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Stakes Advance: Woodchopper Stakes



Hill ‘N Dale Farm’s General Election, best by a neck in Churchill’s Grade III Jefferson Cup at last asking Sept. 28 and hero of Chicago’s Grade III Arlington Classic last spring, may rule the choice when he faces eight rivals in Saturday’s $75,000 Woodchopper Stakes at about one mile over the Stall-Wilson turf course at Fair Grounds Racecourse & Slots. Sam-Son Farm’s His Race to Win, a Canadian invader who won the Grade III Ontario Derby on Polytrack by 2 ¼-lengths in his last start Sept. 15 can also be expected to draw strong support in the wagering.

General Election, an entire son of Harlan’s Holiday breezed five furlongs in 1:02.80 over the main track at Fair Grounds last Saturday after recording four breezes over the Polytrack at Keeneland since his Jefferson Cup score.

“He started off slow and then finished up very strong,” said trainer Neil Pessin Wednesday morning during training hours.  “I liked the way he finished up so well because that’s the way he likes to run in his races.  We don’t want to do anything to change the way he likes to run so I thought the work went very well.”

In the Jefferson, General Election was allowed to settle early, moved into the third spot at the eighth pole and then closed well in traffic to be narrowly best at the wire.  Previously, he ran fifth when sent out to the west coast for the Grade II Del Mar Derby but was only beaten two lengths for the win.  In the Arlington Classic he was far back early before closing fast to be a length clear at the finish.

Top turf rider James Graham, Fair Grounds leading rider through last weekend with seven wins, will handle the reins aboard General Election this Saturday.

His Race to Win appeared much the best in the Ontario Derby and is expected to be appetizing at the windows – especially for North of the Border fans – because he also won his start before that on Aug. 10 in high-level allowance company at Woodbine.  The Canadian homebred son of Stormy Atlantic finished second in the Queen’s Plate Trial and ninth in the Grade I Queen’s Plate but the Malcolm Pierce trainee is winless in four starts over grass thus far.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Gentleman’s Kitten, third behind General Election in the Jefferson Cup, beaten 2 ½-lengths by that rival, could prove troublesome.  The son of Kitten’s Joy – once again a leading grass sire this season – won his previous effort in $62,500 allowance optional claiming company over Saratoga’s grass course and broke his maiden over Keeneland’s Lexington lawn in  October of 2012.

Brazilian-born jockey Leandro Goncalves is named to ride the Wayne Catalano trainee.

Leadem in Ken,another Ramsey-owned sophomore trained by Mike Maker also merits strong consideration in the Woodchopper.  By Sky Mesa out of a Catienus mare, Leadem in Ken won his most recent start Sept. 25 in high-level allowance company despite having to steady during the early going.  Three-time Fair Grounds defending jockey champion Rosie Napravnik is listed astride this homebred who broke his maiden over the grass at Churchill Downs June 9.

Not to be discounted in the Woodchopper are Martin Racing Stable’s Marchman, runner-up in Churchill’s $60,000 Bet On Sunshine over the main track at last asking Nov. 2 and Gary and Mary West’s Marine Patrol, a winner over Keeneland’s lawn  in his last start Oct. 23.

Marchman, trained by Bret Calhoun, has Jamie Theriot named to handle the reins and Marine Patrol, a second entrant conditioned by Catalano, has Florent Geroux up.

Tri-Star Racing’s Brown Almighty, once a highly regarded juvenile but a disappointment thus far as a sophomore, is newly placed in trainer Mike Stidham’s hands and has been cross-entered in Saturday’s fourth race.  James Graham is named in that allowance and optional claiming affair and Mark Guidry is slated for the saddle in the Woodchopper.

Completing the Woodchopper field is Al and Bil Ulwelling’s Alvear, Chris Landeros up, and Thomas Conway’s Impassable Canyon, David Flores aboard.