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Stakes Recaps: Colonel E. R. Bradley, Marie G. Krantz, Louisiana Stakes


STRING KING WEARS BRADLEY CROWN; NOTTE D’ORO SHINES IN KRANTZ; HARD ACES PASSES TEST IN LOUISIANA

The third time was the charm for the Charlie Smith-bred, -owned and -trained String King in the Grade III $123,750 Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course, one of five stakes comprising Road to the Derby Kick Off  Day Presented by Hotel Monteleone.

With leading jockey James Graham in the irons, the 7-year-old gelding overtook the Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey-owned pacesetter Gentleman’s Kitten approaching mid-stretch en route to a length and a quarter victory in 1:42.42 for the about one mile and a sixteenth race over a course labeled “good.”

“This is a marvelous horse who has won stakes at three, four, five, six and seven,” Smith said of the Louisiana-bred who was making a somewhat rare start out of the state-bred ranks.  “Outside of winning the Kentucky Derby, winning a Grade III in front of the home folks is enough for me. I can tell you the strength of this horse in one word – tenacity.”

The son of Crowned King, who finished second in the 2013 Bradley and fourth last year, is now a six-time victor over the Stall-Wilson turf course and bettered his overall record to 15 wins from 34 starts.  String King paid $8.20, $4.20 and $2.80, earning $75,000 to increase his bankroll to $818,552.

Gentleman’s Kitten broke alertly under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith and quickly went to front taking the field of eight through fractions of :24.17, :48.08 and 1:12.35.  He was engaged by the winner at the top of the stretch and battled that rival for more than an eighth of a mile before grudgingly giving way late, returning $4 and $3.

“(The winner) had to really run to get by me,” Smith said.  “I have no excuses.”

Gary and Mary West’s Highball made a late rally after being in tight quarters at the top of the stretch to just miss catching Gentleman’s Kitten for the place spot and paid $4 to show

“I thought he ran hard,” said Highball’s rider Shaun Bridgmohan.  “He had to overcome the pace. He tried and ran well.”

Infinite Magic, Golden Soul, Villandry, Pumpkin Rumble and All Stormy completed the order of finish.

“Good trip but I had nothing under me,” said Florent Geroux, who rode beaten favorite Gainesway Stable’s Villandry. “He was flat. He was feeling good and I thought I put him in a decent spot. I didn’t want to give him too much to do.  I was spotting the 5 (winner String King) all the way, but turning for home he just didn’t have it.”

In the day’s other turf race, Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Notte d’Oro made her stakes debut a winning one, capturing the $60,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial by a length. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro ran her record over the Stall-Wilson turf course to a perfect three for three with the victory after rallying from midpack. Tracking splits of :23.97, :49.06, and 1:13.70, she found a seam in the stretch and collared Lothenbach Stables’ defending champion Eden Prairie in the final yards, completing the 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:43.68.

Ridden by James Graham for trainer Mike Stidham, Notte d’Oro returned $11.00, $4.80 and $4.00 as the third wagering choice and gave Graham a sweep of the day's turf stakes. The $36,000 winner’s share boosted her career bankroll to $111,060.

Stidham indicated that the race’s distance may have been the biggest factor in the win. “It’s really the further the better with her, a couple of those one-mile races were probably too short for her. We always thought she was going to be a nice filly.”

The “good” turf course also posed little problem for the stakes debuter, as winning rider Graham added, “She liked a little cut in the ground and just wanted to keep grinding.”

Eden Prairie tracked the pace from close range under Florent Geroux and led in the stretch before settling for second for trainer Neil Pessin, returning $3.80 and $3.00. Pin Oak Stable's Hung the Moon, another Stidham trainee, rallied sharply for Miguel Mena at 51-1 to finish third, returning $13.40.

Race favorite Kitten’s Dumplings, a Grade I winner in her three-year-old season, never picked up and finished tenth at odds of 3-2.

Samiam, Midnight Sweetie, Malibu Yankee, Interest Free, Synapse, Maid on a Mission, Kitten’s Dumplings, and Every Way completed the order of finish.

Earlier in the day, trainer Larry Jones was in the winner’s circle as expected following the Listed $75,000 Louisiana Stakes, but not with Brereton Jones’ race favorite Albano.  Instead it was the Jones-trained DreamchaserThorobreds’ Hard Aces, sent off as the longest price in the field of five, who took home the top prize.

Ridden by Jose Riquelme, the 5-year-old son of Hard Spun made a four-wide move on the far turn to pull into the lead and draw clear to a four-length victory over Jim Tafel’s defending champion Fordubai in 1:44.61 for the mile and a sixteenth over a fast track.

“I tried to keep my horse in contention and when I asked him, he responded,” Riquelme said. “I couldn’t stop him so I kept him running.”

“This horse had a really good race over this track about three weeks ago (when second in the $50,000 Tenacious Handicap on Dec. 21) and Albano coming off that long layoff, I knew if there was ever a shot for this horse to beat Albano it had to be today,” said Jones who was saddling the first of two stakes winners on the card.  “We knew the mother (All in With Aces) was better at five. I trained her as well.  The Hard Spun (progenies) are really getting good at five.  He had two Grade I winners last year as 5-year-olds who had never been stakes horses before.  We were hoping this horse was good.  His last race was his best of his career and today was better than that.” 

The Louisiana Stakes was the first stakes victory for Hard Spun and his fifth in 19 starts overall.  The $45,000 winner’s share increased the homebred’s bankroll to $215,145.

Albano was another 2 ½ lengths back in third. “The race was a good tightener for Albano, he’ll be back in these things soon,” Jones said of the beaten favorite.

Windy Hill Farm’s Nates Mineshaft set fractions of :23.47, :47.17 and 1:12.07 before being overtaken in the stretch to finish fourth.  Grand Contender completed the order of finish.

Hard Aces paid $20.60, $5.80 and $2.60.  Fordubai returned $7.40 and $3.  Albano paid $2.10.