Home of the Louisiana Derby

103rd LOUISIANA DERBY DAY NOTES: March 24, 2016 (P.M. Set)

  • ·        Game Time for Mo Tom and Amoss
  • ·        Street Fancy Flying Under the Fair Grounds Oaks Radar
  • ·        Venus Valentine out to Prove Herself
  • ·        Warrior Majestic Harbor Back Again
  • ·        Chocolate Ride Carries the Weight in Muniz
  • ·        Roman Approval Gets an Assist in Muniz
  • ·        Cash Control Goes for Third Meet Stakes in New Orleans Ladies



The pressure is on and the proverbial time is now for Mo Tom, but trainer Tom Amoss is taking it all in stride, if not presenting an air of confidence in his morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Grade II $1,000,000 TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Owned by locals G M B Racing – the Benson Family that also owns the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League and Pelicans of the National Basketball Association – Mo Tom’s New Orleans roots run deep, as Amoss himself is a native of the area and has long held court as one of the top trainers at the Fair Grounds.

Confidence is easy to come by for the 11-time leading local conditioner when it comes to Mo Tom. A son of the top young sire in America, Uncle Mo, the dark bay has yet to run a poor race in six career starts, accounting for three wins and three thirds, including a rousing victory two back in the Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes at a mile and 70 yards over the New Orleans oval’s main track. In fact, all three of his losses have had plausible excuses, including checking sharply at in mid-stretch last out when making what could have been a winning rally under regular rider Corey Lanerie.

“We’re all very keen to find a way to win the Louisiana Derby,” Amoss said of the colt’s connections. “It’s important to all of us that we win here and we aren’t looking beyond it. I think he’s doing great and honestly I couldn’t be happier with him.

“The pace scenario will be different this time, as I don’t think it will be as quick as in the Risen Star,” Amoss continued. “I would like it to be faster, but I know ’Tom is going to be okay. He’s a very talented horse, he’s fit and is training well.”

Going into the Louisiana Derby, Amoss took a somewhat unconventional route and has only worked the Kentucky-bred twice in the five-week break between races, including two half-miles in 48.60 and 47.0 on Mar. 13 and Mar. 5, respectively. He has galloped the horse steadily, as well, coming out at 7:45 a.m. almost every morning like clockwork.

“It has been by design to just have two works,” Amoss explained. “If for some reason he’s aggressive in this race and that takes him out of his game, it’ll just prove that we’re on a learning curve with our horse. Also, he’s the kind of horse who puts a lot into his gallops. Unlike the ordinary horse, I don’t see the need for him blitz it out there in works every week.”



It is difficult to believe that the lone Grade I winner in the field for the Grade II $400,000 TwinSpires.com Fair Grounds Oaks is being overlooked, but by all accounts that seems to be the case this week at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. A late-running and lightly raced type, Street Fancy is a daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense out of mare Bold Angel, a daughter of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Cat Thief. Needless to say, stamina is something the winner of December’s Grade I $300,000 Starlet at Los Alamitos has in spades. What might be more of a worry is shipping across the country from the Phil D’Amato trainee’s Santa Anita base and competing against an improving group of fellow sophomore fillies.

“She’s actually perfect,” Chris Davis, D’Amato’s assistant reported. “She arrived yesterday and she shipped really well. I think she has a great shot. She won a Grade I and made her run from the three-eighths-pole that day and just kept coming. If she runs like that, she’s going to be tough.

“I think people might be throwing her out because of her last race,” Davis continued. “She got rambunctious in the gate that day and hit her head when the sprang it open and was a bit dazed the rest of the way. We schooled her at the gate today and will school her again on Friday.”

Last out, in the Grade II $300,000 Las Virgenes at her home track, she finished last of six, beaten 28 lengths by divisional leader Songbird. The effort was the first poor showing of her four-race career. A winner on debut in October going 5½ furlongs, she later was third in the $100,000 Desi Arnaz Stakes at Del Mar going seven furlongs before winning the Starlet at the same 1 1/16-miles distance as Saturday’s Fair Grounds Oaks.

Street Fancy has drawn post six of eight fillies and has the riding services of Jose Lezcano.



The average Fair Grounds and Race Course & Slots fan does not know what was the bigger shock on Feb. 20: the fact that Rosemont Farm’s homebred 74-1 longshot Venus Valentine won the Grade II $200,000 Rachel Alexandra – or that a Tom Amoss trainee went off at 74-1. Either way, both Venus Valentine and Amoss return for Saturday’s Grade II $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks looking to prove that the late-running daughter of Congrats’ effort was no fluke.

“She’s doing fine,” Amoss said. “I’ve had no setbacks with her and she’s trained well. You can’t change a horse’s style too much, but I would like to see her a little more involved in the race.”

A winner of two of five starts, Venus Valentine closed from 14 lengths back in the Rachel Alexandra under Corey Lanerie to win by a length over a tiring Midnight On Oconee. She faces that rival, as well as beaten favorite Stageplay again in the Fair Grounds Oaks. The chestnut filly has been training forwardly, including three works since that effort, topped by a half-mile in 49.20 on Mar. 17.



Gallant Stable’s Majestic Harbor returned to his winning ways last month with a gritty victory in the Grade III $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap on Feb. 20 – defeating William S. Farish’s Eagle in a stretch-long battle under Corey Lanerie and winning for the ninth time in 39 career starts. A Grade I winner and earner of nearly a million dollars, the son of Rockport Harbor has been training forwardly since and will look to win back-to-back in the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap on Saturday for trainer Paul McGee.

He came out of the Mineshaft very well,” McGee said. “He has had a few good breezes and looked good doing them. The mile and an eighth I think will be a plus with him. He’s won going a mile and a half, so he has the stamina. He doesn’t have to be on the lead, either,” McGee continued. “Corey knows him well and he can stalk if he needs to, but he will be forwardly placed.”

Prior to the Mineshaft, the three-time Fair Grounds winner was fifth after a rough trip in the Listed $75,000 Louisiana Stakes on Jan. 16 going a mile and 70 yards.

“That was a throwout,” McGee explained. “I tried to freshen him and may have overdone it a bit after the (Grade II $250,000) Hawthorne Gold Cup (on Nov. 28). Then he got clobbered turning for home, so I drew a line through that race.

“He’s always been a classy horse,” he concluded. “I can’t say that he’s that much different as an 8-year-old than he was as a 3-year-old, other than natural maturity. He’s been a steady, solid and sound horse.”



Wentworth Brochu’s Chocolate Ride not only will carry 124 pounds as the highweight in his defense of the Grade III $300,000 Muniz Memorial Handicap, but the son of Candy Ride will also be toting the hopes of the house, as the bay gelding has become a fan favorite at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

A winner of four graded stakes over the Stall-Wilson turf course, the seven-time winner from 16 lifetime starts has overcome troubled feet to win six of eight lifetime starts at the New Orleans oval, including a sharp victory last year in the Muniz where he earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure and set the track record for 1 1/8 miles while carrying 116 pounds.

“He looks great,” said trainer Brad Cox, for whom Chocolate Ride has won six of nine since being claimed for $40,000 out of a dirt mile on Nov. 21, 2014. “He worked really well on the grass and even though I think this is a little tougher than his last two, he’s ready.”

A gate-to-wire victor last year in the Muniz and in each of his starts this year – Fair Grounds’ Grade III $125,000 Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap on Jan. 16 and Grade III $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap on Feb. 20 – the grass specialist may not have the luxury of controlling the pace on Saturday. Multiple stakes presences have entered, including a presumed rabbit from the Mike Maker barn for his Roman Approval, who was a late-running second in both the Bradley and Fair Grounds Handicap. Three starts, back, in his first run in nearly seven months, Chocolate Ride settled nicely in an allowance/optional claiming event before sprinting clear by three lengths and earning a 99 Beyer Speed Figure in near-track record time for the 1 1/16 miles.

“It doesn’t worry me that there’s more speed in the race,” Cox concluded. “That’s the jock’s job to figure out and we’ll leave that to him. Florent (Geroux) is a great judge of pace. I’m pretty confident.”



Three Diamonds Farm’s Roman Approval has been super-consistent in his career, including finishing in the exacta in 21 of his 29 career starts. Second in three consecutive stakes races, he will try to finally get the better of Wentworth Brochu’s Chocolate Ride, who has been uncatchable after controlling the pace in both the Grade III $125,000 Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap on Jan. 16 and Grade III $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap on Feb. 20.

A versatile type who has raced effectively from a mile to 1 11/16 miles, he has also shown the ability to be more forwardly placed that he was in his last few races. Trainer Mike Maker will hedge his bets a little this time, as the veteran conditioner has also entered a rabbit in the form of Change of Command, a graded stakes-placed 9-year-old who exits a $16,000 claiming event at Gulfstream Park.

“My thoughts are that in (Roman Approval’s) last two, he’s broke well and had enough speed to be more forward. Hopefully the jock uses his judgment and has him up there. If we get shuffled back again or encounters some trouble, we have (Change of Command).”

The four-time graded stakes-placed son of Roman Ruler has drawn post two – two spots inside Chocolate Ride – and has the return services of Javier Castellano.



Richard and Bertram Klein’s Brad Cox-trained Cash Control has done little wrong this Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots season. Started twice, both in stakes races, the daughter of Pioneerof the Nile and half-sister to a multitude of stakes winners has an added-money victory on both surfaces, including a gritty victory last out in the $60,000 Daisy Divine Stakes on Feb. 20 over the Stall-Wilson turf course. On Saturday, the bay 5-year-old mare will go for three on the meet in the $50,000 New Orleans Ladies at the same 1 1/16-miles distance.

“She’s really doing well and she’s working great,” Cox said. “She had more of what you would call a maintenance work last time, but she did it the right way. This is a deeper group of fillies than last time, but she’s doing just as well or better than last time. I think she’ll run a big race.”

Cash Control, who has won seven of 12 and two of three on the grass, drew post five and gets the return services of Shaun Bridgmohan. She will face a field that includes 2-1 morning-line favorite and Grade I-placed Tuttipaesi from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, as well as Mizz Money, whom she defeated by a head in her Daisy Divine duel.


Michael Adolphson | @AdolphsonRacing
Media Specialist, Senior Writer