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Honorable Duty Refuses to Lose in New Orleans

 DARRS, Inc.’s Brendan Walsh-trained Honorable Duty cannot catch a break with bettors at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, but that does not stop him from breaking through to victory. In his third consecutive stakes event this season, the son of Distorted Humor proved superior to his fellow handicap division members, winning the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap by a neck in one of the more determined efforts in recent memory. Somehow sent away by the wagering public at 8-1, despite winning the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap at 5-1 last out and the Listed Tenacious Stakes at 6-1 a race prior, he ran down Gunpowder Farms and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Grade I-placed Canadian classic winner Breaking Lucky in the final strides under a textbook, all-grit-no-quit drive by 2014-15 meet champion jockey James Graham. The final time, after the Reade Baker-trained runner-up set a swift pace under Luis Contreras of 23.50, 46.63, 1:10.35 and 1:35.22, was 1:48.35 for the 1 1/8 miles. It was another five lengths back to Stonestreet Stables and Regis Racing’s Iron Fist in third for trainer Steve Asmussen. John C. Oxley’s Noble Bird, the 9-5 favorite, faltered after stalking under Florent Geroux, checking in sixth of nine.

Honorable Duty paid $18.80, $8 and $4.60, while Breaking Lucky returned $5.60 and $4.60 and Iron Fish returned $6.60 to show. He won for the sixth time in 12 starts and increased his career bankroll to $501,276 with the $240,000 first-place prize.

“He’s getting better and better with every start,” Graham said. “His work last week was unbelievable and that’s the way he ran today, just came home real strong. When I picked him up and asked him to go, he ran hard all the way to the wire.”

“[Gelding him before the Tenacious] really helped,” Walsh added. “He got to the point where his mind was getting the better of him and he wasn’t going to advance without doing that and so we did it and he’s done nothing wrong since.”

“I was watching the races from earlier and it’s been all speed,” Contreras said. “He broke good, so I gave him a chance to run and once I was on the lead, he relaxed for me the whole way. Even with (Iron Fist) on the outside, he was relaxed. I waited, because of the long stretch, until past the quarter pole to ask him and he went again. It was in the last sixteenth that (Honorable Duty) was really coming and got me in the last jump.”

“I was content with the trip,” jockey David Flores said of Iron Fist. “He broke and I just stayed out of his way. I just wanted to let him be comfortable, and he was, we just ran out of horse the last quarter-mile.”

“Sometimes he can get rank, but I had a lovely trip,” Geroux said. “I tipped him out at the half-mile pole to give him a chance and he didn’t go on.”

Eagle, Hawaakom, Noble Bird, Mo Tom, International Star and Aglimpseofgabby completed the order of finish.