Jace’s Road Tepid Favorite Over a Field of Upstarts in Monday’s Gun Runner
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G2 Placed Pretty Mischievous, Upstart Vahva Headline Contentious Untapable
New Orleans, La (December 19, 2022) – West Point Thoroughbreds and Albaugh Family Stables’ Jace’s Road, who finished a good third in the Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs two starts back, has been installed as Mike Diliberto’s tepid 3-1 favorite for Monday’s Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. In addition to the $100,000 purse, the Gun Runner will offer 2-year-olds soon to be three 10-4-2-1 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve.
Epicenter, the winner of last year’s inaugural Gun Runner, would later win both the Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2) in advance of a runner-up performance in the Kentucky Derby. The winner of the Travers (G1) this past summer, Epicenter is regarded as one of the favorites for 3-year-old championship honors.
A dominant winner of a six furlong sprint at first asking on Aug 6 at Ellis Park, the son of Quality Road stepped up into the Iroquois, and stretched out to 1 1/16 miles. In a tight spot between horses while pressing an honest early pace, he cut to the rail late, but finished third best behind Curly Jack, who is being pointed to the Risen Star (G2) on Feb 18 at Fair Grounds, according to trainer Tom Amoss.
Sent off as the 2-1 favorite in the Street Sense (G3) on the Churchill Downs’ “Stars of Tomorrow I” card last out, Jace’s Road tossed jockey Florent Geroux prior to the gate load, and despite breaking alertly, he was never comfortable during the running of the race, fading off the scene early to finish a distant eighth of ten.
“He got a little worked up,” Cox said of his colt’s pre-race antics. “That’s not him, at least it wasn’t until that day. He might not have cared for the conditions and the sloppy track. It was not his day. We ran five horses that day, it was none of their day. We’ve schooled him in the gate and his work here the other day (:49 3/5 on Dec. 18) was really good. He deserves another shot and he breezed here awful well to not be a factor.”
From post 2 of 7, Geroux will return to the saddle on Monday aboard the lukewarm 3-1 Gun Runner favorite. The son of Quality Road is one of eight horses representing trainer Brad Cox in seven of the 13 “Road to the Derby Kickoff Day” races. First post will be noon CT.
It took him six tries to break his maiden, but John C. Oxley’s Determinedly served notice with an emphatic 7 1/2 length victory over seven furlongs on Churchill Downs’ “Stars of Tomorrow II” card last out. No worse than fourth in his young career, the son of Cairo Prince ran in three consecutive two-turn turf races late summer and early fall, but he has taken his game to a new level since returning to dirt.
“He ran really well last time getting the win,” Mark Casse’s assistant trainer on the grounds David Carroll said. “The race before at Keeneland (Nov 5) he was second to Arabian Knight (3-5 favorite) who is a nice horse. He’s doing super. He worked 47 and change last week (Dec. 10), a little faster than we wanted. We slowed him down for his next work (:51 B on Dec. 17). He’s really getting over the track nicely. Luis (Saez) is coming in town to ride him.”
With Saez aboard, Determinedly (7-2 ML) will break from post 3.
Already a grade two winner on turf, Susan Moulton’s Andthewinneris has only run once on dirt, finishing a distant third behind the multiple grade one placed Gulfport in the Bashford Manor on July 4 at Churchill Downs. Third in the With Anticipation (G3) in his follow-up start at Saratoga, he displayed a scintillating turn of foot when storming from well off the pace to win the Bourbon (G2) on the Keeneland grass going away. In his most recent start, the son of Oscar Performance split the 14-horse field in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, but he was beaten less than four lengths by the winner.
A four-time grade on winner on turf, Oscar Performance has proved to be a productive and versatile first crop stallion, producing the stakes winning dirt sprinter Red Carpet Ready and the stakes-placed Louisiana-bred Tumbarumba, among others.
“We’re going to see how he likes the surface,” trainer Wayne Catalano said of Andthewinneris, who drew post 7 (7-2) with Corey Lanerie in tow.
Scheduled as race 11 of 13 with a 5 p.m. CT post time, here is the complete field for the Gun Runner from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line odds): 1. Hayes Strike (Brian Hernandez, Jr, Ken McPeek, 7-2 ), 2. Jace’s Road (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 3-1), 3. Determinedly (Luis Saez, Mark Casse, 7-2), 4. Old Alliance (Colby Hernandez, Mike Stidham, 10-1), 5. Mazing Mark (Juan Vargas, Lonnie Briley, 10-1), 6. Raise Cain (Luis Machado, Ben Colbrook, 8-1) and 7. Andthewinneris (Corey Lanerie, Wayne Catalano, 7-2).
Off a third place performance behind the undefeated and highly regarded Hoosier Philly in the Golden Rod (G2) at Churchill Downs last time out, Godolphin’s Pretty Mischievous has been tabbed as the lukewarm 3-1 favorite against nine rivals for Monday’s Untapable Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. In addition to the $100,000 purse, the Gun Runner will offer 2-year-olds soon to be three 10-4-2-1 points on the Road to the Longines Kentucky Oaks.
With Hoosier Philly awaiting the Rachel Alexandra (G2) on Feb 18 according to trainer Tom Amoss, the door is open for other soon to be 3-year-old fillies to make their mark. A visually impressive winner on debut over 6 1/2 furlongs at Churchill Downs on Sept 18, the Brendan Walsh-trained Pretty Mischievous was the 1-5 favorite in her follow-up allowance sprint. She came through for her many backers, but over a sloppy track, the win was not nearly as appealing to the eye. Stretched out for the first time in the Golden Rod, the daughter of Into Mischief stumbled slightly at the start. Stalking from the rail, she swung wide off the turn and stayed on for third, beaten 5 1/4 lengths by the odds-on favorite.
Pretty Mischievous is out of the Tapit mare Pretty City Dancer, who won the Spinaway (G1) at age two. Her career lasted only eight starts, but she was always thought of as a sprinter. Her second foal drew the rail for the Untapable and Brian Hernandez, Jr. will ride her for the first time.
A distant fifth of six on debut at Saratoga after a compromised start and wide trip, Belladonna Racing and Edward J. Hudson’s Vahva took a huge step forward in her second career start at the Spa on Sept 4. Off a bit awkwardly, she quickly asserted herself and showed much better speed than she had on debut. She built a four-length lead into the stretch, only to get nailed right on the finish line by Take Charge Briana, who has failed in a trio of stakes runs since.
Off seven weeks, Vahva was bet down to 3-2 favoritism against 11 rivals on Oct 26 at Churchill Downs, and she proved her many backers correct. Off a beat slow, she raced four-wide early before working out an advantageous, pressing trip through moderate fractions. She responded in kind when asked and drew off as much the best in that seven furlong contest. By Gun Runner, she is the sixth and best foal out of the Harlan’s Holiday mare Holiday Soiree, who was a G1-placed sprinter during her racing career.
A troubled and late closing third in her career debut over seven furlongs at Keeneland in October, Ike and Dawn Thrash’s The Alys Look had another rough go in her follow-up start over a sloppy track 18 days later, but that time she got rank over a sloppy track when stretched out around two turns. Fast forward to Dec 1 at Fair Grounds. The blinkers came off, but the speed stayed on, and the daughter of Connect, who was purchased for just $60,000 as a Keeneland September Yearling, darted away to win by seven lengths under a Florent Geroux hand ride.
“She’s always acted like she could run,” Cox said. “I think she was just a little too aggressive with blinkers in her second run, so we took them off. I thought she would like the added ground, and she did here. It’s a big step up, but if she can run well she can be in the mix moving forward.”
Geroux, who has been aboard for every start, will once again pilot The Alys Look, this time from post six.
Scheduled as race 12 of 13 with a 5:30 p.m. CT post time, here is the complete field for the Untapable from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line odds): 1. Pretty Mischievous (Brian Hernandez, Jr, Brendan Walsh, 3-1), 2. Two Minute Drill (James Graham, Jason Barkley, 8-1), 3. Hang the Moon (Rey Gutierrez, Mike Stidham, 15-1), 4. Vahva (Luis Saez, Cherie DeVaux, 7-2), 5. Cotton Candy Annie (Mitchell Murrill, Armando Hernandez, 15-1). 6. The Alys Look (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 4-1), 7. All About Me (Colby Hernandez, Mike Stidham, 6-1), 8. Just Like Magic (Edgar Morales, Tom Amoss, 15-1), 9. Hayunevano (Marcelino Pedroza, Jr., Sam David, Jr., 10-1) and 10. Miss Shipman (Juan Vargas, Lonnie Briley, 12-1).
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