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Stormy West, Sammie Sam Capture FG Opening Day Stakes
NEW ORLEANS, La. (November 14, 2008) - After challenging for command entering the lane, Diana and Guy Snowden's Stormy West quickly drew clear and then withstood late challenges from Final Refrain and Barbette to capture the inaugural running of the $60,000 Blushing K. D. Handicap, the co-feature on opening day of Fair Grounds' 137th season Friday.
The winner paid $7.80, $4 and $2.60 and got the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:45.91.over the sloppy main track after early fractions of :23.13 and :46.69. The filly and mare test was originally scheduled for the Stall-Wilson turf course. Stormy West increased her career earnings to $292,653 with her fourth victory in 11 starts.
Final Refrain finished second, three-quarters of a length to the good of Barbette. Final Refrain paid $4.40 and $3, while Barbette returned $4.80
"I just got her to relax," said winning rider Pat Valenzuela of Stormy West, who is conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. "She took the lead earlier than I wanted but then she had the will to prevail."
In the other co-feature, the $60,000 Si Cima Stakes for Louisiana-breds at 1 1/16 miles, Valene Farms' Sammie Sam took command at the top of the stretch and drew off late for an impressive seven-length tally.
Sammie Sam returned $11.20, $5.60 and $3 under jockey Francisco Torres. The gray mare by Autocracy, trained by Sturges Ducoing, increased her career earnings to $318,602 with her seventh victory from 28 starts.
"I got her to rate early, kept her out of trouble and let her do her thing," said Torres of Sammie Sam, who accomplished the 1 1/16-miles in 1.45.18 after early splits of :23.85 and :47.97.
Go Atm finished second, three and a half lengths to the good of favored Collectzcat. Go Atm paid $520 and $3, and Collectzcat returned $2.40.
Saints owner Tom Benson, who campaigned Si Cima to multiple stakes victories at Fair Grounds in the late 1970s, was on hand with his family to make the trophy presentation. The owners of Blushing K.D., James and Sue Burns, also were trophy presenters on Friday.
Opening weekend at Fair Grounds continues Saturday with the $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes for state-breds on turf serving as the feature. First post is 12:30 p.m. CST.
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.