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BARN NOTES: November 21, 2015

  • ·        Heitai Racing’s Newest Millionaire
  • ·        Geroux: Big Money Rider in The Big Easy
  • ·        Cassatt Ready to Roll for Jones
  • ·        Ride on Curlin Ready for New Orleans
  • ·        John’s Luck to Champions Day Juvenile
  • ·        Jones High on 2-Year-Olds
  • ·        Work Tab



Rowell Enterprise’s Louisiana-bred Heitai became racing’s newest millionaire with a valiant second-place finish on Saturday’s third race at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The son of Fusaichi Pegasus set fractions of 21.86 and 44.75 over the sloppy and sealed going before being worn down to a photo-finish loss by 18-1 mud-loving Top Cat Boogie in a final time of 1:11.10. Trained by 11-time leading conditioner Tom Amoss, 5-year-old Heitai now has a record of 33-15-10-3.



Jockey Florent Geroux enters the 2015-16 Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots meet in the rare position of topping a career year in 2014 with another career year in 2015. After winning his first Breeders’ Cup race in his initial try with Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Work All Week in November of 2014, the 29-year-old native of Argantan (Normandy), France, and father of two recovered from a slow beginning to the 2014-15 meet to – like his victorious ride on Midwest’s The Pizza Man in the Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million – finish with a flourish.

Unlike the aforementioned son of English Channel, Geroux did not win, but finished in a three-way tie for second along with veterans Miguel Mena and Francisco Torres (behind champion James Graham) – while ruling the grass course with a meet-leading 37 wins over the lawn and a stats-topping 21% strike rate. On the dirt, Geroux was no slouch – easily sweeping all three major stakes for 3-year-old fillies with Fletcher and Carolyn Gray’s I’m a Chatterbox en route to a sophomore season that should likely land the daughter of Munnings on the Eclipse Award ballot. He would go on to win multiple graded and ungraded stakes on both surfaces – including four races worth $1 million or more, two more Breeders’ Cup races and currently has $9.5 million in purses earned – ranking 12th in the nation in that category.

“I’m getting a little more attention than last year,” Geroux said. “Maybe they thought I was getting lucky last year with a 20-1 shot (Work All Week). This year, I had a solid meet here at the Fair Grounds and then continued to Arlington and did well while winning multiple graded stakes races with Grade I horses like The Pizza Man and I’m a Chatterbox. Still, there are a lot of good jockeys here, even with James Graham gone. There’s also a lot of good business for the riders.”

Business has taken off and diversified for Geroux, with no lack of diligence from his adept agent and former racing secretary Doug Bredar. The team has traveled the country in 2015, while also knocking heads with the best at premier engagements such as Keeneland’s spring and fall meets.

“Trainers like Steve Asmussen, Larry Jones, Mike Stidham, Brad Cox, Eddie Johnston and Wayne Catalano are giving me good opportunities,” Geroux continued. “I rode Street Story and Regally Ready for Asmussen and they both are very good horses, for example. It’s nice to have that kind of support from such great trainers. I’m riding Thirteen Arrows for Jones at Zia Park in a stakes this week and I have a nice mix of old and new supporters.”

Despite already having won two $1 million Grade I races this year – the Cotillion and Arlington Million – going into the event, the Breeders’ Cup may have been the tipping point for Geroux, as far as earning national respect. In the Grade I $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, he guided Gary Barber’s Mark Casse-trained Catch a Glimpse to a well-timed victory over highly regarded Irish invader Alice Springs. A day later, at odds of 16-1, he overcame the outside post to win the Grade I $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint with Mongolian Stable’s Enebish Ganbat-trained Mongolian Saturday.

“I’m excited to possibly go to Hong Kong (for the Group I $2.4 million Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin) with Mongolian Saturday,” he said. “He’s a very tough, fast horse and the trainer has given me a great opportunity. He doesn’t need Lasix and I think he can win. I can’t wait to see what happens with Catch a Glimpse and I’m a Chatterbox, too. They’re both getting breaks and coming back and they’re both really talented fillies.”

One would think that Geroux, after such a successful year tasting success at many different tracks, would have an appetite for new races he would like to conquer. Yet, Geroux – the son of a successful French jockey – has learned to keep his focus like his dietary portions: simple.

“I try not to set certain goals, I just hope to get out of this meet with good horses like I did last year with horses like I’m a Chatterbox,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to have the right horses. Fair Grounds is a very fair track and the turf course is very fair and in amazing shape right now. You can ride proper races on both tracks and everyone has a chance. I just try to ride the best races I can and hopefully in the end I have the best horses when it’s all over.”



Fox Hill Farm’s talented graded stakes filly Cassatt has trainer Larry Jones excited to get her 2015-16 Fair Grounds season going. The six-time winner from 11 starts is 2-for-2 over the New Orleans oval, including a victory in the $50,000 Tiffany Lass last December. Since, she won the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic and injured herself while finishing last in the Grade I $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes at Santa Anita in March.

“She’s doing well,” Jones said. “Everything is good with her and we think we have her in a place right now where she’s over the little things that kept bothering her before. We still have high hopes for her. She’s very talented and has proven before what she can do when she’s right.”

The daughter of Tapit from the female family of Kitten’s Joy, Precious Kitten, Dreaming of Anna and Justenuffhumor – all top performers on the grass – returned to action for the first time in seven months when finishing fifth in a main track sprint allowance optional claimer at Keeneland going 6½ furlongs on Oct. 18.

“She had a bad start, but she had also thrown a bad race before at Keeneland, so maybe she just doesn’t enjoy running there. Perhaps it’s the big crowds and she gets to looking around,” Jones said. “Either way, she’s good now and we’re excited to run her.”

Cassatt was entered in Saturday’s co-featured eighth race – a one-mile turf allowance optional claimer – that drew multiple stakes fillies, but scratched the morning of the race. In as a main-track-only, she still may get her chance on the grass before her career is finished.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to eventually trying her on the grass,” Jones said. “She has the pedigree on her dam’s side for it and Tapit is an okay grass sire, as well. One of the main reasons for the ‘main track only’ is because we wanted to ride (Florent Geroux) and he is booked on (Eden Prairie).”

Jones confirmed that an early goal would be a defense of her title in the Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston.


Daniel Dougherty’s classic-placed Ride on Curlin hits the road from his Churchill Downs base on Sunday morning with the rest of trainer Billy Gowan’s horses and heads to New Orleans to spend his winter at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The son of Curlin from a speedy and classy female family will seek his first stakes win – despite placing in three Grade I races, including the Preakness – when he goes postward in Thursday’s $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap on Nov. 26. He completed his final preparations for the race with a five-furlong move in 1:01.60 on Friday morning at Churchill Downs.

“He’s great right now,” Gowan said. “He worked the right way yesterday. He’s sound, moves good and his legs are cold – so it’s time to run him because you never know until you bring them back. He’s never won past six furlongs in his life, but I think he could be a good miler. I’m not sure he’s a top sprinter, but he’s a fast horse and owns a track record going five and a half (furlongs) – so I think he can compete there. Plus, I think he’ll love that long stretch. Hopefully there will be speed in there so he can use that big punch he has to get them in the end.”

Despite never winning a stakes, the bay 4-year-old colt has earned $780,287, including a perfect 2-for-2 at the Thanksgiving’s six-furlong distance. So far in 2015, he has started only four times, tailing off considerably in his last two – both graded stakes events. The Thanksgiving will be his first run since finishing last in the Grade II $400,000 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 1.

“He got sore and had bone bruising on his cannon,” Gowan explained. “He’s the smartest horse I’ve been around and may be smarter than I am. I think he protects himself when he’s not right. Hopefully he runs as well as he’s training. I want to keep him around all year. He’s turning five and this could be his best year.”



Valene Farm’s John’s Luck showed considerable improvement Friday night at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, going gate-to-wire under Leandro Goncalves for trainer Eric Heitzmann in a Louisiana-bred allowance event for 2-year-olds. The son of Old Fashioned broke first and never looked back, finishing up in 1:11.93 and winning by a length. Now, he will likely head to the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile at the same trip on Dec. 12.

“He came out of it in good shape,” Heitzman said. “He’s still green, but he’s getting better. He doesn’t like to be covered up too much and I didn’t want to have horses surrounding him after breaking from the three-hole, so we decided to go for the lead and it worked out.

“We’ll look at the Juvenile and the $100,000 (Louisiana) Futurity for his next two races and then think about stretching him out in the future,” he continued. “He’s still improving.”



Trainer Larry Jones will take two live shots at Rachel Alexandra’s juvenile half-brother Dolphus in Sunday’s sixth race – a six-furlong maiden special weight with some promising young entrants – when he starts Brereton C. Jones and Ned Jones’ Mason County and Dreamchaser Thoroughbreds’ All Out of Aces, whom he co-owns and bred.

“All Out of Aces a half to Hard Aces (above), who was able to win from a mile and a sixteenth to a mile and a quarter and showed what he could do in the (Grade I $500,000) Gold Cup at Santa Anita,” Jones said. “This will likely be his last sprint before we stretch him out. We think he has the talent and we hope he shows it.

“We think (Mason County) has some talent to him He has a good family. His dam is a half-sister to Into Mischief, who turned out to be a good racehorse and stallion, and Beholder – and some people believe she might be a good one,” Jones quipped. “We are hoping for and expecting good things. Hopefully he makes All Out of Aces work for the win.”



Windy Hill Farm’s multiple graded stakes-winning Nates Mineshaft put in the final prep for his expected start in the $60,000 Thansgiving Handicap for trainer Anne Smith on Thursday with a swift half-mile move in :48.20 – good for second-best of 71 moves at the distance Friday morning.

Fellow Thanksgiving Handicap entrant Speightsong worked a half-mile in a sharp :49 flat (sixth of 90) for trainer Grant Forster and owners Bond Stables, Naber Racing, et al. The stakes-winning son of Speightstown, previously with breeder Sam-Son Farm and trainer Malcolm Pierce in Canada, will make his first start for his new connections in the holiday event.

Multiple stakes winner A M Milky Way returned to the work tab for the first time since finishing seventh in the Grade III $150,000 Carry Back Stakes at Gulfstream Park on July 5, working three furlongs in :36.20 Saturday morning for trainer Karl Broberg and owner David Davis. Last season, the son of Elusive Bluff ran his first three races at Fair Grounds, including a useful victory at second asking.

Preston Stable’s stakes-winning turf sprinter Reflector, fifth last out in the $75,000 Turf Express at Evangeline Downs, worked five furlongs in 1:04.60 on Saturday morning for trainer Pat Devereux, Jr.

True to You continued to work up a storm with her third consecutive bullet work for owner Midwest Thoroughbreds and trainer Tom Amoss. The daughter of Scat Daddy worked a half-mile in :48.20, the best of 90, one week after working the same time in a bullet of 125. Two weeks ago, in her first workout in a month, she worked three furlongs in :35.40 – earning top-billing. Unraced since the $75,000 Cincinnati Trophy at Turfway on Feb. 22, she was third last year in the $50,000 Letellier Memorial in her lone Fair Grounds start.

Lothenbach Stables’ Scatter Gun (above), an impressive winner of her 2015 debut at Kentucky Downs and third last out in her dirt debut at Keeneland, worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.40 for trainer Neil Pessin. The daughter of Scat Daddy is being pointed to the $75,000 Pago Hop on Dec. 26, preferably with a local turf allowance prep beforehand.

Lightly raced multiple allowance winner Thirteen Arrows, a swift half-sister to Cross Traffic and Exodus, worked five furlongs in a sharp 1:00.40 for trainer Larry Jones and owner Fox Hill Farm. The daughter of Indian Charlie exits a nice Keeneland allowance victory and is headed to the $100,000 Zia Park Distaff at its namesake course Wednesday afternoon.

Maiden juvenile No Distortion (above) lit up the track quite nicely with a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.20 Friday morning for trainer Larry Jones and former Kentucky governor Brereton C. Jones. The chestnut son of Distorted Humor, who is 0-for-2 so far, is a half-brother to the Jones duo’s Grade I Kentucky Oaks, Grade I Alabama Stakes and Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks winner Proud Spell.

Three unraced juveniles worth keeping tabs on worked Friday and Saturday mornings: Saint Roch, Jazz Man and Lady Mocruella. A son of Street Sense trained by Al Stall, Jr., Saint Roch is owned by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, along with his wife Gayle through G M B Racing. The $60,000 Keeneland September 2014 purchase worked a half-mile in :49.40 in advance of his debut on Thanksgiving, Nov. 26. Jazz Man, a son of Hard Spun owned by Fox Hill Farm and trained by Larry Jones, had an easy three-furlong drill in :38 flat. Painted red and white all over by a Fox Hill pedigree, Jazz Man is out of Song of Solomon, a full-sister to the late Rockport Harbor. Bluewater Sales’ Lady Mocruella, from the Keith Bourgeois, blitzed the track Saturday morning with a bullet gate move in :48.20. Keep an eye on this Uncle Mo half-sister to two graded stakes winners, including seven-time stakes winner Leah’s Secret.


-Michael Adolphson
Media Specialist, Senior Writer