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ENFORCEABLE IMPOSES HIS WILL ON LECOMTE FOES
Steve Asmussen scores his 1,000th career stakes victory with
Silverbulletday victress Finite on “Road to Derby Kickoff” Day
One year ago, the Mark Casse-trained War of Will, who would later win the locally run Risen Star (G2) and eventually the Preakness (G1), stamped himself as a rising star on the Kentucky Derby trail when powering home to victory in the Lecomte (G3). The connections were hoping for a similar result with John Oxley’s Enforceable, and that’s exactly what they got in the featured race on “Road to Derby Kickoff Day” at Fair Grounds.
Off a step slow, the 3-year-old son of Tapit was forced to go four-wide around the first turn with jockey Julien Leparoux in tow. Eleventh of 13 early on behind honest fractions of 23.46 and 47.41, Enforceable settled into a comfortable position down the backstretch. He rallied six-wide turning for home and stayed on down the lane to score a 1 ½ length victory as the 6/1 fourth choice in a final time of 1:43.72. With the victory, Enforceable earned ten points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) presented by Woodford Reserve, and with a total of 13, he now sits second on the leaderboard.
Silver State (four Kentucky Derby points) closed well to be second and Mr. Monomoy (two Kentucky Derby points), the half-brother to champion Monomoy Girl, finished another neck back in third. Finnick the Fierce earned one Kentucky Derby point for finishing fourth. The lukewarm 3/1 post time favorite Scabbard finished fifth.
The Lecomte marked the fifth consecutive two-turn start for Enforceable, who now sports a career record of 7-2-1-2 with earnings of $267,150.
“Mark (trainer Casse) likes to put a good foundation into his two-year-olds,” said assistant trainer David Carroll. “We are so happy for Mr. and Mrs. (John) Oxley, they are terrific owners and we wish they were here today. I am sure they were watching at home, cheering him on. He trained beautifully down here and he is starting to mature. He’s a very kind horse to be around.”
“The pace set us up beautifully,” Carroll continued. “Julien (Leparoux) gave him a beautiful ride and we’re just so proud of this horse. He makes our job very easy. He has a terrific attitude and having him be so talented makes it even more enjoyable. Hopefully as the distances get longer, he’ll continue to get better. It was a nice field today and we are just so proud of his race.”
Carroll said that the Oxley’s and trainer Mark Casse would make the decision, but that the nine furlong Risen Star (G2) on February 15 at Fair Grounds would “make a lot of sense.”
“He broke like he usually does, not as fast as others,” Leparoux said of Enforceable’s start. “We traveled well the whole race and down the backside he was just dragging me. When we got around the second turn I got out in the clear and he had a big run. He’s a horse that I am very excited about.”
In what was his first try around two turns, Silver State, who was entering the Lecomte (G3) off a nose loss in an allowance race at Churchill downs in November in just his second career outing, put forth an impressive closing kick in his own right and got up for second for trainer Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana Jr.
“I think he ran pretty good,” Santana Jr. said. “It was his first time going two turns and he handled it well. We expect a lot from that horse in the future.”
$150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes (1 mile 70 yds, 3yo Fillies)
The career of Steve Asmussen seemingly knows no limitations, but in the end, it was Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC (Joan and Ron Winchell), Thomas J. Reiman, William Dickson and Deborah A. Eater’s Finite who will enter the record books as the Hall of Fame trainer’s historic 1,000th career stakes winner.
Sent off as the 3/5 favorite in the $150,000 Silverbulletday, the three-year-old daughter of Munnings was four-wide on the first turn and three-wide on the backstretch under jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. while stalking the early pace of Ursula through early fractions of 24.23 and 48.72. Finite put a head in front off the turn for home, but Ursula dug in, and both Portrait and Tempers Rising came running at her from the outside. When the dust settled, it was Finite who prevailed by a game neck over Ursula (four Oaks points), who didn’t give an inch. It was just another head back to Tempers Rising (two Oaks points) in third, and Portrait (one Oaks point, now three total) was beaten only 1 ¼ lengths by the winner while checking in fourth. The final time for 1 mile and 70 yards was 1:42.73.
The winner of the Golden Rod (G2) at Churchill in her previous start, Finite (6-4-2-0 for $458,349) earned ten points on the Road to the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) for her Silverbulletday score. She now sits third on the Oaks leaderboard with a total of 20.
“What a quality filly,” Asmussen said. “She is just another really special Winchell homebred. She has earned everything she’s gotten. She’s done everything we’ve asked of her. She battled, kept in front, and we are very proud of her.”
“She’s an amazing filly,” Santana, Jr. said. “She did a great job. She’s a fighting filly and I’m thankful we got the victory. She broke really good. I sat off the pace, she was really happy with our position. When the horses turned for home, I had a horse in the inside (Ursula) and horses to the outside. She (Finite) kept fighting all the way to the wire and we got the victory.”
In her first two-turn try in career start number four, Ursula ran a huge race to be second under Mitchell Murrill.
“We were hoping to have a good forward break from the gate and she put us on the lead, Murrill said. “I nursed her along as well as I could. She had a nice easy pace and was very comfortable. She sprinted home down the lane, but we fell just a little short.”
“I could not be prouder of how Ursula ran and how Mitchell (jockey Murrill) rode her,” trainer Mike Stidham added.
Only the third trainer in the history of Thoroughbred racing to reach 1,000 career stakes wins, Steve Asmussen now has 8,720 victories overall, 725 behind all-time wins leader Dale Baird (9,445).
“It was extremely fitting that it (the milestone) was accomplished with a Winchell homebred,” Asmussen said. “I think all of our success is based on family and that approach. From my parents, where they started, this is another filly that came through their program. Ron’s father Vern employed my father before we were doing this professionally. We feel like we are just at the tip of the iceberg with huge things in front of us.”
The Eclipse Award winner as Outstanding Trainer in both 2008 and 2009, Asmussen’s first career victory came in 1986 at Ruidoso Downs with Victory’s Halo. Of his 1,000 stakes wins, 251 are graded.
$100,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes (6 furlongs, 4yo/up)
In the $100,000 Duncan F. Kenner, the first of six stakes races run on the “Road to Derby Kickoff Day” card, Autumn Hill Farms Racing Stables LLC’s Bobby’s Wicked One made short work of just two rivals for trainer Al Stall, Jr. The 5-year-old son of Speightstown broke sharply and took full command early, through fast fractions of 22.02 and: 44.87. He opened up under his own power turning for home, and was never asked for his best by jockey Miguel Mena. As the 1/5 favorite he stopped the timer in 1:08.55, easily the fastest clocking of the meet for the six furlong distance. It was 4 ¼ lengths back to Hog Creek Hustle in second and Do Share checked in third.
“It was just a matter of getting a good break,” Mena said. “We broke well and were able to get out to the early lead. He’s a fast horse and does it well within himself so I was just along for the ride. He’s a nice horse.”
“Things went well for him here last year and they have obviously been going really well again this year,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said. “This is his home and we know he’s happy here. He stepped it up a notch today. We had this field measured with our early speed and the scratches of course but on his own he’s a really nice horse. Going from point A to point B in that final time and the way he did it geared down is certainly very impressive.”
“We’re going to keep him happy and healthy,” Stall continued discussing what the plan is next. “We might point him to the ($500,000) Count Fleet Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn (April 20, 6 furlongs, 4yo&up) and see what happens. Maybe at the end of the year he will be a Breeders’ Cup horse at Keenland which is another track he has put in some good efforts at.”
Bobby’s Wicked One, who won the Thanksgiving Classic on opening day of this Fair Grounds meet, now owns a career record of 15-6-4-1 ($544,257) and he has a near perfect record of 6-5-0-0 at Fair Grounds.
Something Special Racing, LLC (Patty Tipton and Beth Moore)’s Hog Creek Hustle, who was last seen finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) behind likely Eclipse Award Champion Sprinter Mitole, chased the winner but could not keep pace late.
“He ran great,” jockey Corey Lanerie said. “Al Stall’s horse is a tough horse. He was the only speed in the race today so we tried to be a little closer to him and hoped he wouldn’t get away from us. At the top of the lane I thought I was in striking distance, but he just wasn’t good enough today.”
$100,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes (1 1/16th miles turf, F&M 4yo/up)
After breaking sharply from post one under jockey Adam Beschizza, Connie and Richard Snyder’s Quebec took control of the early lead, set uncontested fractions of: 23.30 and: 48.09, found another gear off the turn for home, and was fully extended the final 1 1/16th of a mile before narrowly holding off the late charge of Don’t Tell Marge to win the $100,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial by a diminishing neck as the 9/5 favorite. It was just another head back to Stave in third. The final time for the 1 1/16th miles over a firm turf was 1:42.28.
Quebec, who finished fourth in the Pan Zareta in a turf sprint on December 28, was making just her second start since moving to the Joe Sharp barn from Southern California.
“Connie and Richard (Snyder) called me to say they were very optimistic with this mare,” Sharp said. “When we got her we just wanted to get a line on her and freshen her up a little. We did that and gave her a sprint race. Today we knew we had her in a good spot. I didn’t expect her to be on the lead the whole way herself, but I told Adam (jockey Beschizza) to not take anything from her. He managed it well and got the job done. I’m usually not an advocate of the one hole, but with a horse like her and her running style I was pretty confident. We’re looking forward for the rest of the year with her, including the next one here at Fair Grounds (Albert M. Stall Memorial on February 15).”
“She’s definitely a filly who doesn’t lack speed,” Beschizza said. “Today it was just a question of how to get to the lead. I was speaking to Joe (trainer Sharp) before the race and he said to just let her run. She seemed to get in front pretty easily and well within herself and we just hung on late.”
Quebec now owns a career record of 30-7-7-3 ($343.601).
Falling just short at the wire was 17/1 longshot Don’t’ Tell Marge, who was coming off a third place finish in an allowance race at Fair Grounds in early December.
“My horse ran great,” jockey Corey Lanerie said. “We had a good trip and got to the rail and stayed there pretty much the whole race. We got out and I thought I had it. We just missed, but I’m happy she ran a good race.”
$100,000 Louisiana Stakes (G3, 1 1/16th miles, 4yo/up)
Second in this race last year, Tom R. Durant’s Silver Dust left no doubt as to who was best in the 2020 edition of the $100,000 Louisiana (G3). Positioned perfectly in third early on by regular rider Jack Gilligan, he sat behind the moderate early splits of 24.80 and 48.16 set by Gun It. The 6-year-old son of Tapit took over off the turn for home, kicked clear in the stretch and was geared down in the final seventy yards of the 1 1/16 miles race, stopping the timer in 1:43.29. Blended Citizen, who off a step slow, got up for second, 4 1/4th lengths behind the winner. Gun It held on for third.
“He’s come a long way,” trainer Bret Calhoun said of Silver Dust. “He’s always showed a tremendous amount of talent. I was really excited a couple years ago, but he just didn’t get there in the afternoons. He’s finally gotten consistent and now he’s starting to live up to who we thought he was.”
“We will keep him here at the Fair Grounds and filter through this series (G3 Mineshaft next on February 15) and try to keep him fresh for a long campaign,” Calhoun continued. “If he keeps running like this, there are some big races throughout the year that would be nice to tackle. We want to keep him as fresh and consistent as we can.”
“The race worked out perfectly today,” Gilligan said. “He’s a big, strong horse and I was able to get him into the position I wanted. Bret (trainer Calhoun) and I have been really happy with how he’s been working recently. We knew he was going to run great today. His demeanor has changed, he feels like he loves his job now, whereas before he was a bit temperamental and would act up in the paddock and gate. Last time out (second in the Lukas Classic) he really made a turn around. He does everything the right way and couldn’t ask for a better result.”
An underachiever and his own worst enemy earlier in this career, Silver Dust has never been more professional than he was on Saturday. He now has three graded stakes wins, a career record of 25-6-7-2 and $702,277 in earnings.
Blended Citizen, who was last seen finishing a neck behind Pioneer Spirit in the $75,000 Tenacious Stakes at Fair Grounds in December, got up in the final jump for second over Gun It with jockey Florent Geroux aboard.
“Great trip,” Geroux said. “The winner was superior to my horse today. We’re still happy with second. It’s not a win but this horse ran well and we’ll move forward from here.”
The Louisiana was upgraded to a Grade III race in advance of this year’s running.
$125,000 Colonel E.R Bradley Stakes (1 1/16th miles turf, 4yo/up)
After sitting a dream trip in third behind a contested early pace for jockey Julien Leparoux, AJ Suited Racing Stables’ (Justin Nicholson) Dontblamerocket (6/1) took over from the tiring leaders at the top of the stretch and darted away by three lengths over Midnight Tea Time to take the $125,000 Colonel E. R. Bradley. The final time for 1 1/16 miles over a firm turf was 1:40.55. Factor This, who battled with Sailing Solo through early fractions of 22.76 and 46.95, held on for third. Mr. Misunderstood, the even-money favorite, finished last of eight.
Claimed for $50,000 in May, the six-year-old gelded son of Blame is now perfect from three starts for his current connections. It was the first career Fair Grounds stakes win for trainer Norm Casse.
“We had a big run around the turn and the race was over after that,” Casse said. “I think everybody dreams of winning a stakes race off the claim. I think we have been really successful doing it (claiming) just because we are realistic. Horses kind of dictate our decisions. This horse deserved to be in stake races because he had earned it. We look forward to seeing what he will do after this. I’d say that would be ideal thing to do is stay at Fair Grounds for the series (of turf stakes (Fair Grounds Stakes up next on February. 15).”
“He did great,” Leparoux said. “We had a great trip. We stayed a couple lengths behind the two leaders and he was traveling around nice and relaxed. When I asked him, strong and was trying very hard for me.”
“I had a dream trip,” jockey Adam Beschizza said of the runner-up. “They went fast up front. That’s his ideal place to sit. If he has three or four to spot. He definitely does not like to be in front too soon, that’s what I’ve learned. Joe (trainer Sharp) has learned that also. Definitely a good trip, there are no excuses. He ran his race. The winner was by far the best.”
In boosting his career record to 14-7-2-3, Dontblamerocket increased his career bankroll to $276,650.
About Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots: Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, one of the nation’s oldest racetracks, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, LA, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global
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