(Maxfield / Coady Photography)
From the Fair Grounds Media Team:
There may have been an anxious moment or two at the start of the $200,000 Mineshaft (G3) but there were hardly any late. Godolphin’s homebred Maxfield remained undefeated in five starts and delivered another “wow” performance in his comeback, registering an easier than it looked 3 ¼-length win over Sonneman on Louisiana Derby Preview Day at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Maxfield, under Florent Geroux, hopped in the air at the start of the Mineshaft and found himself at the back of the six-horse field while longshot Dinar cleared on the lead and opened up a big edge early. A tight field that expected to have a slow pace was turned upside down on the backstretch, as Dinar continued to barrel along, opening up 10 lengths while rattling off a half-mile in a snappy 47.49. The complexion of the Minefield predictably changed entering the far turn, as Blackberry Wine and Chess Chief were the first to move, with Maxfield quick to take up the chase. The .60-1 favorite overpowered the leaders in midstretch, kicked clear with authority over late-rallying Sonneman, who was a half-length ahead of Chess Chief.
Maxfield, a 4-year-old son of Street Sense, has always been thought of as one of the most talented horses in training, though actually training has proven to be a bit of an obstacle for trainer Brendan Walsh. Entering the Mineshaft, Maxfield had started just four times in three seasons of racing and was forced to miss the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2019 with a minor foot injury and then got derailed off the Kentucky Derby Trail last year when he came out of a June workout with a condylar fracture of his right front cannon bone.
Walsh, as patient and talented a horseman there is on the grounds, was forced to back off again and point to 2021. Maxfield got going again in the local December 19 Tenacious, beating Sonneman by an easy 2 ½ lengths. After a very brief illness that forced Maxfield to miss about a week of training, the Mineshaft was up next, and it marked just the second time Walsh’s stable star has been able to put back-to-back races together. Walsh deflected the majority of the credit on to a horse who is now 5-for-5, with earnings of $615,262.
“He’s just a special horse; you point him in the right direction and he does it for you,” Walsh said. “It’s a privilege to have him in our barn. I’d like to thank the whole team at Godolphin, (owner) Sheikh Mohammed, and the whole team. And my team as well; they’ve done some fantastic work, my two assistants. He’s really progressed and he’s turning into the horse we always hoped he would be.”
Maxfield burst on to the scene at 2 when he won the 2019 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland but couldn’t make the Juvenile. The song played out the same in 2020 when he won
Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn (G3) in May only to be forced off the Derby Trail with the aforementioned fracture. Walsh has never really allowed himself to look that much into the future with Maxfield, for obvious reasons, but with the $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) looming March 27, it could be time for a big step up in class.
“’We’ll see (about the World Cup),” Walsh said. “We’ll go back, see how he comes out, talk to the team, and come up with a plan. All options are open. We’ll enjoy today. He’s making the progress we want him to make and I think we’re in great shape with the horse.”
Geroux rode Maxfield for the first time in the Tenacious and got rave reviews for putting him into the race early, as the colt was thought as a come-from-behind closer during his first three starts. Showing early speed quickly went out the window in the Mineshaft, when dinar ran off early, not that he took note.
“I generally didn’t pay any attention to the horse on the lead, I just rode my horse” Geroux said. “Whatever he was comfortable with was good with us. The key I think with this horse is getting him into a nice rhythm, whatever is comfortable, even if it’s closer or farther. Whatever is comfortable. From there I was just clocking the horses in front and when I asked him down the lane he gave me a very nice kick.”
Courtlandt Farms’ Sonneman was game in defeat and improved on his fourth-place finish in the local Louisiana (G3) January 16. The 4-year-old son of Curlin was second to Maxfield in the Tenacious for trainer Steve Asmussen, who won’t complain if Maxfield doesn’t show up for the New Orleans Handicap (G2) here on Louisiana Derby Day March 20.
“He ran his race but Maxfield is just a good horse,” Asmussen said. “I was happy with his effort and we’ll point him to the New Orleans Classic.”
(Trainer Michelle Lovell / Coady Photography)
Just Might Speeds Off to Colonel Power Repeat
Versatile Sprinter Wires Off-the-Turfer After Winning it on Grass Last Year
Turf or dirt, sloppy or fast, it doesn’t matter to Just Might. Putting a pair of tough-luck stakes seconds at the meet behind him, the defending Colonel Power champion repeated in the $100,000 stakes—albeit this year on the dirt—leading every step of the way for a 5-length win over favored Extravagant Kid in what kicked off a six-pack of stakes action on Louisiana Derby Preview Day at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Trainer Michelle Lovell and Griffon Farms’ homebred Just Might (2.70-1) broke running under Colby Hernandez in the off-the-turf Colonel Power, which was run over a fast main track, and set a strong pace of 22.36 and 44.89 over while being chased early by Bango. Well within himself over a track playing to speed, Just Might was also well ahead of 1.60-1 favorite Extravangant Kid, who broke a bit slow and settled in last in the field-of-six. Just Might widened while in hand turning for home, opened up in midstretch, and easily coasted clear under the line, stopping the timer in 1:02.75 over a closing Extravagant Kid, who finished three quarters of a length in front of Went West.
Just Might, a 5-year-old son of Justin Phillip, has been one of the better turf sprinters in the Midwest the past several seasons, with a resume highlighted by last year’s Colonel Power win over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course. He entered off a pair of “win the battle lose the war” second-place finishes in the local Richard S. Scherer Memorial in December and Kenner, but had also won by 7 ¾ lengths in the slop over the track and distance last year. Lovell knew the Colonel Power wasn’t your typical off-the-turf race.
“He ran against some nice dirt horses today; Brendan’s horse (Extravagant Kid) is really good on the dirt and obviously (dirt stakes stalwart) Manny Wah,” Lovell said. “I thought it was a real tough race on the dirt. Usually I like it when it comes off because you get a few good scratches but he beat some nice horses.”
Regardless of surface, Just Might has shown plenty of speed in his races, which was that much more important over a main track that had been playing to speed during the first half of the card.
“After watching the first two races and then beyond, I knew we had to send,” Lovell said. “We never asked him away, so we figured we’d better send him away and try to keep an advantage if we got it.”
Just Might improved to 4-for-23 lifetime and is now a stakes winner on turf and dirt. He was third in Churchill Downs’ Turf Sprint (G2) and Keeneland’s Woodford (G2) last year and clearly has the look of a major player wherever he resurfaces for the rest of the year. Hernandez has been aboard his last six starts—all on turf—though he knows Just Might’s speed plays on any surface.
“I think he’s as good on dirt as he is on turf; it doesn’t matter,” Hernandez said. “He breaks so sharp and he’s got natural speed and we used that to our advantage. When I called on him at the top of the stretch he just ran on.
DARRS’ Extravagant Kid became racing’s newest millionaire with the runner-up effort, the third time he’s settled for second in three starts this year for trainer Brendan Walsh. The 8-year-old son of Kiss the Kid is an eight-time stakes winner and has now earned $1,001,610 in a 14-for-49 career. Extravagant Kid broke a bit slow under Florent Geroux and therefore spotted the winner a few more lengths than expected early on.
“He moved a little when the gate opened and was a little further back behind the leaders, as opposed to being on their heels, but he ran great,” Walsh said. “I’m proud of him; he’s run good again and he shows up every time. With sprinters, you’re not going to win all the time. Everything’s got to go perfect; if the smallest thing goes wrong, which it did a little bit here, you’re not going to win. But to earn a million dollars, we’re really proud of him.”
Stall Jr. Celebrates Emotional Victory with Dalika in a Race Named for His Late Father
German-bred Mare Wins Her Second Stakes of the Fair Grounds Meet
In previous editions of the Albert M. Stall Memorial, a race named for his late father, trainer Al Stall Jr. presented the winning connections the trophy for the $100,000 listed stakes race. In today’s 53rd running of the 1 1/16-mile turf event, Stall Jr. got to take home the trophy as his 5-year-old mare Dalika (GER) returned to the winner’s circle with a one-length victory.
Dalika, under jockey Miguel Mena, completed the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:45.16 over the “soft” turf course.
The race was run for more than seven furlongs with nearly unchanged positions as His Glory and jockey Gabriel Saez lead the field through moderate fractions of :24.67 and :49.91. Just passed the 1/16th pole, Dalika overtook His Glory while holding off several late challengers to win the Al Stall Memorial.
“She’s a German-bred so they run over soft goings over in Europe,” Mena said. “I thought going into it she’d love it. I tapped her a little bit on the shoulder and she was loving it. She was doing it all on her own.”
There were very few dry eyes in winner’s circle as Stall celebrated the victory with several members of his family.
“It’s funny how things come together,” an emotional Stall said. “We’ve been giving the trophy away in this race for the last couple of years to Bill Mott and Joe Sharp – good friends of mine. We’re lucky enough to have a filly to be live in this race. Everything went our way.”
There was a stewards’ inquiry and a jockeys objection lodged against Dalika for interference in deep stretch with fourth-place finisher Joy Epifora but the result stood as posted.
Dalidka who was the 1.90-1 second choice in the wagering, just $1,011 less than Secret Message. She won the Blushing K. D. earlier in the meet, but finished fourth as the 1.40-1 favorite in the Marie Krantz Memorial last time out. She improved her record to 5-4-0 through 17 starts with purse earnings of $337,005.
The Al Stall Memorial is named after the longtime chairman of the Louisiana Racing Commission and member of the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame who passed away in 2017.
Additional Stall Memorial quotes:
Brendan Walsh, trainer Temple City Terror (runner-up): “She’s turning into a hard knocking filly. She’s a pretty admirable filly, too, and has shown a great heart. If you look at her form she’s gradually started to get better. It’s taken her a bit but she’s getting better.”
Florent Geroux, jockey Temple City Terror (runner-up): “Today was a little tricky with the yielding ground but I think it helped her. She ran well over the soft ground at Churchill in the past. She closed ground well in between horses today and ran well.”
Captivating Moon Pulls Shocking 43-1 Upset
in Fair Grounds Stakes
Chris Block-trained 6-Year-Old Closes from Last Over Soft Turf
Lothenbach Stables’ Captivating Moon returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since 2019 with a powerful 1 ¾-length score as the longest price on the board in the 53rd running of the $150,000 Fair Grounds Stakes (G3).
Run at 1 1/8 miles on the “soft” turf course, Captivating Moon rewarded his backers with an $89 win mutuel while stopping the clock in 1:50.27 for 1 1/8 miles over a soft turf.
Trained by Chris Block and ridden by Marcelino Pedroza, Captivating Moon now boasts a stout 29-race record of 5-8-5 with $608,118 in purse earnings.
In early stages of the race, 9-5 favorite Factor This dueled on the lead with the speedy Spectacular Gem through fractions of :23.35, :48.14 and 1:12.20. While the two pacesetters were ding-donging up front, Pedroza and Captivating Moon were more than 10 lengths off the pace. It wasn’t until the three-sixteenths pole when Captivating Moon began to show his turn of foot and stormed down the center of the Fair Grounds racecourse.
“When I entered him, the thought process was I would rather be in this race if it came off than any other place,” Block said. “When it was left on I thought we had no choice but to run. He does like a soft turf and has been training really well between the last couple of races. When he went up the backside I felt pretty good about things. He looked pretty good underneath Marcelino and around the turn when he advanced nicely, I felt pretty good. He was on his left lead, which I don’t really like, but he was making up so much ground doing it. When he ran at Churchill as a 3-year-old the turf course was really soft in the American Turf (G3) and he loved it. I thought he might like this.”
This was the first graded stakes victory for Pedroza through his 11-year career.
“I was trying to save some ground in the first part of the race,” Pedroza said. “He was handling things so good. He loved the soft turf. When I tipped out I knew I had a lot of horse. I kept him out of trouble. He’s a big horse and had a lot of energy left. Chris said to me in the paddock he thought he would love the turf course and he really did.”
Logical Myth and Adam Beschizza finished second for trainer Joe Sharp and Peace Achieved under Declan Carroll held third.
“We’re extremely proud of him,” Sharp said. “He didn’t exactly have things his way today but fought all the way to the wire. He finished in front of some very nice horses so we’re going to keep moving forward with him.”
Defending Fair Grounds champion Factor This finished fifth as the 1.80-1 favorite for trainer Brad Cox.
“He probably went a little quick given the ground but that’s sort of his style. We’ll regroup and see what the Muniz looks like and hopefully that will have firmer ground.”