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Max Me Out Wins Woodchopper; Populist Politics, Sweet Ruston Take Divisions of La. Futurity

Max Me Out, owned by the partnership of D&G Racing, Diamond Racing and 4-Star Thunder, responded with some stretch-running thunder of his own and drew off late for a 1 3/4-length tally in the $60,000 Woodchopper Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on New Year’s Eve.

As it turned out, it was the thunder and the rain of New Orleans weather earlier in the day that played a prominent role in the Woodchopper win, because the trainer entered Max Me Out in the scheduled grass test hoping the race would be taken off the Stall-Wilson turf course and run on the main track.

“That was the plan all along,” said winning trainer Leo Gabriel Jr. in post-race comments. “We weren’t going to run on the turf, so we kept an eye on the weather hoping it would come off. Actually, we thought there would be a lot more scratches when the race was taken off the grass, but as it turned out we didn’t need them.”

Max Me Out returned mutuels of $11.40, $4.80 and $2.60, toured the mile and 70 yard-distance in 1:45.19 and increased his career earnings to $129,955 with his fourth win in 16 lifetime starts. Jamie Theriot rode Max Me Out to give the Louisiana native his third winner of the afternoon.

Richard Rudolph and Michael Vranich’s Royal Express, who made the pace with splits of 24.17 and 48.39, held down the runner-up spot at the wire, paying $5 and $2.80.

Favored Red Strike, owned by Sam-Son Farms, stumbled at the start, surged into contention despite the bad beginning, but lacked the needed late response. The son of Smart Strike finished third, two lengths in arrears of Royal Express, and paid $2.40 in the show spot.

POPULIST POLITICS WINS LA. FUTURITY (COLTS AND GELDINGS DIVISION) – Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Populist Politics shied from the mud which flew in his face during the early part of Friday’s colts and geldings division of the $109,825 Louisiana Futurity but then responded to the urgings of jockey Richard Eramia when finding clear running room along the rail to close late and win the six-furlong state-bred affair by a length and three-quarters.

“I thought we lost all chance when he shied away from that mud early,” said trainer Tom Amoss in post-race comments. “Usually they won’t get going again when that happens. I give a lot of credit to Richard for managing to keep him going after that happened. The way he ran today makes me think he might be able to get a route of ground, and if he continues to show that he can do that then the ($75,000) Crescent City Derby (March 25) might be a logical place to go.”

Populist Politics, who now remains undefeated after breaking his maiden at first asking on opening day this season at Fair Grounds, toured the three-quarter mile distance in 1:12.72, increased his career earnings to $88,095 with his second straight win, and paid $7.40, $3.40 and $3. 

Favored Toro Bravo, owned by Coteau Grove Farms, pressed the pace, could not withstand the winner when challenged but was easily second best, finishing four lengths to the good of Good Tyme Racing’s Pale Blazer, who cut out early fractions of 21.87 and 46.13 before weakening against the top two.

Toro Bravo returned $3 and $2.40 while Pale Blazer paid $3.80.

SWEET RUSTON BEST IN LA. FUTURITY FILLY DIVISION – Earlier in the afternoon, Richard Ringo’s Sweet Ruston, trained by Mike Burgess, pressed the pace, gained the advantage in mid-stretch and drew off late for a 3 1/2-length tally in Friday’s filly division of the $107,125 Louisiana Futurity.

“I couldn’t get her to switch leads – maybe because it was her first time over a sloppy track – so I just let her go on and do it her way,” said winning jockey Corey Lanerie after the race. “She’s still learning.”

Sweet Ruston, winning for the second time in four career starts, increased her lifetime earnings to $106,475, accomplished the six-furlong distance in 112.92 and paid mutuels of $5.20, $3.20 and $2.10.

Oak Leaf’s Illustrious Dream got up to be clearly second best, returning $7.80 and $3 while finishing two lengths in front of JRita Young Thoroughbreds Take Me Home Too, who paid $2.20 to show after making the pace with early splits of 22.28 and 46.97 before weakening in the lane.

Racing resumes Saturday at Fair Grounds with an 11-race program featuring the third running of the $60,000 Blushing K. D. Handicap for older fillies and mares at about 1 1/16 miles over the Stall-Wilson turf course.  First post time is 12:40 p.m.