On The March, Fair Grounds’ Highest Meet Earner Just Might Entertains Manny Wah’s Jive — Stakes Advances For Kenner, Krantz, And Bradley
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On the March, Fair Grounds’ Highest Meet
Earner Just Might Entertains Manny Wah’s Jive
Stakes advances for Kenner, Krantz, and Bradley
New Orleans (January 19, 2022) – If you come to watch the horses work, you might be struck by the mix of schoolyard recess-like activity as youngsters try to get their kicks, speedsters blaze along the inside rail, and horses trot along the outside to go back and try it again. If you look near the finish line where the sun comes through before being blocked by Fair Grounds clubhouse, you just might see a chestnut 6-year-old strong as a Gulf storm, a scepter-shaped white marking between his eyes looking out across what has turned from his competition into his dominion.
“We’ll go on to about the 7/8ths pole or the wire and just stand out and watch horses train,” Just Might’s trainer Michelle Lovell said. “Hooked to the pony, [Just Might] will stand there, close his eyes, soak up the sun or whatever’s going on, and it’s nice to see a horse with his speed and energy be flat-footed sometimes and just stand around and enjoy being out of his stall for a while.”
Dominant winner of his last two, the Thanksgiving Classic and the Richard Scherer Memorial, Just Might leads all Fair Grounds Race Course and Slot horses in earnings with $139,500. He deserves to be crowned king of the course. Trainer, breeder, and owner along with Griffon Farms, Michelle Lovell sends out 8/5 morning line favorite Just Might in the $100,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes on Saturday’s “Road to the Derby” Day to defend his title going 5 ½ furlongs on the turf. Advantageously breaking from post five with speed to the inside, Colby Hernandez is back on board.
But Wayne Catalano has been planning a revolution named Manny Wah. Twenty-five races in, he has four wins, and one of those came in last year’s Kenner against this year’s king. If you saw the race, there’s no way you could have forgotten it. Last with a half furlong to the wire, Miguel Mena sent Susan Moulton’s Manny Wah flying past six foes, the last of which was hard-used dueler, Just Might. But that was last year and Just Might just defeated Manny Wah handily in December’s Richard Scherer.
“We are going to turn the tables because the turf worked against us last time,” Catalano said. “It wasn’t the best turf to catch the speed. It looks like with the one-horse [Sir Alfred James] and a couple other speedsters they’re going to go after him [Just Might]. Manny Wah has a nice race under his belt off the layoff and the way he’s come back and breezed, he’s lights out right now. He’s training like he was when he was winning. We can turn the tables [on Just Might].”
Breaking from post seven, Corey Lanerie is back in town to ride the 3-1 morning-line second choice who will likely save ground and come with fury with intentions of passing all to the finish.
“Just Might has got a target on his back because he is a really good horse and he’s been on a roll,” Lovell said. “He’s doing as good as he’s ever done. He had an awesome year last year, and he has done nothing but gotten smarter, stronger and a better race horse. I am looking for another good race from him. Wayne teased me the other day and said ‘It’s my turn now. Get ready.’”
A field of eight will enter the gates, and if the forecast is correct, Manny Wah and jockey Corey Lanerie could excuse another loss to soft ground. Or both horses could bow down to Built Wright Stables’ Sir Alfred James. Six wins in eighteen starts, this 6-year-old trained by Norm Cash burned 6 furlongs of rubber across Turfway Park’s synthetic track, winning by 6 ¼ lengths and scoring a 99 Bris speed figure last out. With the portable rails down, Jockey John Mckee will likely send Sir Alfred James to the lead from post one as the 5-1 third favorite in the morning line.
The remainder of the field with post position, jockey/trainer and morning line odds is as follows: Corrine M. and William L. Heiligbrodt Stable and Spendthrift Farm’s Cowan (post two, Joel Rosario/Steve Asmussen 8-1 ML), the runner-up behind Golden Pal in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) but besides his maiden dirt win, he has only won a first-level allowance dirt sprint last September at Churchill Downs; Valene Farms’ Classy John (post three, Brian Hernandez Jr/Sturgis Ducoing, 15-1 ML), the winner of last year’s Costa Rising turf sprint for Louisiana-breds at Fair Grounds, he has not won in his four races since; Jerry Romans Jr. and Maria De Jesus Rio Carlos’s Strike Me Down (post 4, Deshawn Parker/Michele Lovell, 12-1 ML); a two-time winner on turf including a second-level optional claimer at Colonial Downs.; William Dean Reeves’ Frosted Grace (post 6, Florent Geroux/Tom Amoss, 6-1 ML), who is shooting bullets in the morning while making his second start for Amoss after running second to Ebben in November going 7 dirt furlongs at Churchill Downs; Nathan Sea and Mark Milliner’s Mr. Hustle (post 8, Mitchell Murrill/Juan Cano, 10-1 ML) the fourth place finisher behind Just Might and Manny Wah in the Scherer.
Michelle Lovell on Just Might
“He is like leading a freight train around the barn,” Lovell said. “He is so strong to walk after he does anything. If he just gallops or even after his works or his races, he is on the march. He is a big strong good feeling horse. And hard to handle. His groom has to walk him himself instead of a hot walker because he knows him so well. He’s really kind in his stall. He’s just a big muscle head. He’s pretty calm about everything but he’s just so strong and doesn’t know his own strength.”
“It’s always good to support the home team,” Lovell said. “We’re training here and we’re at home at the Fair Grounds and they’ve got races that fit him really well. And then we’re taking on some good horses here anyways so we don’t need to go somewhere else to look for them. I think we’ll stay close to home.
“When we get to Kentucky there are always ambitious spots,” Lovell said. “He’s is doing as good as he’s ever done. He had an awesome year last year, and he has done nothing but gotten smarter, stronger and a better race horse. I’m not afraid.”
Lovell on Strike Me Down
“I like the horse,” Lovell said. “He’s run well in the past. I like him sprinting. We didn’t want to run against Just Might but we are limited on places we can run whim. I thought I’d give him a chance there and pick up a check. There will be plenty of speed in there, and there will be some nice horses coming off of it too so hopefully he’s one of them. I think route to sprint will work for him, I think he needed that race last time anyway. He’s a neat old horse, good at both route and sprints. Shortening him up will be fine.”
How Wide the Duelers Wall? Colonel Bradley Draws Stack of Turf Speedsters
Those who don’t make the lead will be looking for light behind early showdown
Seven of the formidable twelve older horses entered in the $100,000 Colonel Bradley Stakes won their last race as the pacesetter or vying in second. Not your typical dynamic for a turf race going 1 1/16 miles, but one that will surely get the attention of pace handicappers. Race design is no simple art, and likely those horseplayers who look a few races back will find many in the field have tactical options, including the Mr. D (G1) winner, 3-1 morning line favorite Two Emmys.
Wolfe Racing and Hugh Robertson’s Two Emmys made headlines going wire-to-wire winning Arlington Park’s final Mr. D–the stakes race formerly known as the Arlington Million. Previously second to Colonel Liam, Bizzee Channel, and Spooky Channel, connections knew they had a quality stakes horse, but his first graded stakes win came at 27.10-1. After setting glacial early fractions and quickening as the race unfolded, 6-year-old by English Channel gelding gave favorite Domestic Spending too much to do while jockey James Graham had all the horse he needed to finish the job, racking up Two Emmys’ third pace-setting score. But he’s also shown an ability to make up ground, specifically over the Fair Grounds Stall-Wilson turf course.
“He doesn’t need to be in front,” Robertson said. “If he’s in front that’s fine, if he’s back a few lengths that’s fine. He ran well here coming from dead last one time going one mile, wove his way through horses. I think he’ll run wherever he gets light. We’ll just have to let Jimmy (jockey Graham) decide what to do and see how the pace turns out.”
Finishing second last out going 1 ½ miles in Keeneland’s Sycamore (G3), Two Emmys last three races have been at 1 3/16 miles or longer. Making his first start in three months, James Graham will guide him out of post six, with two forward-type horses to his inside, and four others drawn to his outside.
“I think he’s as good now as he’s ever been,” Robertson said. “I would think he’d run well, hopefully the layoff won’t hurt him. He’s basically run well for a year or two. He’s a little horse, coming off a mile and a half I think he should keep plenty of fitness. I don’t think it will help him shorten up but it won’t hurt him. I would think 1 ½ miles or more would be a better distance.”
Coming into his own for trainer Dallas Stewart in 2021, West Point Thoroughbreds and William Sandbrook’s Cavalry Charge moved through his allowance levels winning three of his four starts. He employed forward-minded tactics in all three wins, including leading at all calls going 1 1/16 miles in a first-level allowance at Churchill Downs on June 24. More than three months since his third-level allowance win going 1 1/16 miles on Keeneland’s yielding turf course, he will break from post three with Brian Hernandez, Jr. aboard (8-1 ML).
“We wanted to run him in the Diliberto but he had a little temperature,” Stewart said. “He’s doing well now. Back on track. Had two good works and we’re excited about giving him a chance against stakes competition. Let’s see where we are at.”
Trainer Bret Calhoun has been winning left and right on the turf, including two consecutive scores for William Reed’s Excess Magic. The $75,000 Woodchopper winner pressed through the first half mile, then drew off to win by 1 ½ lengths. Making his first start as a 4-year old, Reylu Gutierrez gets back up to make it three in a row (post seven, 8-1 ML).
“I’m a little bit hesitant because he is going to have to run against the old horses,” Calhoun said. “Sometimes I prefer to wait until later in the year to run these newly turned 4-year-olds against the older horses, the difference with this is the next couple races are at 1 mile ⅛ and I think the 1 mile 1/16th or shorter will be a little better for him. If this race was a mile 1/8th I probably would not be running.”
Trainer Cherie DeVaux’s patience and persistence with Own Agenda paid off, scoring the two-length win last out in December going 1 1/16 miles over Fair Grounds firm turf.
“We bought him in 2019 (Keeneland January mixed sale for $140,000) and had a really good year with him on the dirt,” Devaux told Chad Schexnayder on the Fair Grounds Racing Podcast. “We just couldn’t get him to the wire first against some tough competition. He’s a really good horse with a great attitude. He loves to train. We gave him 30-day freshening and the first day he galloped back he had the beginning of a condylar fracture. That was the start of a series of little setbacks, none of which were a big deal, but it took us 19 months to get him back to the races.”
Beating second-level allowance company that day, David Ingordo and Gmack Racing’s 7-year-old jumps in against his toughest company since 2019’s Fayette (G2). Jockey Colby Hernandez will lead Own Agenda from post four (10-1 ML)
The remainder of the field with post position, jockey/trainer and morning line odds is as follows: JPS Racing’s Logical Myth (post one, Adam Beschizza/Joe Sharp, 12-1 ML), a seven-time turf winner who finished 6th last out in the Diliberto; Winchell Thoroughbreds & Willis Horton Racing’s Halo Again (post two, Joel Rosario/Steve Asmussen, 6-1 ML) wire-to-wire Diliberto winner of his first turf try; Lloyd Madison Farms IV’s Major Fed (post five, Florent Geroux/Greg Foley, 10-1 ML) will make his first start on the turf after finishing fifth in the Tenacious; Michael M Hui and WSS Racing’s Monarchs Glen (post eight, Joe Bravo/Mike Maker, 8-1 ML), a deep closer finishing a game third in the Diliberto and the Wright; Darryl Abramowitz’ Bodecream (post nine, Deshawn Parker/Jeffrey Englehart, 8-1 ML), wire-to-wire winner of a third-level allowance at Aqueduct in December; Gary Barber’s Lucky Curlin (post ten, Marcelino Pedroza Jr./Mark Casse, 12-1 ML) finished fifth in December’s Scherer turf sprint; Brad Allshouse’s Dyn O Mite (post 11, Corey Lanerie/Keith Desormeaux, 12-1 ML) pace-setting winner of his last two including the Caesars at Indiana Downs; Three Diamonds Farm’s Forty Under (post 12, Mitchell Murrill/Mike Maker, 12-1 ML) dueling and fading to fourth in both the Diliberto and the Wright.
Cherie DeVaux on Own Agenda, as told to Chad Schexnayder on the Fair Grounds Racing Podcast
“I had always wanted to run the horse on the turf,” Devaux said. “He’s bred for it. When he was running so well on the dirt, we really couldn’t make an excuse to switch surfaces. So in June when I finally had him ready to run, there was a turf race that he fit and I secretly knew it was my opportunity to prove myself right. He ran a huge race (second to Monarchs Glen) and I was really proud of him. The entire time, David (husband Ingordo) and I struggled, wondering if we were doing right by the horse. He’s older and we don’t need the horse to run for money, we want to do what’s right for the horse, but every time we’ve brought him back into training, he’s forward, he loves to train and he breezes really well, just some minor physical ailments. He came out of the June race and popped a curve, again, just a minor thing that took some time to get him back from. He’s lightly raced for a seven-year-old and he’s just happy to be there. He’s sound, he moves well. We’re only going to run him if he wants to do it, and if there’s a day he shows he doesn’t want to, it’s an easy decision (to retire him).”
Brazilian Filly Triple Crown Winner
Janelle Monae Makes First US Start for Cox
Abscond seeks reason to hang around and visit
the winner’s circle after a recent cold stretch
Singer, rapper, actress… and Group One winning horse? That’s right, she can do it all. North American racing fans who don’t know Janelle Monae, the Kansas City-native megastar, are about to meet Janelle Monae the Brazilian Filly Triple Crown winning 5-year-old mare. Making her first North American start in the $100,000 Marie G. Krantz for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the turf, Haras Santa Rita da Serra’s Janelle Monae has a perfect four-for-four record, including three Group One wins in 2021. By Japanese sire Agnes Gold (Sunday Silence), she will face a salty bunch including the consistently game but defeated Abscond who is winless over ten 2020-2021 starts and the sharp Blushing KD winner, Summer in Saratoga, 6 for 11 over that same timeframe.
“We picked Janelle Monae up this fall,” trainer Brad Cox said. “She won the Brazil Triple Crown for fillies. I went back and watched all of her races, she was pretty impressive. Big, strong filly. Trains well. She does well enough on the dirt. This is a spot to get her started. We are hopeful that she’s a filly that can be competitive at the graded stake level. We are still finding our way with her.”
Cox calls upon Eclipse Award-finalist Joel Rosario to take the reins, breaking from post eight (8-1 ML).
“She won going 6 ½ furlongs first time out in Brazil,” Cox said. “And she’s shown us in the mornings that she has some speed. Doesn’t matter the distance, she has put herself in the race every time. With the difference in the hemispheres, she only ran against 3-year-olds last year, so she still lacks some seasoning. I like her, but you never really know with this kind.”
Apogee Bloodstock’s Abscond has been running against turf’s toughest and posting strong speed figures, but the 5-year-old mare trained by Eddie Kenneally has failed to win over her 3 and 4-year-old campaigns. Finishing 4th last out in November’s Goldikova (G2) going one mile at Del Mar, 2 ½ lengths behind Going Global, Abscond continued her closing tactics after running the majority of her early races closer to the front, including winning the the 2019 Natalma (G1).
“She’s maturing all the time,” Kenneally said. “She’s starting to relax really well in all of her recent races. Now we are going to 1 1/16 miles off the layoff, which is a little further than what she’s been doing, but we think it will be in her favor, not just in this race but going forward. She’s fresh. She has some natural speed and she likes to sit somewhat close to the pace. I think the post isn’t going to play against her.”
Breaking from the rail, the lukewarm 3-1 morning line favorite will have Adam Beschizza aboard.
Allied Racing Stable’s Lovely Ride made her first turf start last out in the Pago Hop and won. No surprise given trainer Bret Calhoun’s Midas touch on the turf this year. Calhoun’s go-to jockey, Reylu Gutierrez will guide Lovely Ride out of post four (12-1 ML).
“I think the turf is great for her,” Calhoun said. “I don’t know that she moved forward on it or improved on it, but I think she ran equally as good at least. Being that she only ran the once on there you don’t know for sure, but she could make a big move forward on the turf next time. It was kind of like she didn’t know what was going on early in the race and once she kind of figured out the surface then she went on and galloped out big.”
Winning the Blushing KD last out, Narola and Anderson Farms Ontario’s Summer in Saratoga also has the Dowager (G3) under her belt. Joe Sharp’s 6-year-old makes a deft late move and with several front-running types entered in the Krantz, the race could set up nicely for her late kick. Summer in Saratoga is also considering the Pegasus Filly Turf on January 29. Regular rider Corey Lanerie will lead her from post five (7-2 ML).
The remainder of the field with post position, jockey/trainer and morning line odds is as follows: Highlander Training Center’s Catch a Bid (post two, Brian Hernandez Jr./Joe Sharp, 8-1 ML) who ran closer to the pace last out in the Blushing KD, even gaining the lead in the stretch, but faltered and finished third; L.T.B. Inc and Hillerich Racing’s Touch of Class (post three, Florent Geroux/Bernard Flint, 20-1 ML) who set the pace in the one mile Pago Hop but weakened and finished fourth; Respect the Valley’s Adelaide Miss (post six, Colby Hernandez/Brittany Russell, 15-1 ML) leapt from the outside post to put two lengths in front of the field and never look back winning the second-level optional claimer last out in December; Respect the Valley’s second entrant, Out of Sorts (post seven, Angel Suarez/Brittany Russell, 12-1 ML) makes her third start after a layoff, last out finishing 6th in the Pago Hop; Quarter Pole Club VI’s Assertive Style (post nine, Orlando Mojica/Chris Hartman, 20-1 ML) is winless in two turf starts, finishing eighth last out in the Pago Hop; Silverton Hills’ Pass the Plate (post ten, Marcelino Pedroza Jr./Paul McGee, 6-1 ML) the winner of last year’s Pago Hop who has not scored since; Dewberry Thoroughbreds’ Princess Theorem (post eleven, James Graham/Brendan Walsh, 12-1 ML) finished third, only one length behind Lovely Ride, last out in the Pago Hop; Gary Broad’s Dawn’s Dancer (post twelve, Mitchell Murrill/Christopher Davis, 20-1 ML) ran eighth last out in the Suwannee River (G3) but scored her second turf win the race prior in a first-level allowance at Keeneland.
Kenneally on Abscond
“The plan is to run her this year and then make a decision (on her future),” Kenneally said. “She’s a grade one winner, but I think she can add to her value this year because she’s in great form. The Fair Grounds dirt track is great to train over and we’re exciting about the way she’s coming into the last three weeks or so.”
Calhoun on Lovely Ride
“We’ve probably seen who she is on the dirt,” Calhoun said. “Pedigree-wise, honestly she could be better off as a 4-year-old than as a younger horse.”
“(In order for us to run) It’s either going to have to come up a really soft field or it’s going to have to come off [the turf]. And the reason behind that is i don’t like running the newly turned 3-year-olds against older horses this early in the year. I’ve got some options with her after this.”
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 150th Thoroughbred Racing Season – highlighted by the 109th running of the Louisiana Derby – will run from November 25, 2021 through March 27, 2022. More information is available online at www.fairgroundsracecourse.com.