(Maxfield / Coady Photography)

From the Fair Grounds Media Team:

A potentially lucrative and prolific 2021 campaign gets underway in the twilight of 2020 when Maxfield makes his long-anticipated return to the races in Saturday’s $75,000 Tenacious. Run as the finale, the 1 1/16-mile Tenacious is the last of six $75,000 stakes run as part of the 13-race Santa Super Saturday card. Clearly, the eyes of the racing world will be focused on Fair Grounds as the undefeated Maxfield makes his first start since May.

Also noteworthy, with Joy’s Rocket entered in the Letellier Memorial and both Archidust and Nitrous on the program for the Richard R. Scherer Memorial, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will attempt to annex his 100th career stakes win at Fair Grounds.

Godolphin LLC’s homebred Maxfield (post 6 at 8-5 on the morning line with Florent Geroux to ride) has had plenty of heartaches sprinkled in amongst a perfect 3-for-3 lifetime record for trainer Brendan Walsh. He was forced to miss the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with a minor foot injury and then got derailed off the Kentucky Derby trail soon after his win in Churchill’s May 23 Matt Winn (G3). The 3-year-old son of Street Sense came out of a June 10 workout with a condylar fracture of his right front cannon bone, which prompted his connections to scrap any thoughts at a run in the Kentucky Derby on September 5.

“We always thought he’d be a nicer 3-year-old, so to come back the way he did, then to lose him for the Derby was terribly disappointing,” Walsh said. “But at least we’re getting another go with the horse. It would have been a terrible shame if we didn’t get him back and he couldn’t show what we think he’s capable of.”

Maxfield broke his maiden on debut at Churchill in September 2019 and turned around a month later to win Keeneland’s prestigious Breeders’ Futurity (G1) by 5 ¼ lengths. He didn’t resurface until the 2020 Matt Winn and now reappears in the Tenacious. With just three races on a stop-and-start career, Maxfield has plenty of upside as a lightly raced colt. He’s worked eight times since late October, most recently logging 4 furlongs in 48.80 on November 13 at Fair Grounds. He is sitting on go for the Tenacious.

“He came out of his work great and we’re looking forward to Saturday,” Walsh said. “We’re happy what he’s done. It (the Tenacious) was in my mind for a while, with the timing, and I think Fair Grounds will suit the horse, with the long straight and all. We haven’t gotten anywhere near the bottom of him yet. He’s as good as ever; he’s matured beautifully, physically-speaking.”

Maxfield figures odds-on in a Tenacious that drew seven runners, though he spots recency to several, including Courtlandt Farms’ Sonneman (post 5 at 3-1 with Ricardo Santana Jr.), who enters off a rousing optional-claiming win November 4 at Churchill Downs. The 3-year-old son of Curlin has run five times for trainer Steve Asmussen after beginning his career with trainer Mark Hennig and has clearly come to hand late. He was the runner-up in Churchill’s Pat Day Mile (G2) three-back in September before running second in a Keeneland optional-claimer in October. Sonneman is 3-for-9 lifetime and has a plenty of early tactical speed that will enable him to get first run on Maxfield.

Lothenbach Stables Inc’s Captivating Moon (post 3 at 9-2 with Brian Hernandez Jr.) won the local “off-the-turf” Buddy Diliberto Memorial on the Santa Super Saturday card last year and he is cross-entered in the race again this year. The 5-year-old son of Malibu Moon is winless in seven starts this year for trainer Chris Block but he has faced some tough competition. He was fourth to Silver Dust in the local Mineshaft (G3) in February before running second to By My Standards in the New Orleans Classic (G2) here in March. Captivating Moon is 4-for-26 lifetime and would be a stretch danger should he start.

Completing the Tenacious field from the rail out: Cool Bobby (12-1 with James Graham), a potential pace-setter for trainer Cherie DeVaux; G M B Racing’s Locally Owned (post 2 at 5-1 with Miguel Mena), who enters off an optional-claiming win November 11 for trainer Al Stall Jr.; Wayne T Davis’ Mocito Rojo (post 4 at 8-1 with Jack Gilligan), who won the Lukas Classic (G3) at Churchill in 2019 for trainer Shane Wilson but is just 1-for-8 since; and Al Rashid Stables LLC’s Dinar (post seven at 12-1 with Shaun Bridgmohan), a close fourth two-back in Churchill’s Ack Ack (G3) for DeVaux.

 

Joy’s Rocket Imposing in Letellier

Two-Time Stakes Winner Looks Tough to Catch

New Orleans (December 16, 2020) – Class looks in session when two-time stakes winner Joy’s Rocket starts as an overwhelming favorite in the $75,000 Letellier Memorial for 2-year-old fillies. Run at 6 furlongs, the Letellier drew a field-of-seven, though it’s clear the other six rivals will need their running shoes on in order to catch Team Hanley and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ Joy’s Rocket.

Joy’s Rocket (post 2 at 6-5 with Ricardo Santana Jr.) has been a gem of consistency for trainer Steve Asmussen, as she’s 5-3-1-0 in her career, with her only subpar finish coming when fourth in Belmont Park’s Frizette (G1) in October. The daughter of Anthony’s Cross won on debut at Churchill Downs in June and traveled to Woodbine in August to take the My Dear over the Tapeta. Second on the turf in Saratoga’s Bolton Landing later that month, Joy’s Rocket then took a shot in the Frizette where she set the pace then faded to finish a distant fourth behind Dayoutoftheoffice and Vequist, who later returned to finish second and first respectively in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She rebounded nicely in Keeneland’s November 6 Songbird and figures tough to catch in the Letellier, while also adding Lasix for the first time.

Rigney Racing LLC’s Mariah’s Princess (post 1 at 5-2 with Miguel Mena) was a smart-looking MSW winner here on November 28 for trainer Phil Bauer. The daughter of Ghostzapper was bet down to 5-2 on debut at Churchill Downs in September but was a distant fourth. She clearly improved with the addition of Lasix in her local debut last month and would benefit from any pace pressure Joy’s Rocket receives early.

Lothenbach Stables Inc’s Charlie’s Penny (post 4 at 7-2 with Brian Hernandez Jr.) would also be helped by a hot pace, as she stalked and won an optional-claimer November 28 at Churchill in what was her dirt debut for trainer Chris Block. The daughter of Race Day is 2-for-3 lifetime, as she started her career with a debut win over Arlington’s Polytrack in September before running fourth at Woodbine in the Glorious Song.

Completing the Letellier Memorial field from the rail out: Brad King, Jim Cone, Scott Bryant, and Stan and Suzanne Kirby’s Moon Swag (post 3 at 15-1 with James Graham), 2-for-2 at Albuquerque for trainer Todd Fincher and in Mike Stidham’s barn; owner/trainer James Chapman’s Seguro (post 5 at 20-1 with Adam Beschizza), last seen winning a November 1 allowance at Mountaineer Park; Mario Morales’ Double Whopper (post 6 at 6-1 with Marcelino Pedroza), who has won two in a row at Indiana Grand for trainer Michel Douaihy; and Charles Brown’s Sariah Sariah (post 7 at 20-1 with Jack Gilligan), making her first start for trainer Patrick Mouton after two straight wins in the Midwest for trainers John Hancock and Steve Larue.

 

Quick Tempo Can Live Up to Name in Sugar Bowl

Speedy Juvenile Knows Just One Gear

New Orleans (December 16, 2020) – Seven 2-year-olds will meet the starter in the $75,000 Sugar Bowl, though there’s little doubt who will be in front early in the 6-furlong dash, as Quick Tempo looks loose as can be at a short price.

Dare to Dream Stable LLC’s Quick Tempo (post 1 at 5-2 with Adam Beschizza) has been a lightning flash for trainer Chris Davis, as he has yet to be behind a horse at the pace call in any of his four races. The son of Tapizar is 2-for-4 overall, and 1-for-2 on the dirt, and Davis doesn’t expect anything to change early on in a Sugar Bowl, a race where the other six runners have never been on the lead early.

“He’s just naturally fast and breaks sharp every race,” Davis said. “He’s probably going to be on the lead, especially against this bunch. He’s not a runoff, but he’s just a very quick horse.”

Quick Tempo has been precocious from the start, winning on debut at Arlington Park over the Polytrack in August prior to finishing fifth (moved up to fourth) in the Ontario Racing over the Woodbine Tapeta in September. Put back on dirt a month later at Parx, he aired by 6 ½ lengths in an allowance. Pressed hard early in Keeneland’s November 6 Nyquist, he ran on gamely to finish second to the Chad Brown-trained Highly Motivated, who is on several early Kentucky Derby Top-10 lists. While Davis was disappointed in not winning, he was impressed with Quick Tempo’s big run.

“We would have liked to win it but Chad’s horse was a freak,” Davis said. “’Tempo was locked in and did all the dirty work while winner swept 4-wide. He came out of it perfect though, has breezed exceptionally well over the track, and we’re ready to go.”

Rupp Racing’s Gagetown (post 5 at 3-1 with Florent Geroux) settled and drew off in his debut November 13 at Churchill Downs for trainer Brad Cox. The son of Exaggerator cost $170,000 as a weanling and went a long way towards returning that investment and will add Lasix off that win as well.

Carl R. Moore Management LLC’s Twilight Blue (post 6 at 3-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.) was a strong second to the highly regarded Mandaloun in an optional-claimer at Churchill November 28 for trainer Joe Sharp. The son of Air Force Blue didn’t fire on the turf on debut at Ellis Park in August but broke his maiden in his dirt debut next-out at Churchill in September and is another who adds Lasix.

Completing the Sugar Bowl field from the rail out: Godolphin’s homebred Tate (post 2, 4-1 with Angel Suarez), 1-for-3 for trainer Mike Stidham; Kevin Shane Porter’s Sermononthemount (post 3 at 12-1 with Ricardo Santana Jr.), who closed from far out of it to win his debut in the slop at Delta Downs December 2 for trainer Tim Dixon; Dennis Foster’s Warlock Doc (post 4 at 12-1 with Miguel Mena), a debut winner at Lone Star Park in his only start July 21 for trainer Danny Pish; and Mike Heitzmann and Jeff Prunzik’s Crime Spree (post 7 at 12-1 with Mitchell Murrill), 1-for-2 for trainer Eric Heitzmann.

 

Just Might Figures to Relish Class Relief in Scherer

Stakes Winner Exits Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

New Orleans (December 16, 2020) – A strong group of 11 lines up for the $75,000 Richard R. Scherer Memorial, though none of them get the class relief that Just Might does, as the local stakes winner exits a run in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Run at 5 ½ furlongs on the turf, the Scherer rates as a strong supporting feature on the six stakes Santa Super Saturday card.

Griffon Farms and trainer Michelle Lovell’s homebred Just Might (post 6 at 5-1 with Colby Hernandez) won the local Colonial Power over the course and distance in February and has risen up the ranks this year. 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, which prompted Lovell to think big and head to Keeneland for the November 7 Turf Sprint. Just Might drew poorly in post-2, didn’t break as well as expected, was quickly eighth early and wound up last-of-14. Lovell knew she was taking a shot and will hope for a better break in the Scherer, a race that isn’t brimming with early pace.

“It was a tough spot, and unfortunately, we had the 2-hole, Lovell said. “He didn’t break fast enough, got bumped, and that was it. It was disheartening, but he came out of it great, and with a clean beginning we hope to be on or close to the front on Saturday.”

Just Might, who is 3-for-20 lifetime, has blossomed this year after running well without breaking through in the allowance ranks to end 2019 and start 2020. He used an off-the-turf romp in a local optional-claimer in January as a springboard to his Colonel Power upset, and has only improved from there. His trainer has been there from the beginning.

“Ever since he was a baby, the farm always liked him early, and he’s really come into his own since,” Lovell said. “He was difficult to break, and gelding him helped with his maturity. It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of it from the beginning. This horse is very special to me.”

Contention runs deep in the Scherer, as no fewer than nine of the 11 entered are stakes winners, including Marc Detampel’s Guildsman (Fr) (post 2 at 10-1 with Florent Geroux), who won the Franklin Simpson (G3) at Kentucky Downs in September and enters off a close and troubled fifth-place finish in the Nearctic (G2) at Woodbine October 18. The 3-year-old son of Wootton Bassett (GB) is 3-for-12 lifetime and should be rolling from off the pace.

Trainer Steve Asmussen will start a pair, in Crawford Farms’ Racing’s Archidust (post 5 at 7-2 with Ricardo Santana Jr.) and Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Stonestreet Farms’ Nitrous (post 7 at 6-1 with Stuart Elliot). The former, a 4-year-old son of Verrazano, won the Wolf Hill and Get Serious at Monmouth Park this summer, while the latter, a 4-year-old son of Tapit, captured the locally run Thanksgiving Classic on the main track November 26. Nitrous is winless from just two turf tries.

Completing the Richard R. Scherer Memorial field from the rail out: Oakwood Stables Inc’s McFeely (50-1 with Erica Murray), who won the John Henry in July at Evangeline Downs for trainer John Ney and is cross-entered in the Buddy Diliberto later on the card; Gary Barber’s Lookin to Strike (post 3 at 10-1 with Shaun Bridgmohan); who won the Ontario Derby (G3) at Woodbine in 2018 for trainer Mark Casse; WSS Racing LLC and 4 G Racing LLC’s Hollis (post 4 at 5-1 with Gabriel Saez), wire-to-wire winner of the Pimlico’s Turf Sprint in October for trainer John Ortiz); Dare to Dream Stable LLC’s Embolden (post 8 at 15-1 with Angel Suarez), a two-time Virginia-bred stakes winner for trainer Mike Stidham; Town and Country Racing LLC and Gary Broad’s Real News (post 9 at 8-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.); Brad Grady’s Fast Boat (post 10 at 9-2 with Adam Beschizza), a close fourth in the Shakertown for trainer Joe Sharp; and  Lothenbach Stables Inc’s Tell Your Daddy (post 11 at 20-1 with James Graham).

 

Spectacular Gem Catches Loaded Diliberto Field

Turf Stars Galore Line Up in Highly Contentious Affair

New Orleans (December 16, 2020) – While the turf highlight of Fair Grounds’ 149thseason of racing—the Muniz Memorial Classic (G2)—is still over three months away, fans looking to get an idea of some of the possible contenders need look no further than Saturday’s $75,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial, as the 1 1/16-mile test drew an exceptionally talented field of 11. Local stakes winner Spectacular Gem looks as good as any on paper, though the task will not be an easy one in a field that has combined to win 16 stakes and earn over $5 million.

Candie Baker’s Spectacular Gem (post 11 at 4-1 with James Graham) has been always been a consistent horse for her husband, trainer Jimmy Baker, but the 4-year-old son of Can the Man has really turned the corner of late, winning an optional-claimer at Churchill Downs in June and the Kentucky Downs Preview Tourist Mile at Ellis Park in August. That run prompted Baker to try Churchill’s Turf Classic (G1) in September, and Spectacular Gem was a close fifth. He enters Saturday’s assignment off a strong third in a Keeneland allowance October 8. Baker was looking for a soft spot to ease back in to the stakes fray, though he knows he got anything but in the Diliberto.

“I was hoping it would be a little easier down here for him to set up for bigger things down the road,” Baker said. “He’s training good and had a tough fall, couple of tough races, but this one looks like it’s going to be just as tough.”

Spectacular Gem is 6-for-18 lifetime, which included a 2-for-4 mark over the local Stall-Wilson Turf Course. With an outside draw Baker expects his colt to be involved throughout, and doesn’t want to take away his best attribute, even though he is plenty versatile.

“He got such natural speed, I hate to wrangle him back,” Baker said. “Last year when he was 2nd in a dead-heat (here in the Woodchopper in December), he didn’t break well at all and he came from far back, so I don’t really feel like he has to have the speed. But speed is dangerous and he has a lot of it.”

Three Diamonds Farm Cross Broder (post 4 at 3-1 with Colby Hernandez) looms a major player for trainer Mike Maker. The 6-year-old son of English Channel was placed first in Saratoga’s Bowling Green (G2) in August and has kept some heady company this year. Cross Border is 9-for-29 lifetime, which includes a close fifth in Belmont Park’s Manhattan (G1) in July and a second in Saratoga’s Sword Dancer (G1) in August. He enters Saturday’s race off a third in Belmont’s October 24 Mohawk.

Ten Strike Racing’s Dot Matrix (post 3 at 4-1 with Florent Geroux) is another New York invader long on class. He won the John B. Connolly Turf Cup (G3) at Sam Houston in January, was eighth in the Manhattan and sixth in the Bowling Green, though he was beaten less than 4 lengths in both. The 7-year-old son of Freud is 10-for-37 lifetime for trainer Brad Cox and most recently was fourth behind Cross Border in the Mohawk.

Completing the Buddy Diliberto field from the rail out: JPS Racing’s Logical Myth (15-1 with Adam Beschizza), 3-for-4 against lesser over the local turf for trainer Joe Sharp; Lothenbach Stables Inc’s Captivating Moon (post 2 at 8-1 with Jose Lopez), who won last year’s off-the-turf Diliberto and is also cross-entered for Saturday’s finale, the Tenacious; trainer Louie Roussel’s Sailing Solo (post 5 at 5-1 for Mitchell Murrell) , who has wired three straight at Gulfstream Park, including the September 7 Mr. Steele; Inchy Bridge Stables LLC’s Argentello (Ire) (post 6 at 15-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.), winless in five U.S. starts for trainer Connor Murphy; Bloom Racing Stable’s LLC’s Henley Joy (post 7 at 12-1 with Ricardo Santana Jr.), trained by Steve Asmussen and winless in eight starts since winning the Belmont Derby (G1) in July 2019; Oakwood Stable’s McFeely (post 8 at 50-1 with Erica Murray), who won the John Henry at Evangeline Downs in July 19 and is cross-entered in the Richard R. Scherer earlier on the card for trainer John Ney; DARRS Inc’s Militiaman (post 9 at 15-1 with Angle Suarez), an allowance winner for trainer Mike Stidham; and Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Tenfold (post 10 at 12-1 with Gabriel Saez), a two-time graded stakes winner and millionaire on dirt for Asmussen who has yet to try the turf.

The Diliberto is the first leg of the traditional 50-cent late Pick Five.

 

Dalika the One to Catch in Blushing K.D.

Stakes Winner Should Control the Early Pace

New Orleans (December 16, 2020) – Pace makes the race in Saturday’s $75,000 Blushing K.D., which drew a full field-of-12 fillies and mares lined up to go 1 1/16 miles over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course. Though the winner could come from anywhere, there’s little doubt that Dalika (Ger) is the one to catch.

Bal Mar Equine LLC’s Dalika (post 3 at 3-1 with Miguel Mena) has been a handful in her two seasons of racing for trainer Al Stall Jr., as the 4-year-old daughter of Pastorius (Ger) has often times run well, though not without testing her trainer’s patience. Stall has tried her both long and short on the turf, and after a 3-year-old season that included a second in Churchill Downs’ Mrs. Revere (G2) in November, things finally clicked this September at Kentucky Downs, when Dalika dueled through hot fractions and pulled clear to win the One Dreamer.

“She’s a tough horse to train and is very headstrong, so we tried a few different things with her, including sprinting, and that really didn’t help her settle down either,” Stall said. “She’s run well routing and after some black type as a 3-year-old it was great to get her a stakes win at Kentucky Downs.”

The One Dreamer prompted Stall to take a shot at the elite of the division in Keeneland’s October 3 First Lady (G1), which was a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Dalika, who is 4-for-15 lifetime, lost all chance at the start when she almost went to her nose, then checked immediately after. She found herself several lengths behind the leaders in an instant, and became extremely rank throughout the run to the first turn. It was a testament to her talent that she was still able to finish fourth, beaten just 5 lengths by 2019 Champion Turf Female Uni (GB). Stall is hoping for an alert beginning Saturday, which will make Dalika easy to find.

“If she breaks well, we expect her to be on the lead,” Stall said. “If you watch the last race at Keeneland it was even worse than it looks on paper. She broke several lengths behind the field and was behind some really nice horses, so she really didn’t have much of a chance.”

Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Secret Message (post 8 at 5-2 with Florent Geroux) is clearly the class of the field for new trainer and four-time defending Fair Grounds champion Brad Cox. The 5-year-old daughter of Hat Trick (JPN) won four stakes for trainer Graham Motion, including the Mint Julep (G3) at Churchill in May and she changed barns after being purchased for $625,000 at the Keeneland Association November Breeding Stock Sale 2020. Secret Message is 6-for-19 lifetime and enters off a strong third in Woodbine’s October 18 E.P. Taylor (G1).

Lorian Francesca Peralta-Ramos’ Quick Witted (post 1 at 6-1 with James Graham) enters off a pair of second-place allowance finishes on the turf at Churchill and Keeneland, respectively, for trainer Ignacio Correas. Third in the locally run Albert M. Stall Memorial in February, the 6-year-old daughter of Afleet Alex is winless in four starts this year but is on the improve off her two most recent starts. Quick Witted, who is 3-for-23 lifetime, figures to save all the ground, and has the look of a live longshot.

Completing the Blushing K.D. field from the rail out: Pocket Aces Racing LLC’s Temple City Terror (post 2 at 12-1 with Adam Beschizza), who won an optional-claimer here 16 days ago for trainer Brendan Walsh; Teresa and David Palmer’s Strike My Fancy (post 4 at 12-1 with Colby Hernandez), a close second in the Ellis Park Turf in July for trainer Matt Shirer; Tony Crognale and Fred Dullano’s Curlin’s Journey (post 5 at 15-1 with Aubrie Green), a close seventh in the One Dreamer for trainer Dallas Keen; Bloom Racing Stable LLC and Barry Ostrager’s Kuora (Per) (post 6 at 15-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.), who won an September 23 optional-claimer at Churchill for Correas; C R K Stable’s Elle M’a Souri (Fr) (post 7 at 15-1 with Ricardo Santana Jr.), second in a July 24 Saratoga for trainer Cherie DeVaux; Ten Strike Racing and Todd Monken’s Aife (post 9 at 20-1 with Shaun Bridgmohan), 2-for-3 over the course for Shirer; Ismael Thoroughbreds LLC’s Russian Mafia (post 10 at 20-1 with Santo Sanjur), third, beaten just a neck here by Temple City Terror for trainer Eduardo Rodriguez; Love Partnership Interests LP’s Valentines Day (post 11 at 20-1 with Gabriel Saez), who has won two straight in the allowance ranks at Remington Park for trainer Bret Calhoun; and Hoffman Family Racing LLC and Steve Landry’s Beautiful Trauma (post 12 at 8-1 with Dean Saez), a winner of 3-of-7 but making her turf debut for trainer Tom Amoss.