By Ryan Martin
For the third year in a row trainer Brad Cox is the winningest trainer at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Cox, 39, won a total of 53 races this season which replicated last year’s amount of trips to the winner’s circle for the Louisville, Ky. native. For the third straight year, Cox beat out trainer Joe Sharp who won 49 races this meet. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen was the third leading conditioner with 30 wins.
In addition to being the overall leading trainer, Cox was also the leading trainer in term of stakes wins having won six stakes races. He scored stakes caliber triumphs with Beau Recall (Ire.) (Blushing K.D. Stakes and New Orleans Ladies Stakes), Contributing (Pan Zareta Stakes), Harlan Punch (Louisiana Stakes), and Marquee Prince (Lloyd “Captain” Maestri Memorial Stakes and Black Gold Stakes).
“It’s a great battle between me and Joe (Sharp),” Cox said. “I think we make each other better. It’s been a very exciting meet. There are great purses and very competitive racing with the option of the turf or the dirt. It’s a great track to train on with great weather. Tis a great place to winter. I want to thank my help at New York, Fair Grounds Oaklawn. We always have a set up at Louisiana Downs or Evangeline Downs. It’s worked out rally well. All the assistants have done a great job of having the horses ready to run on race day.”
While Cox scored a training title for the third straight year, jockey Adam Beschizza was the meet’s leading rider for the first time in only his second full year of riding at Fair Grounds. Beschizza, 26, won 82 races at the New Orleans oval finishing six wins ahead of James Graham who won 76 was unable to make a race of it early on Closing Day when took off his remaining mounts due to a sickness. Florent Geroux finished third in the standings with 65 wins. A native of Great Britain, Beschizza was last year’s second leading rider finishing one win behind Shaun Bridgmohan.
Four of Beschizza’s wins were at stakes level when he guided Midnight Fantasy to dual wins in the Louisiana Champions Day Lassie Stakes as well as the fillies’ division of the Louisiana Futurity. He also rode In the Navy to a win in the Mr. Sulu Overnight Stakes and Pretty Lady in the Pago Hop Stakes.
“I’m overwhelmed, this last week I was holding my breath a little bit,” Beschizza said. “James had been a champion himself in the past. He’s a great competitor and he’s kept me honest right until the line. He can play with us young guns as well. There are a lot of people to thank and none of this would be possible without their help. My agent Liz Morris, she’s done a great job keeping myself in line and intact. A lot of credit goes to her. I really appreciate her as a person, we’ve became really close since I came to America.”
Many of Beschizza’s victories during the Fair Grounds meet came when riding horses for trainer Joe Sharp.
“A lot of thanks also goes to Joe Sharp,” Beschizza said “He’s just been the life and soul of my career since I started in America. He’s a huge supporter of mine, he believes in me and that goes a long way and a huge talent. I thank him very much.”
While Beschizza was the winningest jockey overall, jockey Corey Lanerie won more stakes than any other rider at Fair Grounds when scoring at said caliber a total of six times. Lanerie’s stakes wins took place aboard Buggin Out (Magic City Classic), Underpressure (Louisiana Champions Day Classic and Dixie Poker Ace Stakes), Givemeaminit (Louisiana Champions Day Sprint), Classy John (Louisiana Futurity – colts division) and Bell’s the One (Allen “Black Cat” LaCombe Memorial Stakes).
Owner Brad Grady earned yet another Fair Grounds title for leading owner during the meet with 17 wins over Maggi Moss’ 13. Grady and Moss tied for leading owner last season when both won 12 races.
Highlights of the memorable 2018-19 racing season at Fair Grounds include dual graded stakes wins from Gary Barber’s War of Will who was unanimously named Horse of the Meet as the only horse all season long to win multiple graded stakes races at the New Orleans oval. The talented 3-year-old son of War Front was conditioned by Mark Casse whose assistant David Carroll oversees his string of horses at Fair Grounds. He won the Grade III Lecomte Stakes at Grade II Risen Star Stakes and earned 60 points on the Road To The Kentucky Derby in doing so.
Other notable moments include Allied Racing’s By My Standards taking the 106th Grade II Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby on the penultimate day of the meet for trainer Bret Calhoun punching his ticket to the Grade I $3 million Kentucky Derby on May 4 having earned 100 qualifying points towards the First Saturday in May. Trainer Larry Jones won his fourth Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks Presented by Twinspires.com with Street Band, who earned 100 points towards the Grade I $1.5 million Kentucky Oaks. Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf winner Bricks and Mortar took an exciting edition of the Grade II Muniz Memorial Handicap when battling down a stubborn longshot in Markitoff to win by a slim margin. Joel Politi’s Serengeti Empress opened many eyes when running away to victory in the Grade II Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Feb 16 in the race before War of Will’s triumph in the Risen Star.
Other than War of Will, nine other horses won multiple stakes events this meet. Marquee Prince (Blushing K.D. Stakes and New Orleans Ladies Stakes), Bell’s the One (Letellier Memorial Stakes and Allen “Black Cat” LaCombe Memorial Stakes) and Beau Recall (Lloyd “Captain” Maestri Memorial Stakes and Black Gold Stakes) successfully defeated open company while Midnight Fantasy (Louisiana Champions Day Lassie and Louisiana Futurity – fillies division), Classy John (Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile and Louisiana Futurity – colts division), Remember Daisy (Tom Benson Memorial Overnight Stakes and Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Turf Stakes), Ours to Run (Happy Ticket Stakes and Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint) and Underpressure (Louisiana Champions Day Classic and Dixie Poker Ace) won multiple times against their Louisiana-bred counterpart in state-bred stakes. Wynn Time was the only horse this meet to win multiple stakes events when he took the Thanksgiving Handicap, Bonapaw Stakes and Duncan F. Kenner Stakes.