From the Fair Grounds Media Team:
A bit of an enigma despite an undefeated record coming in, the Godolphin homebred Maxfield once again answered the immediate question in front of him, taking the Tenacious Stakes in what was just his second start as a 3-year-old to cap the 13-race Santa Super Saturday program at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Twice derailed by ankle injuries, the Brendan Walsh trainee returned from his second extended layoff to win for the fourth consecutive time to begin his career.
“I’m relieved,” Walsh said. “It’s nice to get him back (to the races) and have him run so well. He was working so well going into it, you’re just looking for confirmation. He gave us what we needed to see. Hopefully he comes out of it ok and we move forward from here.”
Away alertly for jockey Florent Geroux, who won four races on the day, the sophomore son of Street Sense put himself in a perfect pressing position just off the flank of the pacesetting Cool Bobby through moderate fractions of 24.63 and 48.39. The .50-1 favorite then engaged the leader on the far turn, took over at the top of the stretch, and won by a comfortable 2 ½ lengths in a final time of 1:42.35 for 1/16 miles over a fast track. Sonneman finished well late to be second and it was another 1 ¼ lengths back to Dinar in third.
“This is a horse who is maturing,” Geroux said. “When I worked him out of the gate a few weeks ago, he was very sharp away from there, so I was pretty confident he’d be up closer than he had been in his previous races. He got me in a great position and he was in a nice rhythm. He was comfortable and happy and I loved my spot. Turning for home he gave me another gear and I kept him busy all the way to the wire because I wanted to make sure he got something out of it.”
Off slowly in the career debut over a one turn mile at Churchill and the subsequent start in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, before rattling home late to win both, Maxfield was forced to miss the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with an ankle chip. When the Kentucky Derby was pushed back to the first Saturday in September due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the connections were in a better position to bring their prized colt back slowly.
A return run in the Matt Winn (G3) on May 23 at Churchill proved to be adventurous, but successful. Five-wide and shuffled back while in tight on the first turn and hung seven-wide on the bend for home, Maxfield leveled off in the stretch before running down Ny Traffic late, and with a little in reserve.
“He was immature as a 2-year-old,” Walsh said. “I think he would have been more prominent in the Matt Winn in May if he hadn’t been stopped a couple of times.”
Following a June 10th workout at Keeneland which came in preparation for the Blue Grass (G2) Stakes, Maxfield was discovered to have a non-displaced condylar fracture in his right front cannon bone. Following a successful surgery, he resumed serious training in late October, and Walsh thought the Tenacious would be the perfect race to get Maxfield back in the game.
“He was a little fresh tonight, so maybe he was a little more aggressive than normal,” Walsh said. “I don’t think he’s a deep closer by any means. He’s a stronger horse this year and I think we can ride him more prominently.”
When asked about a potential next start for Maxfield, Walsh was non-committal.
“All options are open,” Walsh said. “We will see how he comes out of the race, talk it over with the team at Godolphin and figure out the best plan going forward.”
Maxfield’s career bankroll now stands at $489,262.
Joy’s Rocket Gives Asmussen 100th Career
Fair Grounds Stakes Win in Letellier
Sprint Star Shows Newfound Stalking Gear
A journey that began in November 1995 when Valid Expectations won the Old Hickory reached its zenith Saturday at Fair Grounds when trainer Steve Asmussen set a remarkable milestone, winning his 100th career stakes at the local oval when Team Hanley and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ Joy’s Rocket beat Mariah’s Princess by 1 ½ lengths in the $75,000 Letellier Memorial for 2-year-old fillies.
Joy’s Rocket had shown plenty of speed in her first five starts but settled into an outside stalking position under Ricardo Santana Jr. as longshot Double Whopper set the early pace. Joy’s Rocket took the lead entering the far turn and was quickly engaged by 2.90 second-choice Mariah’s Princess, who appeared to get on even terms in early stretch but succumbed late, with the winner getting 6 furlongs in 1:10.17 as the .80-1 favorite. Charlie’s Penny rallied for third.
For Asmussen, the win was just another milestone in a career full of them, as the Gettysburg, South Dakota native has won three Triple Crown races, six Breeders’ Cup races and the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer in 2008-09. He owns over 9,000 wins, and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 2016. The Letellier wasn’t his only milestone win at Fair Grounds. Earlier this year he captured the 1,000th stakes of his career here when Finite won the Silverbulletday in January, though it was Valid Expectations who came to mind in the winner’s circle.
“Our first stakes win was here with Valid Expectations,” Asmussen fondly recalled. “He he was a very special horse to the barn and his win here in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Eve in 1995 put us over a million in earnings for the first time ever. Fair Grounds has been extremely important in the development of the barn.”
Joy’s Rocket, a daughter of Anthony’s Cross, has proven precocious and versatile from the start, winning on debut at Churchill Downs in June then traveling north to Woodbine to win the My Dear over the Tapeta in August. She next headed to Saratoga, where she was second in the Bolton Landing on turf later in August before running fourth while stretching out to a mile in Belmont Park’s Frizette (G1) in October. Asmussen cut Joy’s Rocket back in Keeneland’s November 6 Songbird and she responded with a game, gate-to-wire. Now 4-for-6 lifetime, she showed a new dimension stalking the early pace in the Letellier, which could bode well going longer in the future.
“To let that filly (Double Whopper) to go about her business, I think it speaks well’s for Joy’s Rocket going further,” Asmussen said. “She’s a very professional filly and Ricardo knows her and has a lot of confidence in her.”
Mariah’s Princess was game in defeat and looked like a potential upset candidate off the far turn, as she gave the favorite a big scare. The daughter of Ghostzapper entered off a track and distance MSW win November 28 for trainer Phil Bauer, and while she couldn’t see it out late, jockey Miguel Mena was impressed.
“We learned she is a very nice horse and she got beat by a very nice filly,” Mena said. “It was good to get her some black-type and we’ll have to see what the future holds for this nice horse. She spotted some experience to the favorite but she can build off this.”
Aptly Named Quick Tempo Scores in Sugar Bowl
Speedster Runs Them off Their Feet for First Career Stakes Win
Dare to Dream Stable LLC’s Quick Tempo outbroke the gate early and never looked back late, easily winning the $75,000 Sugar Bowl for 2-year-olds by 1 ¾ lengths over a rallying Gagetown.
Quick Tempo and Adam Beschizza caught a flyer at the start of the Sugar Bowl, as he broke immediately in front and opened up 3 ½ lengths while rattling off a quarter-mile in 21.47 and a half-mile in a wicked 44.57. That sharp early foot put the rest of the field at a distinct tactical disadvantage and, when Quick Tempo hit the far turn still in hand with that 3 ½-length lead in-tact, it was all but over, as he comfortably cruised home as the .80-1 favorite over 2.50-1 second-choice Gagetown, who rallied inside to snag second by a half-length over Twilight Blue.
Beschizza, aboard Quick Tempo for the first time, couldn’t help but be impressed.
“He’s one of the fastest horses I’ve sat on,” Beschizza said. “He did it all for me and showed today he’s got some true class.”
Quick Tempo won on debut at Arlington Park over the Tapeta in August for trainer Chris Davis then stubbed his toe when fifth (disqualified to sixth) on the turf in the Ontario Racing at Woodbine in September. The son of Tapizar tried dirt for the first time in a Parx Racing allowance in his next start in October and clearly found his calling, as he wired by 6 ½ lengths in an entry-level allowance. Davis sent Quick Tempo to Keeneland in his next start, the Nyquist, and he again ran huge when second to Kentucky Derby prospect Highly Motivated. Now 3-for-5 lifetime, Quick Tempo has always lived up to his name, though Davis thinks that early speed can be harnessed.
“I think eventually he’ll be able to stretch out and I don’t think we have to ask him to leave there that fast,” Davis said. “He’ll relax. He’s always been extremely fast and has such a nice cruising speed, and he carries it that far.”
Gagetown, who won on debut November 13 at Churchill Downs, spotted the winner some seasoning, as well as some tactical speed, yet closed nicely along the inside. The son of Exaggerator is bred to excel going long, which has trainer Brad Cox looking forward to the future.
“We were spotting some experience to a very quick horse but it was a good effort there,” Cox said. “To slip up the inside and squeak out second-place was great. And I think he’s a horse that might stretch out a bit, so this was a start to give him one more race around one-turn and we’ll hopefully be able to stretch him out next time.”
Archidust Up in Time in Scherer
Asmussen-Trainee Settles Early, Punches Late
Crawford Farms Racing’s Archidust took advantage of a torrid speed duel between Hollis and Just Might, tipped out late, and was up in time for a 1-length win over the latter in the $75,000 Richard R. Scherer Memorial.
Hollis predictably set the early pace, though Just Might didn’t let him get away, as the pair sped through a quarter-mile in 21.70 and half-mile in 44.62, while threatening to bottom out the field off the far turn. The duo was still clear in mid-stretch, when Just Might finally stuck a nose in front, but Archidust was produced by Ricardo Santana Jr., who was able to get him off the rail and outside the leaders, where he flew by late at 4.20-1 and stopped the teletimer in a snappy 1:02.71 for the 5 ½ furlongs on a firm Stall-Wilson Turf Course.
Archidust went 5-for-11 for trainer Jorge Navarro before joining trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn this winter, and little has gone wrong since, as he’s now won 3-of-5 for his new connections. The 4-year-old son of Verrazano won both the Wolf Hill and Get Serious at Monmouth Park this summer before running third in Belmont Park’s Turf Sprint (G3) in October. Archidust entered off a disappointing Turf Sprint Championship at Aqueduct November 28, but here rebounded in the Scherer while moving his lifetime mark to 8-for-17. It marked Asmussen’s 101st local stakes win, and second on the day after Joy’s Rocket won the Letellier (see above) earlier on the card.
“The horse puts a lot of smiles on the faces of the barn and we’re very fortunate to have him,” Asmussen said. “When Ricardo (jockey Santana) moved him out the horse just showed the desire to win.”
Just Might ran huge in defeat, which continued a streak of tough-luck losses for trainer Michelle Lovell. The 4-year-old son of Justin Phillip was third in both the Turf Sprint (G2) at Churchill Downs in September and Woodford (G2) at Keeneland in October before breaking slowly and finishing 14th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland on November 7. While Lovell would have loved the win, she was excited to see Just Might answer the bell once again.
“It’s great to see him back and running well though,” Lovell said. “He won the battle but didn’t win the war. He didn’t break winging in the Breeders’ Cup and against 14 great horses you need to do that, so it was disheartening to see him run like that, but he really showed up today.”
No Lie, Logical Myth Takes Diliberto Thriller
Wins Stretch-Long Battle to Prevail by Head Over Cross Border
After 1:41.58 and 1 1/16 miles over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, it took a photo finish to separate JPS Racing’s Logical Myth and Cross Border, with the former prevailing by a head in a sterling renewal of the $75,000 Buddy Diliberto.
Always forwardly placed under Adam Beschizza, Logical Myth, at 9.70-1, stalked in third while 1.90-1 favorite Spectacular Gem and Sailing Solo sparred on the lead through a half-mile in a very honest 47.13. Logical Myth and Cross Border moved as a team on the outside as the field hit the far turn and the pair finally wrestled command from the leaders in deep stretch, while leading a chasm across the line. Argentello (IRE) split horses late to be third, just a head and a neck back, while yet another neck ahead of Sailing Solo, with 1.90 favorite Spectacular Gem further back in fifth.
Logical Myth continues to pay dividends for trainer Joe Sharp, who claimed him for $40,000 at Churchill Downs in May, as he won for the third time in five starts. The 4-year-old son of Data Link made it 6-for-17 overall and has really shown an affinity for the local turf course, as he’s now 4-for-5 lifetime. Logical Myth entered off a second (placed first) in an off-the-turf optional-claimer here November 26 and has turned the corner since Sharp had him gelded shortly after the claim.
“I castrated him when he came into our barn and it changed his entire demeanor,” Sharp said. “He’s just been super focused since then. He keeps getting more confidence and we knew we were reaching a bit today, but I think the post position, and everything he displayed (helped). He has a heart way bigger than his size.”
Beschizza, who has now ridden Logical Myth in four straight starts, has been impressed with the horse’s tenacity and will to win.
“He really dug in today and I’m super proud of him,” Beschizza said. “He’s got a huge heart this horse and he’s really turned the page since he came under Joe’s wing and gotten a lot better.”
Cross Border was game in defeat for trainer Mike Maker, as he grinded the entire stretch under Colby Hernandez to just miss. The 6-year-old son of English Channel entered as one of the classier runners in a loaded Diliberto, as he was placed first in Saratoga’s Bowling Green (G2) in August and was second in their Sword Dancer (G1) a month later. Cross Border has made the majority of his $671,221 bankroll running longer, which could have made the difference.
“Going a little shorter, it took him a little extra to get into gear, and I had to ride him a little bit to put him into the race,” Hernandez said. “The pace set up well stalking and he finished up strong. I thought we had gotten the nod but we were just a bit unlucky.”
Dalika Strolls in Blushing K.D.
Headstrong Filly Relaxes on Lead and Never Looks Back
When on her best behavior, Bal Mar Equine LLC’s Dalika can be one tough customer, which her nine rivals found out in the $75,000 Blushing K.D. Leading from the start under Miguel Mena, Dalika set a comfortable early pace, kicked clear off the far turn, and had plenty left to hold off longshot Curlin’s Journey by 2 ¼ lengths.
Dalika, a 4-year-old daughter of Pastorius (Ger), broke running under Mena but needed to get through the clubhouse turn before assuming command. She set a tepid half-mile in 48.42 while dragging the field to the far turn, shook off an outside run from 1.70-1 favorite Secret Message, and held sway at 2.60-1 over a rail-skimming 31-1 Curlin’s Journey. Dalika stopped the timer in 1:42.68 for 1 1/16 miles over a firm Stall-Wilson turf course. Multiple graded stakes winner Secret Message, bet down in her first start for trainer Brad Cox, checked in third.
Dalika has been as dynamic as she has been frustrating throughout her career. She’s run well in countless stakes but also disappointed at short odds in others. Trainer Al Stall Jr. was vocal about the difficulties in training Dalika, as she can be very unsettled in the early running of her races, so he tried her both short and long on the turf while trying to get her to relax.
It all finally clicked for Dalika in the One Dreamer at Kentucky Downs in September, when she pressed a wicked early pace and held for her first career stakes win. Stall tried the big gals in Keeneland’s October 3 First Lady (G1) only to see Dalika break several lengths behind the field, become rank into the first turn, and run 4th-of-5, though she was beaten just 5 lengths. Now 5-for-16 lifetime, Dalika has Stall looking forward to what lies ahead, provided she’s got her mind on running.
“She’s kind of a moody horse but when she’s right, she’s right,” Stall said. “We feel very good about her and I think she’s got a lot more in the tank moving forward and we’re excited about doing some graded stakes.”
Mena, who has ridden Dalika several times in her career and was aboard for the One Dreamer win, was extremely happy with his position early on, and how he got there.
“The filly looked like a million dollars,” Mena said. “She broke great, took the lead and was just cruising. I had a lot of horse underneath me at the end and she was running hard.”
Curlin’s Journey outran her odds while never leaving the inside under Aubrie Green. The 5-year-old daughter of Curlin was second in Del Mar’s Red Carpet (G3) in November 2019 and built on a November 12 Remington Park allowance win.
“She broke well and I got her relaxed and settled her in behind,” Green said. “I wanted to save ground and make a rail run and it opened up for me and she really came through. It worked out perfectly, we just couldn’t get to the winner.”
Fair Grounds resumes live racing on Sunday with a first post of 1 p.m. CT. In deference to the holidays, the track will be dark Monday, December 21 through Christmas Day, Friday, December 25.