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Barn Notes: Sunday, February 22

@AdolphsonRacing
 

IN TODAY'S NOTES
*INTERNATIONAL STAR EXITS WELL, LOUISIANA DERBY NEXT
*CHOCOLATE RIDE PUTTING HIS BEST FEET FORWARD
*COUP DE GRACE AND TAPITURE ZIP IN WORKOUTS
*SATURDAY STAKES HAT TRICK FOR GEROUX
*TWO STEP TEMPER TO BLACK GOLD


INTERNATIONAL STAR EXITS WELL, LOUISIANA DERBY NEXT

Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s International Star has exited his win in Saturday’s Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots well and will now focus on the Grade II $750,000 Louisiana Derby, according to trainer Mike Maker.  The gutsy bay son of Fusaichi Pegasus won the second consecutive graded stakes of the meet after taking the Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 17 – both under jockey Miguel Mena.


CHOCOLATE RIDE PUTTING HIS BEST FEET FORWARD

John Wentworth’s Chocolate Ride came out of his win in Saturday’s Grade III $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in fine form, according to trainer Brad Cox.  A recent Churchill Downs claim from the barn of Mark Casse, the son of red-hot sire Candy Ride cruised to the front under Florent Geroux and ambled through fractions of :49.03 and 1:13.26 before putting his rivals away by mid-stretch and winning the 1 1/8-miles turf event by just under two lengths in near track-record time.

The victory was the 5-year-old gelding’s second in a 14-day span – both at the same course and distance – following a 3½-length first level allowance score on Feb. 7.  The Cox stable, which is split between Oaklawn Park and Fair Grounds, is headed locally by assistant trainer Ricky Giannini, who has been integral in the venture to keep Chocolate Ride’s fragile feet sound.

“He came out good,” Cox said.  “(Giannini) said everything was good with him this morning.  He really gets the credit for holding (Chocolate Ride) together.

“One of the reasons he was in for a claim was his bad feet,” Cox explained.  “He had performed really well on turf and (his former connections) had put him on the dirt (in a claiming race).  We decided to drop (a claim for) him.  We thought if he can compete on dirt, we’ll keep him at Oaklawn.  If he likes the grass, we’ll send him to Fair Grounds.  He seems to love the grass and the warmer climate (at Fair Grounds) is much better for the feet.”

Since that $40,000 Nov. 21 claim, the half-brother to Grade I Hollywood Starlet winner Killer Graces has earned $105,400 for Cox with two wins and a second from four starts.  His only poor showing was a failed attempt on the dirt on Jan. 17.  His race in the Fair Grounds earned him a 99 Beyer Speed Figure and 105 Equibase Speed Figure, with the former only three points below the best in the nation so far in 2015. 

“When I saw him go :24, I said they would have trouble catching him,” Cox said.  “Then, on the turn I thought they weren’t going to catch him because this horse is fit – he just ran two weeks ago.  Everything set up for us.”

Next up for Chocolate Ride might be Grade II $400,000 Mervin H. Muniz, Jr. Memorial Handicap on Mar. 28, for which the Fair Grounds was the course and distance prep. 

“It’s definitely on the radar,” Cox confirmed.  “With him it’s all about where his feet are.  You really have to watch his feet and you can’t plan too much with him because of them.”


COUP DE GRACE AND TAPITURE ZIP IN WORKOUTS

Graded stakes winners Coup de Grace and Tapiture put in the two fastest five-furlong moves on Sunday morning at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, going :59.60 and 1:00 flat, respectively.  Both horses are possible to race before the end of the meet at the New Orleans oval, with Coup de Grace the more probable of the two, according to owner Fox Hill Farm. 

Trained by Larry Jones, Coup de Grace earned his third bullet in his last four workouts.  The son of Tapit’s connections are looking for a sprint allowance for the two-time graded sprint stakes winner before possibly attempting to stretch him out to two turns.  Winchell Thoroughbreds’ four-time graded stakes winner Tapiture, on the other hand, has no concrete plans, but the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap is on trainer Steve Asmussen’s radar.

Tapiture’s stablemate, reigning champion 3-year-old filly Untapable, also put in a five-furlong drill Sunday morning, negotiating the distance in 1:01.80.  The Grade I $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 10 is possible as her first start of 2015. 


SATURDAY STAKES HAT TRICK FOR GEROUX

Jockey Florent Geroux had a huge day on Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, winning three stakes, including two graded events.  The native of France won the $60,000 Bayou Handicap on Lothenbach Stables’ Eden Prairie, the Grade III $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap on John Wentworth’s Chocolate Ride and the Grade III $175,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Fletcher and Carolyn Gray’s I’m a Chatterbox.  The 28-year-old moved into second in the win standings with 54 victories – well behind runaway leader James Graham’s 81 – and third in the earnings, with $1,629,035 in purses.  The hat trick was the fourth time since Jan. 8 that Geroux had won three or more races on a card and his fifth stakes win of the meet moved him into second behind Graham’s eight.


TWO STEP TEMPER TO BLACK GOLD
Trainer Mike Maker confirmed that he will be going after another Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots stakes with a ship-in when his Two Step Temper, owned by Get Away Farm, enters the $60,000 Black Gold Stakes for sophomores over 7½ furlongs on the Stall-Wilson turf course on Feb. 28.

Fresh off a 3-year-old debut that saw the dark bay son of Two Step Salsa outkicked by Coolmore’s highly regarded The Great War in the $75,000 96 Rock Stakes on Turfway Park’s Polytrack over 6½ furlongs, the Florida-bred may appreciate a return to the two turns and grass surface that embodied his first three races, including a win over the Black Gold’s distance at first asking on Nov. 8 at Gulfstream Park West.  The $55,000 OBS grad has already shipped in to Fair Grounds for the race and worked on Feb. 16, going a half-mile in :48.80.