seen closing inot hot fractions in a first-level allowance on November 13 at Churchill Downs. In the Letellier she set the fractions of 22.49, 46.42 as the .70-1 favorite. 31.90-1 Runnin Happy kept within a length at the first call. The bettor’s choice of the two Steve Margolis horses, 4.50-1 Implosion, stalked and chased but never threatened for the lead. The other Margolis, 17.70-1 Mystique Saboteur, got away slow and passed tiring rivals for third. Despite coming away last from the gate, by the second call Marcelino Pedroz Jr. had guided Com’ On Sweet Luv through traffic, up within one length, then as close as the leader’s throatlatch. As they both got into their fillies, it was Girl With a Dream who proved best, synching the deal late in 1:10.84 for six furlongs.
“When [Come On’ Sweet Luv] came close to me at the eighth pole it seemed like she had plenty left,” Geroux said. “But we were able to fight her off in the last eighth of the mile.”
All three rides for Com’ On Sweet Luv have come under Marcelion Pedroza, Jr. The second place filly by Jimmy Creed broke her maiden out front last out at Fair Grounds on November 27, finishing strong after setting slow fractions.
“She got left at the gate a little bit,” Pedroza said. “She’s not the type of filly to break sharp in the first jump. By the third jump she is right up in the race. I don’t think it cost me the race. The other filly was better. We just got beat. On top of the stretch I felt like I had a shot. I grabbed a hold but he did too, so I was like let’s see who is the better filly right here. He had more horse than me, that’s it.”
The two-year old question du jour as we turn the calendar year: what’s next for the winner and will she stretch out?
“Maybe, but if so, probably still around one turn,” Cox said. “I wouldn’t get super super crazy. Comparing her with other horses in our barn I am thinking she might be one to keep around one turn for the time being. She’s had five runs now at 2 so we’ll take a deep breath, regroup with her. It takes a little pressure off you going forward, now being a stakes winner.”
With the win, Girl with a Dream is 5-3-1-0 earning $170,720 in her brief and promising career. — Kilroy
“The way she ran last time we didn’t know what to expect,” Brad Cox said “I actually thought the other one [Com’ On Sweet Luv] would break a little sharper. She broke the slowest of the group and then Marcelino put her in position. Opening quarter of 22 and 2 and I felt she was doing well and should have some punch down the lane. And she did a great job. Obviously, [Com’ On Sweet Luv] has black type finishing second. We’ll march forward, she still has n1x available left, a very big performance off a maiden win. She could come back in an allowance race or maybe a stakes if it makes sense; we’ll see how it goes.”
Add Dirt to The Top of the List: Versatile Audrey’s Time Keeps Getting Better
Lothenbach Stables’ patient approach with Audrey’s Time paid off on Monday, as the soon to be 5-year-old mare won the $75,000 “Spanky” Broussard Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds. Making her 16th start over three racing campaigns, the daughter of Uncle Mo has raced 8 times with one win on turf, 1 win in her lone synth try, and in her 7th dirt start, she gets the trophy for trainer Neil Pessin and regular rider Corey Lanerie.
“She was just doing okay on the turf,” Pessin said. “I knew she had always worked well [on dirt], and we’d run her on the dirt before, but she was just maturing with every time out. I think that helped as much as anything, the time off we gave her and bringing her back slow.”
Run at 1 mile 70 yards, there was nothing slow about the front end. Ignacio Correas’ .90-1 favorite Cheetara set fast opening fractions of 23.74 and 47.07–the quickening through the second call was largely due to being aggressively chased by 7.30-1 Powder River, who vied for the lead through the turn. Cheetera has proven not to like company and Powder River’s jockey Adam Beschizza seemed to know it. The early leader faded and as Powder Room passed her on the inside, Audrey’s Time made her winning move on the outside and didn’t stop edging away to the wire.
“My horse got off a little slow,” Corey Lanerie said. “The leader was going easy by herself, but I kept my filly in the clear and she pulled up to her on the turn. From that point on I knew I had something left in the tank. I called on her and she took it from there.”
Make it $268,226 in the bank and a career record of 16-4-1-3 for Audrey’s Time as connections contemplate the next move.
“I don’t know if we belong with the ones we ran against last time [Envoutante and Bonny South in the Falls City (G2)],” Pessin said. “I don’t think we are quite there yet. We might look at Sam Houston. I don’t know what they’re going to have in the older filly division as far as veteran mares being ready to run.” — Kilroy
“That was the easiest bunch she’d run against for awhile,” Pessin said. “We were just hoping she’d run the way she did. You never know when you ship and try a different track but she trained well her and had been doing very well so we kinda expected this kind of race out of her. The move from turf to dirt was intentional. We ran her again on the turf and didn’t do so good but that was a prep to get ready for Churchill.”