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BARN NOTES: March 4, 2016

  • ·        Forever Unbridled Zeroes in on Apple Blossom
  • ·        Ahh Chocolate Nearing 4-Year-Old Bow
  • ·        Stewart Trainees Dominate Work Tab




She may be just a Grade III winner, but Forever Unbridled is one of the more highly regarded fillies based at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. A three-time winner who carries a two-race winning streak – each in rich Grade III events, the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston and $300,000 Comely Stakes at Aqueduct – the daughter of Unbridled’s Song is now aiming toward her first Grade I try since finishing a disappointing 11th in the $1,000,000 Kentucky Oaks on May 1, 2015.

Since that attempt, she has started three times, including a sharp fifth – beaten less than two lengths – in the Grade II $250,000 Raven Run Stakes over seven furlongs at Keeneland in October and won the two aforementioned two-turn races. Out of Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever, the bay filly is a full-sister to Unbridled Forever, who won a Grade I in her 4-year-old season last year when taking the $500,000 Ballerina over seven furlongs.

Forever Unbridled will next attempt the Grade I $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on Friday, Apr. 15. Possible combatants that day include champion Untapable, Eclipse Finalist I’m a Chatterbox, multiple graded stakes winner Cassatt and Grade II winner Ahh Chocolate.

“She’s doing great,” Stewart radiated. “She looked awesome working today. She’s training really well for the Apple Blossom. She’ll be good with the gap between races. It was about 60 days between her last two and will be about 70 between Houston and the Apple Blossom.

“The plan is to aim for the (Grade I $2,000,000) Breeders’ Cup (Distaff) and work our way backwards,” Stewart continued. “This is the start of it and we’ll likely make stops at Belmont and other places in the meantime.”



Grade II winner Ahh Chocolate is nearing her 4-year-old debut for trainer Neil Howard and breeder-owner Stoneway Farm. An improving type, the daughter of Candy Ride capped her 3-year-old campaign with a stylish victory in the Grade II $200,000 Falls City Stakes at Churchill Downs last out on Nov. 26.

In recent weeks, the bay filly has returned to the work tab for Howard at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, impressing with a series of smart works, including a couple of sub-49-second half-miles and finishing up well in a six-furlong move in 1:14.20 on Thursday morning.

“She’s really doing well and we’re pointing to the ($50,000 Esplanade) overnight stakes here (on Mar. 18) for her,” Howard said. “If that race doesn’t go, we’ll consider the (Grade II $300,000) Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn (Park on Mar. 19).

“She looks fantastic – just great,” Howard continued. “We gave her 30 days off after the Falls City and I feel like we stopped on her and gave her a break at the perfect time. It seems to have worked out so far and we’ll see how she comes up to the first race back.”

After breaking her maiden on debut going six furlongs at Fair Grounds on Feb. 21, Ahh Chocolate was Grade II-placed in her third start, the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico before a pair of poor efforts in graded stakes company. Given a little over a month break, she returned in late September to win a second-level allowance at a mile before earning another Grade II placing at the same trip two starts later in the $200,000 Chilukki Stakes and finally breaking through the graded stakes blockade in the Falls City.

“We’re thinking that if everything is okay, she will hopefully compete in the upper-level races this year,” Howard said. “She’s won a Grade II and we think she could be better as a 4-year-old and we’ve always felt that way. It’s pure conjecture right now, but the obvious graded stakes filly and mare races coming up are in our sights – but we have to get through this first start, first.”



A day after G M B Racing’s Dallas Stewart-trained Tom’s Ready delivered one of the more impressive works of the week, Friday morning saw stars of the Stewart barn taking center stage at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Highly regarded Lemon Drop Title, a Charles Fipke homebred, worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 for Stewart. Long expected to do big things, the son of Lemon Drop Kid came back from a 10-month layoff to fall a head short in a mile and 70-yard first-level allowance on Feb. 13. The long-striding bay colt, who has yet to finish out of the money in four starts, will look for the same condition in coming weeks.

Northwest Tale, a smart winner in allowance company going six furlongs last out over highly regarded Larry Jones trainee Sapphire Seas, worked a half-mile in 50 flat for owner-breeder Fipke.

Fipke’s homebred pair of Lemon Drop Belle and Ready for Chianti worked in tandem for Stewart, each working a half-mile in 49.80. The move was Ready for Chicanti’s second since impressively taking a Feb. 6 maiden special weight event on the grass and Lemon Drop Belle’s first since a disappointing eighth in the Grade II $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Feb. 20.

Lastly, the big filly in the Stewart barn, Forever Unbridled worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 for Fipke. She starts next in the Grade I $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on Apr. 15.


Michael Adolphson | @AdolphsonRacing
Media Specialist, Senior Writer