Defending Tenacious Champion Chess Chief Takes on a Dozen Formidable Foes in Monday’s Renewal

Contact: Kevin Kilroy
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New Orleans, La (December 23, 2022) – Don Alberto Stable’s Forza Di Oro gets the honors of morning line favorite at 7-2 in the $100,000 Tenacious Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, but last year’s Tenacious exacta returns in the form of Estate of James J Coleman Jr’s Chess Chief and Lothenbach’s Happy American (who is cross-entered in the $100,000 Buddy Diliberto). 

As the final leg of the Late Pick 50-cent Pick Five and the $1 Pick Six (with a juicy carryover of $51,808), the 13-horse Tenacious is a bettor’s delight. Both multi-race wagers have a low 15% takeout, and the Pick 6  is not a jackpot wager. 

The 58th running of the 1 1/16 miles Tenacious will go as Race 13 at 6 p.m. CT, the last dance on the “Road to the Derby Kickoff Day” card. The spectacular day of racing features the $100,000 Gun Runner Stakes (Race 11) and $100,000 Untapable (Race 12). Those races offer qualifying points (10-4-3-2-1) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks respectively.  

 The older female counterpart to the Tenacious, the 1 mile and 70 yards $100,000 Joseph E. “Spanky” Broussard Memorial Stakes, will go as Race 3. The $100,000 Richard R. Scherer Stakes, a 6-furlong sprint for older runners, is scheduled as Race 9.

Taking on the likes of Olympiad, Life is Good, and Hot Rod Charlie, Chess Chief has not been able to translate his big late kick into a win in 2022. The 6-year-old trained by Dallas Stewart has five wins at Fair Grounds, and he is knocking on the door of $1 million lifetime earnings. 

“He’s done pretty well this year, but just ran into a lot of real tough horses,” Stewart said. “He’s just a real campaigner. He’s a hard knocking warrior. He’s on for the race. He’s training well. Worked a good 5/8ths.  He loves this place; he’s a New Orleans horse.”

Tabbed at 10-1 in the morning line, Chess Chief drew post No. 8 and he retains the services of Rey Gutierrez, who rode him to victory on this date last year.

Chief among those who stand in Chess Chief’s way is Forza Di Oro. Previously trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, the 2020 Discovery (G3) winner will make his first start for trainer Brad Cox. The 5-year-old horse has only raced once in 2022, finishing 15 lengths back in the Philip H. Iselin (G3) at Monmouth Park. Earlier in his career when trained by Bill Mott, he ran fifth in the 2021 Woodward (G1) and also finished third to Max Player and Happy Saver in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). Florent Geroux will break aboard Forza Di Oro from post No. 5.

Another top horse entered in the Tenacious Stakes is Jack Wagon Stable’s Intrepid Heart. After he finished second in all four starts since transferring into his barn, including last out in the Claiming Crown Jewel at Churchill, trainer Joe Sharp decides to take the blinkers off 

Jon Lapczenski and JIL Stable’s Mr. Wireless got his nose down in front of pacesetter Here Mi Song and a fast-closing South Bend to win an allowance race over a one-turn mile last out at Churchill Downs. The 2021 Oklahoma and West Virginia Derby winner has won six of his 12 races, three of those coming at the Tenacious distance. 

Here is the complete field for the Tenacious from the rail out (with jockey and trainer): 1. Business Model (Edgar Morales, Brendan Walsh, 15-1); 2. Spa City (Martin Garcia, Eddie Kenneally, 15-1); 3. Intrepid Heart (Adam Beschizza, Joe Sharp, 9-2); 4. Beaver Hat (Marcelino Pedroza Jr., Brian Williamson, 30-1); 5. Forza Di Oro (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 7-2); 6. Captivating Moon (Jareth Loveberry, Chris Block, 8-1); 7. Farmington Road (Luis Saez, Cherie DeVaux, 8-1); 8. Chess Chief (Rey Gutierrez, Dallas Stewart, 10-1); 9. Happy American (James Graham, Neil Pessin, 6-1); 10. Five Star General (Corey Lanerie, Grant Forster, 20-1);  11. Gentle Soul (David Cohen, Bret Calhoun, 20-1); 12. Rightandjust (Alex Castillo, Shane Wilson, 20-1); 13. Mr. Wireless (Deshawn Parker, Bret Calhoun, 6-1). 

Silverbulletday-Winner Charlie’s Penny Returns to Fair Grounds in the $100,000 “Spanky” Broussard Memorial

Penned as the 7-5 morning line favorite, Lothenbach Stables’ Charlie’s Penny enters the 58th running of $100,000 Joseph E. “Spanky” Broussard Memorial Stakes on a two-race win streak. The 2021 Silverbulletday winner faces a field of five older fillies going 1 mile 70 yards.  

Chris Block trains the 4-year-old by Race Day, who will be traveling two turns for just the second time in her nine-race career. The Minnesota-bred’s win streak began with the Bella Notte Minnesota Distaff Sprint Championship at Canterbury Park. Next out she defeated open allowance company at Churchill Downs. Breaking from post No. 5 she will be ridden by Jareth Loveberry.

One of Charlie’s Penny’s rivals in the Broussard is Farfellow Farms’ Moon Swag. Exiting a distant fourth in the Falls City (G3), this Brendan Walsh trainee won her first start off a year-long layoff, beating allowance company going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland in October. Her first win at two-turns, she defeated Broussard rival Powder River by 2 3/4 lengths. Drawing the rail, the 4-year-old Malibu Moon filly attracts the services of Luis Saez. 

Here is the complete field for the Sugar Bowl Stakes from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line odds): 1.Moon Swag (Luis Saez, Brendan Walsh, 5-2); 2. Bow Bow Girl (James Graham, Chris Richard, 8-1); 3. Powder River (Florent Geroux, Norm Casse, 4-1); Lil Kings Princess (Rey Gutierrez, John Ortiz, 6-1); 5. Charlie’s Penny (Jareth Lovebery, Chris Block, 7-5). 

Formful Older Sprinters Clash in $100,000 Richard R. Scherer Memorial

In some ways, Susan Moultan’s two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint starter Manny Wah stands out in the field of seven older entered in Monday’s 17th running of the $100,000 Richard R. Scherer Memorial Stakes, a 6 furlong dirt dash for 3-year-olds and up. Although he edges out the field in class, Manny Wah is winlees in six tries on Fair Grounds’ dirt track. Surveillance, owned by Big Chief Racing, Rocker O Ranch, and Keith Desormeaux, is three-for-three over the local oval, and having won the $175,000 Thanksgiving Classic, he wears the older male sprint crown until proven otherwise. 

Trained by Wayne Catalano, the 3-1 morning line second-favorite won October’s Phoenix (G2) at Keeneland to earn his second entry to the Breeder’s Cup Sprint, where he finished 4th (5th in 2020). A late-runner through and through, Manny Wah consistently fires and in 35 races he has finished in the money 20 times, but only five of those are wins. As a 3-year-old on the Kentucky Derby trail he ran in Fair Grounds’ Derby preps series beginning with the Sugar Bowl. He is on the duck over the local dirt track in six tries, but he dazzled all with his late turn of foot when winning the 2021 $100,000 Kenner in his first ever turf start. 

Along for many of Manny Wah’s late runs, Corey Lanerie will work with post No.7 to navigate a ground saving late run into a suspect pace set-up given the presence of only one true front runner, Dawn and Scotty Robin’s High Cruise who Diliberto tabbed at 20-1 in the morning line. 

If you didn’t watch Jay Em Ess Stable’s Miles Ahead’s last start you’d still be wondering if he can win anywhere but at Gulfstream Park. But he did just that powering home to win the $294,000 Louisville Thoroughbred Society at Churchill Downs in September. To be fair, his eleven prior wins came only at Gulfstream because that is the only track he raced before being transferred through several different trainers and now is in the hands of Kentucky-based Paul McGee. He was scratched on the track prior to the Bet On Sunshine, a race won by Bango. Six furlongs is this sprinter’s speciality and he’s drawn favorably with post No. 2. His jockey Martin Garcia rode him to victory at Churchill. Oddsmaker Mike Diliberto crowns Miles Ahead the favorite at 5-2.   

Other top horses entered into the Pan Zareta Stakes include David Ingordo’s lightly-raced Tulane Tryst who is seven times in the exacta out of nine runs and enters after firing an a.m. bullet on Dec 10. TEC Racing’s Heart Rhythm’s form since being claimed by trainer John Ortiz cannot be denied. He finished second to Surveillance in the Thanksgiving Classic after running a new top speed figure when winning an allowance at Keeneland in October. Eight of Tamaroak Partners’ Bango’s 11 wins have come at Churchill Downs including November’s Bet On Sunshine in his last. 

Here is the complete field for the Richard R. Scherer Memorial Stakes from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line odds): 1. Bango (Edgar Morales, Greg Foley, 7-2); 2. Miles Ahead (Martin Garcia, Paul McGee, 5-2); 3. Tulane Tryst (Brian Hernandez Jr., Cheire DeVaux, 9-2); 4. Heart Rhythm (Rey Gutierrez, John Ortiz, 6-1); 5. High Cruise (Colby Hernandez, Alberto Antonio, 20-1); 6. Surveillance (James Graham, Keith Desormeaux, 6-1); 7. Manny Wah (Corey Lanerie, 3-1).

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About Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, one of the nation’s oldest racetracks, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, LA, Fair Grounds, which is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN), also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and 15 off-track betting parlors throughout Southeast Louisiana. The 151st Thoroughbred Racing Season – highlighted by the 110th running of the Louisiana Derby – will run from Nov 18, 2022 through March 26, 2023. More information is available online at

Chess Chief with Reylu Gutierrez aboard at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots