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Johnny Handsome Wins Crescent City Derby; Sittin At the Bar Takes C.C. Oaks

By Graham Ross, Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Saturday, March 30, 2013) – Diamond Racing et al.’s Johnny Handsome, unhurried early, rallied strongly along the inside of the early leaders in the final furlong of Saturday’s $75,000 Crescent City Derby at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots and drew clear late for a 2 1/4-length tally at the wire.

Trained by Leo Gabriel Jr. and ridden by C. J. McMahon, Johnny Handsome returned mutuels of $24.20, $8 and $4.20, accomplished the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:45.68 and increased his career earnings to $105,600 with his third win in eight career starts.

“He left there good and Mr. Leo told me not to go up there with them and take him back and try to save as much ground as I could and that’s what I did,” said McMahon.

Trainer and co-owner Gabriel was equally pleased. 

“Johnny showed up today and we’re happy for it,” said Gabriel. “That’s our first Derby, albeit the Crescent City Derby. We good.”

Robbie Norman’s Hero Force, who alternated for the early lead with splits of 24.12 and 48.62, continued willingly to gain the place, paying $3.80 and $3 while finishing a half-length to the good of Zayat Stables’ Skinny, who returned $2.60.

SITTIN AT THE BAR SCORES IN $75,000 CRESCENT CITY OAKS –Dale Ladner’s heavily favoredSittin At the Bar delivered for the public in Saturday’s  $75,000 Crescent City Oaks, one of seven stakes on Louisiana Derby Day at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

With the early scratch of Ante Up Annie, opting for the Fair Grounds Oaks, Sittin At The Bar was backed by the betting public at even money and did not disappoint. The Louisiana-bred daughter of Into Mischief won the 2012 Louisiana Futurity before tackling open company in the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

With confident handling by rider Shaun Bridgmohan, Sittin At The Bar settled off the pace set by Mischievous Mama, who covered the first quarter-mile in :24.02 and the half-mile in :47.33. Bridgmohan angled his filly to the outside, and made his bid, drawing off to a three-quarter length margin. The final clocking for the mile and 70 yard stakes, over a fast main track was 1:44.02

“I put the blinkers on for a reason other than today,” said trainer Brett Brinkman. “There was probably a little more pace but, you know, Shaun rode the filly excellent. He’s pretty much push button.”

“She’s a classy filly,” said Bridgmohan. “My job was easy. I was just trying to be a good pilot and keep her out of trouble like Bret says.”

Sittin At The Bar ($4.20) won her fourth race from six starts and earned $45,000 for today’s score, increasing her career bankroll to $326,369.

Nicholas Abate & Darlene Peterson’sMischievous Mama was a game second, under rider Miguel Mena,and paid $5.60 and $3. Hometown Gossip ran third for owners RaSta Blackwater and Seth and Maury Harring, 1 ¾ lengths behind for jockey Richard Eramia.

Racing resumes Sunday for Closing Day of this winter’s Crescent City meeting at Fair Grounds with a 12-race program beginning at 1 p.m.

-- Martha Claussen