The Fair Grounds Opens Today / Highlights Tom Benson Memorial

(Pacific Pink Headlines Tom Benson Memorial on Fair Grounds’ Opening Day — This Thursday / Photo by Hodges Photography & Courtesy of the Fair Grounds)

From the Fair Grounds Media Team:


A dozen Louisiana-bred fillies and mares are set to kick off the stakes program at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in the $50,000 Tom Benson Memorial Overnight Stakes – the featured event on Opening Day, Thursday November 15.

The 3-1 morning line favorite for the one mile test over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course is Pacific Pink who breaks to the outside under Colby Hernandez in for the field of twelve and will look to add a ninth stakes win to her accomplished resume. The 6-year-old daughter of Private Vow enters the Tom Benson off of a victory in the October 19 Magnolia Stakes over the main track at Delta Downs, where she finished three quarters of a length in front of fellow entrant Safari Calamari (post three, 10-1, Luis Negron). Owned by Keith Plaisance and trained by Eddie Johnston, Pacific Pink is no stranger to stakes success, which include a turf stakes win in the Elge Raspberry Stakes in September 2015 at Louisiana Downs and a triumph against open company in the Spotted Horse Stakes over the Evangeline Downs main track in June 2017.

In addition, Pacific Pink also boasts the highest bankroll of the 12 runners with career earnings of $717,770 and has won twelve of her 32 career starts. The Tom Benson Memorial will be her first start on grass since March 17, where she was fourth beaten 3¼ lengths in the Red Camelia Stakes over the local going.

Looking to give the accomplished mare a run for her money are the Brittlyn Stable Inc.-owned pair of Mr. Al’s Gal (post ten, 7-2, Adam Beschizza) and Bermuda Star (post 11, 7-2 Diego Saenz), the latter of which has cross-entered in Delta Downs’ Treasure Chest Stakes on the following day. Sure to show plenty of speed in either race, the 4-year-old daughter of Salute The Sarge will make her first start since a third-place effort against open company in the Spotted Horse Stakes at Evangeline Downs on June 22 and has not finished off the board in her last eight starts. Her recent octet of performances consist of a win in last year’s edition of Delta Downs’ Magnolia Stakes where she finished 2¼ lengths ahead of Pacific Pink in gate-to-wire fashion. Two starts back, she won the Louisiana Legends Distaff Stakes at Louisiana Downs by 1½ lengths on May 26. Mr. Al’s Gal is trained by Justin Jeansonne.

Bermuda Star is the lone daughter of leading Louisiana sire Star Guitar in the Tom Benson field and looks to make amends following a fifth place finish in the Ricks Memorial Stakes at Remington Park on September 30. Trained by Victor Arceneaux, the 4-year-old winner of six starts has found success in stakes events on both surfaces, most recently the River Cities Stakes at Louisiana Downs on September 2, which was run over a yielding turf. She also took the Louisiana Cup Distaff by four lengths over a firm going at the Shreveport oval on August 4 over Eskenformore (post nine, 12-1, James Graham) and Ourgoldshalaylee (post six, 20-1, Hector Del-Cid).

Rounding out the field are Mi Copa Rebosa (rail, 15-1, Jack Gilligan), Remember Daisy (post two, 6-1, Mitchell Murrill), Temple Shadow (post four, 20-1, Ty Kennedy), Hyper Piper (post five, 12-1, Marcelino Pedroza), Vanishing Image (post seven, 50-1, Aubrie Green), and Royal Alexandra (post eight, 15-1, Joe Bravo).

The Tom Benson Memorial Overnight Stakes is named in honor of the late New Orleans businessman and philanthropist who owned the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans. Benson was also a lover of Thoroughbred horse racing and owned a number of race horses with his wife Gayle under the name G M B Racing, including graded stakes winners and Kentucky Derby contenders Mo Tom, Tom’s Ready and Lone Sailor.

About Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the nation’s third-oldest racetrack, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, LA, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN); it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and 11 off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. The 146th Thoroughbred Racing Season – highlighted by the 105thrunning of the Louisiana Derby – will run from November 18, 2017 through March 31, 2018. More information can be found online at


The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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