Chop Chop Returns to the Turf in the “Black Cat” LaCombe — eight 3-year-old fillies enter race named for the “cursed” local sportswriter


New Orleans, La (March 9, 2023) – A trio of Oaks-dreaming connections have woken up to the fact that their fillies might be better suited to the turf. Chop Chop, Hang the Moon, and Hayunevano, all recent participants in Kentucky Oaks points races, are entered in Saturday’s 16th running of the $75,000 Allen “Black Cat” LaCombe Memorial Stakes.

The female edition of last Saturday’s $75,000 Black Gold Stakes, won by the Cox runner Wonderful Justice, sees a field of eight sophomores draw in to run about one mile over the Stall Wilson turf course. Fields remain limited to eight runners as the portable rail is positioned 34 feet out from the rail. Slated as Race 8 of 9, post time for the LaCombe is scheduled for 5:27 p.m. CT.

Named for Fair Grounds’ most infamous bon vivant and raconteur, Allen “Black Cat” LaCombe served as publicity director and morning line oddsmaker for decades, and his photo hangs in the Press Box Hall of Fame. His bad luck peaked on a day when he publicly picked the winner of nine races, but somehow managed to lose money betting the card.

Could a race named for a cursed New Orleans gambler be the cure for the money-burning 3-year-old filly Chop Chop? The infamous underlay of the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Friday card was sent off once again as the favorite when making her 3-year-old debut in the Silverbulletday. She won neither race, and in fact Selective LLC’s Chop Chop has not won a race since blitzing out as a freshman to win her first two. Both were across the turf.

The City of Light filly out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Grand Sophia debuted going two turns over firm turf at Ellis Park and then backed that performance up over the yielding sod of Kentucky Downs, winning the $500,000 Juvenile Fillies. Both races were at the LaCombe distance of about one mile.

The Cox barn tried blinkers on Chop Chop before the Rachel Alexandra (G2) but that didn’t help any and that equipment has quickly been removed after she finished a flat fifth of six. Chop Chop will receive a rider change as the Cox barn looks to mix things up for their entries, swapping Corey Lanerie off De Broglio Racing’s Beyond Doubt to ride Chop Chop and vice versa with Florent Geroux.

Nine open-company stakes races written for the crop of 2020 have been run so far this meet at Fair Grounds, and the Cox barn has won seven of them, most recently with Wonderful Justice in the Black Gold. Before that they scored with Angel of Empire in the Risen Star (G2), Instant Coffee in the Lecomte (G3), The Alys Look in the Silverbulletday, Jace’s Road in the Gun Runner, Corona Bolt in the Sugar Bowl, and Dazzling Blue in the Letellier. The other two were both won by Pretty Mischievous from Brendan Walsh’s barn (Rachel Alexandra [G2] and the Untapable).

CJ Thoroughbreds’ Hang the Moon (pictured) took to the turf with aplomb, traveling widest of all runners and flashing one of the most memorable late moves of the Fair Grounds meet when beating Beyond Doubt going 1 1/16 miles in January. The Stidham barn flirted with a run at the Oaks for their Uncle Mo filly out of the Malibu Moon dam Moondance but she finished fifth in the Untapable. Brian Hernandez Jr. retains the mount after guiding her successfully in January’s optional claiming allowance. If Hang the Moon’s four progressive works are a sign of things to come, then she should be ready to take a nice step forward in the LaCombe.

The Amoss barn looks to win back-to-back “Black Cat’s, sending out two recent maiden-breakers. Both Joel Politi’s Camp Akeela and Jerry Caroom and Jeffrey Lambert’s Girl Named Charlie look to string turf victories together with opposing tactics. Politi and Amoss teamed up to win last year’s edition when their filly Kneesnhips famously bid along the outside rail where jockey James Graham was instructed to be close enough to high-five Amoss near the finish line. On Feb. 26, Camp Akeela (5-1 ML), their newest promising turf filly, flew out to the lead and never looked back, wiring a field of seven and earning a 76 Brisnet Speed figure.

In mid-January, Girl Named Charlie (8-1 ML) ran against the perceived turf bias, closing up the wide-open rail as the field fought for position on the outer fence. For that bold effort she ran a 79 Brisnet Speed figure. Both Amoss fillies are formful, well-bred, and deemed equally likely to win according to their square morning line odds. Amoss, the New Orleans native, knows better than to show up to a race named for Black Cat without a rabbit’s foot. 

When it comes to trying a new surface – hey, you never know. Though she has only one win to her name, Wing and A Prayer Racing’s Hayunevano has held her own against the likes of three Oaks-road fillies, finishing fourth most recently to Southlawn in an allowance, third to The Alys Look in the Silverbulletday, and fourth to Pretty Mischievous in the Untapable. But looking past the finish order, there have been a combined 33 lengths between her and the top finishers. If pronounced correctly, the Sam David Jr. trainee has a name Allen LaCombe and most any hard luck gambler could get behind, and a story to boot.

The Goldencents filly out of the Munnings dam Classic Vision was a gift to owners Stewart Dimak and James Pittman.

“Before the sale at Ocala, the farrier nicked her hooves too close,” Dimak said. “They breezed her anyways, and of course she ran slow, making her unsaleable. So the breeder called me up and said ‘I’ve got a filly who needs a job.’ He sent me videos of her breezing with a colt, and I saw she was a monster. I said, ‘well if she needs a job, I’m hiring.’”

Morning line oddsmaker Mike Diliberto hangs an attractive 8-1 price around Hayunevano which will surely set many a gambler to dreaming of catching a big price in the LaCombe, especially if their day’s luck has gone the direction of the Black Cat.   

Here is the complete field for the “Black Cat” LaCombe Stakes from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line): 1. Chop Chop (Corey Lanerie, Brad Cox, 9-5); 2. Blame Day (Deshawn Parker, Bret Calhoun, 8-1); 3. Hang the Moon (Brian Hernandez Jr.,  Mike Stidham, 4-1); 4. Hayunevano (Marcelino Pedroza Jr., Sam David Jr., 8-1); 5. Beautifulnavigator (James Graham, Ken McPeek, 10-1); 6. Camp Akeela (Mitchell Murrill, Tom Amoss, 8-1); 7. Beyond Doubt (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 6-1); 8. Girl Named Charlie (Edgar Morales, Tom Amoss, 5-1).



Hang the Moon horse racing at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots