Ask Joe Gives Klesaris Sweet Victory in Sugar Bowl

NEW ORLEANS, La. (December 20, 2008) - Trainer Steve Klesaris was ready to celebrate after Ask Joe captured the 58th running of the $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes by a head over Big Push in the finale of a five-stakes program at Fair Grounds.

When invited to a champagne toast in honor of Ask Joe's victory - which coincidentally was Klesaris' first of the meet - he quickly responded: "Let's do it!

"It was a tough beginning," added Klesaris, who brought his stable to New Orleans this season after recent winters in South Florida, "but this was a good way to break out of it."

Ridden by Miguel Mena, Ask Joe was allowed to settle early, challenged for command in the final eighth of a mile and got up in the final strides.

Ask Joe paid $24.80, $11.40 and $7.70 and accomplished the six furlongs in 1:10.53. It was the third win in five career starts for the son of Najran and increased his career earnings to $91,050.

Big Push, who pressed the pace throughout, held second at the wire, finishing a half-length to the good of front-running Valid Stripes, who set early fractions of  :22.04 and :45.63 before giving way grudgingly in the final furlong.

Big Push paid $5.80 and $4.20, while Valid Stripes returned $6.40.

The Sugar Bowl was one of five stakes races on Santa Super Saturday.

In the day's other juvenile stakes test, the Ronny Werner-trained Leigh McLovin justified her favoritism with a wire-to-wire win in the 50th running of the $60,000 Letellier Memorial Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, getting the six furlong in 1:10.47 after early splits of :21.80 and :45.69,

"I wasn't planning to go to the front," said winning jockey Robby Albarado, "but she was going easy.  I didn't really ask her until the 3/16ths pole."

Leigh McLovin paid $5.60, $3.20 and $2.60, while finishing four lengths in front of runner-up A Day for Dancing, who returned $4 and $2.80.  Hug It Out finished third, returning $3 while a half-length farther back.

The winner increased her career earnings to $69,080 with her second victory in three career starts.

Werner and Albarado teamed up for another stakes win in the $60,000 Esplanade for older fillies and mares, as odds-on favorite Secret Gypsy took command in upper stretch and proved four lengths the best.

Secret Gypsy paid $3.20, $2.40 and $2.20 and cruised through the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.22 following pacesetter Kalookan Dancer's early fractions of :21.97 and :44.94.

"Pound for pound, she's as quick as they come going five-eighths, (or) six furlongs," said Albarado, who won his 99th career stakes race at Fair Grounds.  "Ronny's done a great job with her."

Kalookan Dancer held second with mutuels of $7.40 and $5.60, with Precious Kiss returning $5.40 while finishing a length farther back.

The day's other two stakes, both on turf, followed a familiar script from this day in 2007, with trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan teaming for wins.

In the $60,000 Bonapaw Stakes for sprinters, Storm Treasure wore down front-running favorite Chamberlain Bridge in the late stages to win by a length and a half.

Storm Treasure, who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint in October, returned $6.20, $2.60 and $2.10 while covering about 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.24. Chamberlain Bridge, who led the field through early splits of :23.08 and :47:12, paid $2.20 and $2.10.  John's Road returned $3.40 to show.

"He (Storm Treasure) came home about as fast as anybody can," said Scott Blasi, assistant to Asmussen of the 5-year-old who increased his career earnings to $673,019 with his sixth lifetime win from 30 starts.

In the $60,000 Woodchopper for 3-year-olds, Jimmy Simms made a stretch rally for a 3 1/4-length win.

"This is a pretty nice little horse," said Bridgmohan, who also had a third win on Saturday's card. "I've had multiple opportunities to work him in the mornings, and I've always thought he had a lot of ability.  Today he gave me a nice powerful late kick."

Jimmy Simms increased his career earnings to $103,085 with his third win from seven starts and covered about one mile in 1:39.21 over the firm grass footing.

The winner paid $7.80, $4.20 and $3.60. Runner-up Evade returned $7.20 and $5, while finishing three lengths to the good of Acting Zippy, who paid $6.60.

Pacesetter Myboycharlie set early fractions of :24.49 and :48.71 but tired to finish fourth. Betting favorite Macho Again, second in this year's Preakness, was making his turf debut in the Woodchopper and finished a well-beaten sixth.

Though Ask Joe produced the only double-digit win mutuel in the day's final six races, no one hit the Pick 6 again on Saturday, generating a $53,835 carryover into Sunday's 11-race card. First post is 12:30 p.m. CST, with the Pick 6 beginning on the afternoon's sixth race, scheduled for 2:50 p.m.

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the nation's third-oldest Thoroughbred racing facility, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN); it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and nine off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. Fair Grounds' 137th Thoroughbred season will run from Nov. 14, 2008, through March 29, 2009, and its inaugural Quarter Horse meet was conducted from Aug. 20-24, 2008. Information about Fair Grounds can be found on the Internet at www.fairgroundsracecourse.com.