(Brad Cox / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

From the Fair Grounds Media Team:

Away alertly, Godolphin LLC’s 2-5 favorite Hieronymus took command from the word go, set moderate fractions, and then held off the late closing rally of Pixelate to take the $75,000 Black Gold Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots by ¾ of a length. It was the third consecutive local turf win for Hieronymus, who stopped the timer in 1:45.97 for the about 1 1/6th miles distance over a firm turf course. It was a half-length back to 3-1 second choice Bodecream, who checked in third in the field of five.

After holding off 33-1 shot Bodecream to win a first-level allowance race in late December at odds of 12-1, trainer Brad Cox stepped the 3-year-old son of Girolamo up to stakes company. Bet down to even-money in the locally run Randy Romero Memorial Stakes, Hieronymus made his stakes debut a winning one, dominating four others with a 9 ¾ length margin of victory.

Now a two-time stakes winner, Hieronymus owns a career record of 5-4-0-0 with earnings of $136,714.

“He’s such a trying horse and he just always seems to get there” winning jockey Shaun Bridgmohan said. “They came at him and my horse just kept digging in and giving me his all. He’s a really gutsy horse.”

“He’s a tough horse,” trainer Brad Cox said. “When he turns for home and turns it on he’s hard to beat.”

“He definitely deserves an opportunity against graded company in the near future,” Cox said of a potential run in The Transylvania Stakes (G3) at Keeneland (April 3, $150,000, 1 1/16th miles turf) and/or the American Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs (May 2, $500,000, 1 1/16th miles turf). “We will keep those two races on our radar. We’ll gather our thoughts in the next couple of days and come up with a plan.”

Pixelate, making his first start since finishing third behind Bodecream in the $200,000 Texas Turf Mile in January at Sam Houston, closed with a rush and gave Hieronymus all he could handle in the final sixteenth, only to fall just short.

“Going into the race we wanted to be a little closer than he was last time,” jockey Mitchell Murrill said of the Texas Turf Mile, a race in which he closed from 12 lengths back. “I had him right where I wanted him to be and when it was time to move, we went outside and he gave me a few good spurts to get up near the lead, but every time we came up to Hieronymus, he just kept getting away from us.”

(Niinety One Assault / Photo Courtesy of the Fair Grounds)

NINETY ONE ASSAULT POWERS HOME
IN DIXIE POKER ACE STAKES

For the third consecutive time at Fair Grounds, Tom Morley and Paul Braverman’s Ninety One Assault put in his signature closing kick and spurted clear in the final 1/16th of a mile to score in the $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace Stakes by two lengths as the 7-5 favorite. Swallowing up Shang late in the stretch, Ninety One Assault stopped the clock in 1:40.92 for the about one mile turf journey. It was ¼ lengths back to In the Navy in third.

Now a six-time winner over the Fair Grounds turf course, Ninety One Assault closed the door on his 6-year-old campaign with a win in the Louisiana Champions Day Turf in early December at Fair Grounds. Following the victory trainer Tom Morley spotted Ninety One Assault in an open company $80,000 optional claimer race in January, a race in which he blasted home at odds of 10-1 to score by ¾ of a length.

The now 7-year-old son of Artie Schiller has put together a career record of 31-7-3-6 with earnings of $344,683.

“He was just the best horse today” said jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, who swept both stakes races on the Saturday card. “I like to get him covered up and breaking from post 11 today was a little tricky but I was able to get covered up for a bit down the backside and when I started to ask him around the 3/8th’s pole he was there for me.”

“The pace up front was slower today,” Bridgmohan continued. “This horse is so tactical and believe me if I wanted to be up on the lead at any point he would have responded and gone up there but that’s not his style and I tried to ride him the way he likes to run and not take him out of his game.

A multiple stakes winner on dirt, Shang moved to the turf course for the first time in his career and put in a valiant effort to run second with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard.

“He handled the grass great,” Hernandez Jr. said. “We got to go as easy as we wanted to and turning for home he switched leads right on que and was really running down the lane. The winner was just much the best today.”