(Jockey Brian Hernandez / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the Fair Grounds Media Team:

A non-factor in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and Clark (G1) in his last two starts, Charles Fipke’s homebred Title Ready woke up with a drop in class Saturday to take the $125,000 Louisiana (G3) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, one of four stakes for older horses on the “Road to the Derby Kickoff Day” card.

A clear fourth in the early going under Brian Hernandez, Jr. while chasing pedestrian fractions of 25.28 and 49.53 set by Blackberry Wine (5.50-1), the Dallas Stewart-trained Title Ready commenced his rally on the turn for home, closed strongly to take the lead outside the sixteenth pole, and drew away in the end to win by 1 ¼ lengths at odds of 5.50-1, with a final time of 1:44.27 for 1 1/16 miles. Blackberry Wine held firmly for second, 2 lengths in front of the 2.10-1 favorite Wells Bayou in third.

“You know, coming out of two grade 1’s, he’s not chasing Authentic and those horses around there today,” Hernandez, Jr. explained. “We thought that if he broke good and got himself in the race, it would benefit him. With them going 25 and 49, that put us into the race, and made his running kick a whole lot stronger. Like I said, it was just a different class level today. He’s run against the best in the country his last two starts, so to kind of take a step back today, he showed he was the best horse.”

With the win, Title Ready boosted his career mark to 25-5-6-4 with earnings of $656,680. It was his first graded stakes win, although he’s now hit the board five times in such events.

“He’s a beautiful More Than Ready colt that Mr. (Charles) Fipke bred and he shows up and runs hard all the time,” Stewart said. “We know he’s been running against the best. These are some very nice horses that he ran with today, but he showed that he loves the Fair Grounds.”

In what was his first graded stakes appearance since finishing seventh in last year’s local Risen Star (G2), Calumet Farm’s homebred Blackberry Wine was valiant in defeat for trainer Joe Sharp.

“Probably I was a little bit lucky because Wells Bayou was coming off an eight-month layoff and I’m sure their team tactics weren’t to be too forceful,” jockey Adam Beschizza said of Blackberry Wine’s uncontested early pace. “He had everything his own way and we sprinted off the turn and we just got outrun in the end. He stepped up in class today and that was probably his toughest task to date.”

The winner of last year’s Twin Spires Louisiana Derby (G2), Wells Bayou hadn’t been seen since finishing a tired sixth in the May 2 Arkansas Derby (G1). The Brad Cox-trainee spied the speed to the top of the stretch but failed to make a dent late, holding off Sonneman by a head for third.

(Manny Wah / Coady Photography)

Turf No Problem for Manny Wah in Kenner

Stakes-Placed Dirt Runner Wins Grass Debut

No one would have argued with you if you thought Susan Moulton’s Manny Wah would win a stakes race in 2021, but tell them it would be on turf and you may have gotten some funny looks. That’s how the script played out on Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots however, as Manny Wah inhaled a game Just Might nearing the finish line to score by 1 ¼ lengths in the $100,000 Duncan F. Kenner over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course.

As had been his custom on dirt, Manny Wah, overlooked at 12.80-1, showed little early speed in the Kenner, settling at the back of the seven-horse field under Miguel Mena, while Readyforprimetime (3.00-1) and Just Might (5.20-1) blazed away up front, with neither giving an inch through torrid fractions of 22.19 and 44.62. The script remained unchanged to midstretch, when Just Might began to assert himself. He took a short lead over Readyforprimetime, while Manny Wah drafted up and reached contention on the inside. Mena guided him out and off the rail and took dead aim on a pair of leaders who began to wilt a bit from their demanding early fractions. Manny Wah pulled clear late, completing the 5 ½ furlongs over a firm turf course in 1:02.38. Once again Just Might and Colby Hernandez won the battle but lost the war, like in last month’s Richard R. Scherer Memorial when he finished a head in front of Hollis.

Manny Wah developed into a reliable stakes sprinter in 2020 for trainer Wayne Catalano, as he placed in such events four times, though he was never able to break through for a win. The 5-year-old son of Will Take Charge was a troubled but close fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November at Keeneland and entered the Kenner off a second in the local November 28 Thanksgiving Classic. With no local dirt stakes in the near future, Catalano opted to finally try the turf with Manny Wah, who improved to 4-for-23 lifetime.

“Steve Leving, the racing manager and adviser for Susan (Moulton) kept saying I want to put this horse on turf,” Catalano said. “I told him ‘We’ll get our day’ and today was it. We took a shot to run him on turf and he proved us good. I thought it was a very impressive effort and he just sprouted wings, as they would say.”

Mena, aboard Manny Wah for the first time, knew the playbook after competing against him on dirt, but admitted he was surprised at how easy things happened.

“He did his usual and dropped back on the backside but he was traveling great,” Mena said. “I called on him in the stretch and he was rolling. I didn’t even have to hit him. He loved the turf.”

Just Might once again ran huge in defeat for trainer Michelle Lovell after dueling on the lead early. The 5-year-old son of Justin Phillip pulled a similar trip in the December 19 Scherer, when he dueled through intense fractions, took the lead in deep stretch, and was run down nearing the line by Archidust, who finished last in the Kenner as the lukewarm 2.50-1 favorite.

“He just keeps running as hard as he can and coming up just a little short,” Lovell said. “We thought he could be the speed of the speed but I told Colby if he doesn’t make the lead, then just keep him close, and he did. He rode a great race.”

(Secret Message / Coady Photography)

Secret Message Rolls Late in Krantz

Cox Mare Jumps Forward in Second Start for Barn

Taking advantage of a favorable pace scenario, while making her second start for trainer Brad Cox, Spendthrift Farm’s Secret Message bided her time early and powered clear late for a 1 ¼-length win over Room to Finish in the $100,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial.

Secret Message, sent off as the second-choice at 2.40-1, settled in seventh early on the inside under Shaun Bridgmohan as Jeanie B (GB) (3.90-1) set the pace, with heavily favored 1.40-1 Dalika (Ger) glued to her outside while ensuring honest early splits of 23.57 and 48.34 over a firm Stall-Wilson Turf Course. The race began to quicken off the far turn, as Jeanie B and Dalika were sprinting, while Secret Message tipped out 6-wide and Room to Finish (9.50-1) held her position on the inside. The early pace took its toll in deep stretch while Bridgmohan produced Secret Message mid-course, and she flew home over a ground-saving Room to Finish. Jeanie B held well to be third, while the 1.40 favorite Dalika was a disappointing fifth.

Secret Message, a 6-year-old daughter of Hat Trick (Jpn), made the first 19 starts of her career for trainer Graham Motion, winning six times, including the Nassau (G2) at Woodbine in 2019 and Mint Julep at Churchill Downs in May 2020. Sent through the sales ring at the Keeneland Association November Breeding Stock Sale 2020, Secret Message was purchased for $625,000 and turned over to Cox for a 2021 campaign. She kicked things off in the local December 19 Blushing K.D., where she stalked in fourth and flattened out late to finish third, 3 lengths behind Dalika. Cox admitted he expected a bit more last time but was happy Secret Message redeemed herself in the Krantz.

“We really liked her in her last race and we were definitely disappointed with the outcome of the last race,” Cox said. “We were hoping we would get a little better trip today and setup today and we got both. Shaun (jockey Bridgmohan) did an excellent job of executing the plan and it worked out great.”

Bridgmohan was aboard Secret Message for the first time but he had done his homework on a stretch-running mare that he knew would be there late.

“The pace quicker than the last time and I watched a couple of her replays and Brad and I had discussed it and we basically came up with a good plan and tried to execute it and it worked out,” Bridgmohan said.

Room to Finish ran well in defeat while facing open stakes foes, as she entered off a win in the restricted December 12 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Turf for trainer Wayne Catalano. The 6-year-old daughter of Giant Oak saved ground early and had a bit of trouble inside, but still rallied home nicely under Adam Beschizza.

“We got a little unlucky as I rode to close to save all the ground and there was room, then there was no room,” Beschizza said. “She’s a horse that doesn’t have a huge burst and she needs to be very fluent.”


Truth Be Told, Logical Myth Scores Again

Former Claimer Wins His Second Consecutive Turf Stakes at Fair Grounds

JPS Racing’s Logical Myth continued his love affair for the local Stall-Wilson Turf Course, winning his second stakes of the meet with a comfortable 2 ¼-length victory over Big Agenda in the $125,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley.

Logical Myth, the 3.00-1 second-choice, stalked in third early on the inside under Adam Beschizza as Big Agenda (6.00-1) and 2.20-1 favorite Spectacular Gem set an aggressive pace of 23.59 and 48.17 over a firm turf course. The leaders floated a bit off the far turn while tiring and opened up the rail, which Logical Myth surged through for a decisive score. He stopped the timer for 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.13 and moved his career record to 6-5-0-0 over the Stall-Wilson. Big Agenda gamely re-rallied late to beat his pace rival Spectacular Gem by a nose.

Beschizza has proven an integral part of the success story that is Logical Myth, as he’s been aboard for his last five starts. The pair stalked and won the Diliberto by a desperate head in a blanket finish but things weren’t quite as dicey this time around.

“The rail seemed to open up a lot earlier than the last day,” Beschizza said. “He’s really turned the page this horse and he really seems to know his job. He loves his routine in Joe’s barn and he seems to have flourished since the change.”

Logical Myth, a 5-year-old son of Data Link, has been a revelation of sorts since trainer Joe Sharp claimed him for $40,000 in May at Churchill Downs, as he’s now 6-3-2-1 for his new connections. He’s even more potent over the Stall-Wilson, and his resume heading in to the Bradley included a win last time in the December 19 Buddy Diliberto Memorial. All told, Logical Myth is now 7-for-18 lifetime and has clearly hit a new gear in Sharp’s barn.

“He’s a steadily improving horse,” Sharp said. “I thought the race was going to set up good for him today with the nice inside post and Adam has gotten a lot of confidence in the horse from riding him in the morning and in the afternoon. He’s getting better and better and it looks like the best part of the year is still ahead of him.”

Big Agenda was a surprising pacesetter, as Spectacular Gem and fifth-place finisher Sailing Solo dueled early in the Diliberto, but after breaking alertly and finding no other opposition, jockey Florent Geroux decided to take the initiative.

“Those two horses had been going out but they decided to take back today and I decided to take it,” Geroux said. “He traveled nicely and dug in late. (I thought) he was beat (for second) but tried really hard and re-rallied for second-place.”