Pegasus Winners Art Collector and Atone Enter Louisiana Derby Day Stakes
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Pegasus World Cup Upsetter Art Collector Out to Secure Another New Orleans Classic Masterpiece for Mott
Two Emmys’ Muniz Streak is On the Line as Atone, Spooky Channel Loom Large
Classy Graded Stakes Winner Adventuring Headlines $100,000 Tom Benson Memorial
New Orleans, La (March 23, 2023) – Bruce Lunsford’s multiple graded stakes winner Art Collector ships in to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots to headline a field of eight sharp older males in Saturday’s 98th running of the $500,000 New Orleans Classic (G2) presented by Relyne GI by Hagyard.
The New Orleans Classic will go as Race 9 of 15 with a post time of 4:04 p.m. CT. It will be the first leg of the all-new Bayou Bluegrass 5, which combines five stakes from Fair Grounds’ and Turfway Park’s big Saturday cards. First post for the Louisiana Derby Day program will be noon CT and will feature the 110th running of the $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) and the 56th running of the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) presented by Fasig-Tipton. 100-40-30-20-10 Kentucky Derby and Oaks points are on the line for the top five finishers as the Championship Series begins in New Orleans with the 1 3/16 miles Louisiana Derby (Race 12, 5:42 p.m) and the 1 1/16 miles Fair Grounds Oaks (5:08 p.m.).
Besides the New Orleans Classic, The Louisiana Derby Day stakes-laden card will also feature the $300,000 Muniz Memorial (G2) presented by Horse Racing Nation, the $100,000 Tom Benson Stakes, the $100,000 Costa Rising Stakes (LA), the $100,000 Crescent City Derby (LA), and the $100,000 Crescent City Oaks (LA).
Ahead of Olympiad’s second-place finish to Flightline in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Classic, trainer Bill Mott sent him to Fair Grounds where he first won the Mineshaft and followed that up with a win in the New Orleans Classic. Mott also won this race with Good Samaritan in 2018. This year he will be represented by the $4 million lifetime earner Art Collector. The 6-year-old’s last win at the 1 1/8 miles distance came in January’s Pegasus World Cup. In that race he showed a new dimension rating behind the speed, only to draw off, leaving 11 of the division’s best 4 1/2 lengths behind him. Four of his Pegasus foes won in their next outing. In his race prior to the Pegasus, the 1 1/18 miles Lukas Classic (G2), he finished fifth, 6 1/2 lengths behind the winner Hot Rod Charlie.
“In (the Lukas) remember we were in the lead and we got passed,” Lunsford said. “Really that may not be his most comfortable way to run. When he was younger, he wouldn’t break. When we put Luis Saez on him, Luis was able to get him to break, get him to go and run on the lead. Now I think (Art Collector) is smarter and runs differently. He had plenty left in the Pegasus, and I think he would have run another half mile if he had to.”
Atypical for modern racing, Art Collector was brought back to race as a 6-year-old by his sporting owner Lunsford.
“Part of the reason I decided to run him back is I like the game,” Lunsford said. “I like to race. I talked with Bill (Mott) about it, and we felt the horse had excuses with his foot and things like that and we could get him back in good order to run. I didn’t think it would be fair for him to go out after that one (the Lukas Classic), and it worked out pretty well because he was really healthy (in the Pegasus).”
If not Art Collector, who will take the early lead in the New Orleans Classic? After entering Brad Cox’s barn at the beginning of his 5-year-old season, Gary and Mary West’s West Will Power soon developed a new running style as he moved up in class. His 5-2-3-0 record with the Cox barn, including a win in the Fayette (G2) at Keeneland, proves the success of the new tactics. He exits two strong place-finishes in the Clark (G1) behind Proxy and the Razorback (G3) behind Last Samurai, who recently returned to take the Essex (G3).
If West Will Power wants the lead, he will have to duke it out with one of Fair Grounds’ fastest early speedsters over the past two meets in Robert Johnson and Britt Haselton’s Treasury. The one-dimensional son of Speightstown is as honest as they come. In his races at Fair Grounds, he is 11-for-11 in the money with three wins, including last out in an allowance where he went all out at every call, saying catch me in the end, if you can. Trainer Grant Forster says the same strategy will be employed in Treasury’s first stakes run.
“We’re going to be in front,” Forster said. “You have to be in front at some point to win the race. He’s doing fantastic. He loves it here, it’s the perfect time to take our big swing with him and see what happens. He’s just a horse that you have to let run. His thing is he can go fast and keep going. Obviously, these are top-class horses, but we’re going to go out there and take it to everybody and see what happens.”
Among the other top competitors in the New Orleans Classic is Lothenbach Stable’s Happy American. Winner of the Louisiana (G3) and the Tenacious, two of the three preps for the New Orleans Classic, last out in the Mineshaft Happy American finished a disappointing eighth.
“I was hesitant to run last time and I shouldn’t have,” Pessin said of the poor performance. “I’m kicking myself for doing that. I wasn’t going to run in this one but he is doing exceptionally well, like he was before the Louisiana. After we gave him a couple of weeks off, he’s come back doing exceptionally well, bright and energetic, so we’re going to see what happens. It’s a little tougher race than before. There are a couple horses shipping in that make it pretty tough, but I need to see where he belongs. If he runs his race but gets beat five lengths I know I need to avoid those horses. If he runs his race and is right there, then I’ll take them on again. We need to know if he fits in the upper echelon.”
There’s no questioning Jon Lapczenski and JIL Stable Mr. Wireless’ form. Trained by Bret Calhoun, the 5-year-old has finished second in each of the local preps. In the Mineshaft, it was Sumaya U S Stables’ Pioneer of Medina who got the best of Mr. Wireless. However, Pletcher’s trainee returns on Saturday, but he is winless in two starts at the New Orleans Classic distance of 1 ⅛ miles.
Here is the complete field for the New Orleans Classic presented by Relyne GI by Hagyard in order of post position (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): 1. Treasury (Corey Lanerie, Grant Forster, 20-1); 2. Art Collector (Junior Alvarado, Bill Mott, 8-5); 3. West Will Power (Flavien Prat, Brad Cox, 2-1); 4. Trafalgar (Mitchell Murrill, Chris Hartman, 30-1); 5. Rattle N Roll (Brian Hernandez Jr., Ken McPeek, 10-1); 6. Happy American (James Graham, Neil Pessin, 10-1); 7. Mr. Wireless (Deshawn Parker, Bret Calhoun, 8-1); 8. Pioneer of Medina (Luis Saez, Todd Pletcher, 9-2).
Two Emmys Muniz Streak is On the Line as Atone, Spooky Channel Loom Large
Looking to back up his win in the Fair Grounds Stakes (G3), Wolfe Racing Hugh Robertson’s Two Emmys enters the 31st running of the $300,000 Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) presented by Horse Racing Nation poised to repeat after wiring last year’s renewal. Nine other formful older turf males entered to end Two Emmys’ reign at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, including last-out Pegasus World Cup Turf winner Atone and Two Emmys nemesis in the 2021 Sycamore, Spooky Channel.
Going 1 1/8 miles over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, the Muniz is slated as the 10th race on the stakes-laden 15-race program. Post time is 4:36 p.m. CT. The portable rail has been moved inside from 34 to 28 feet for all this weekend’s turf races, and with that, field sizes are expanded to ten entries.
A win in the Muniz would put Two Emmys above $1 million in lifetime earnings. Trainer Hugh Robertson has been masterful with his 7-year-old gelded son of English Channel who keeps getting better with age. A multiple-graded stakes winner who often manages to get the lead and slow down the pace, Two Emmys will break from post No. 6 with regular rider James Graham aboard.
Three Diamonds Farm’s Atone exits the best performance of his 6-year-old career, scoring in the Pegasus World Cup Turf. The 7-time winner made his first grade-stakes win count in scoring the lion’s share of the $1,000,000 purse. Trainer Mike Maker is known for finding the best in his turf horses as they mature, and the 6-year-old Atone is no exception. Drawing post No. 1 and tabbed as the 5-2 favorite in the morning line, Luis Saez will climb aboard Atone for the first time since 2021.
Similar to Two Emmys, NBS Stable’s Spooky Channel is an older English Channel seeming to be in career-best form. Trained by Jason Barkley, the 8-year-old missed most of 2022 with a minor setback, but in December of 2022 he reasserted himself winning the $100,000 Diliberto. His next start was over the soft going of Sam Houston Park in the Connally Turf Cup, where he tended to the pace in typical fashion but finished one length behind winner Scarlet Fusion and a neck shy of Muniz-foe Another Mystery.
“Right now, he is a monster,” assistant trainer Shelbi Barkley said. “Since he ran at Texas, he has been tough and on the bridle. Even more than before. He had his little issue last year and we had to give him time. Last year he trained well, but right now he is doing better than ever.”
In Spooky Channel’s last race before the setback, he nailed Two Emmys at the wire in the Sycamore (G3) at Keeneland. Joel Rosario will pilot Spooky Channel, who drew immediately inside Two Emmys with post No. 5.
Russell Welch and Ran Leonard’s Rising Empire has found new form since being pointed to the turf two races back by trainer Brendan Walsh.
“He’s been working very well,” Walsh said. “Sometimes in the past he wasn’t the greatest workhorse but recently he’s been working great. I think he got a lot of confidence from his few grass starts. He likes it here, he likes this turf course. I don’t think he’ll be too far away.”
Made 20-1 in the morning line, Rising Empire finished a head shy of winning his first turf run but wheeled back for the open-length score against allowance ranks in February. Florent Geroux is signed on to pilot him from post No. 2.
Here is the complete field for the Muniz Memorial presented by Horse Racing Nation from the rail out (with jockey and trainer): 1. Atone (Luis Saez, Mike Maker, 5-2); 2. Rising Empire (Florent Geroux, Brendan Walsh, 20-1); 3. Gentle Soul (Rey Gutierrez, Bret Calhoun, 5-1); 4. English Tavern (Deshawn Parker, 12-1, Michelle Lovell); 5. Spooky Channel (Joel Rosario, Jason Barkley, 9-2); 6. Two Emmys (James Graham, Hugh Robertson, 3-1); 7. Another Mystery (Flavien Prat, Chris Block, 6-1); 8. Tiz the Bomb (Brian Hernandez Jr., Ken McPeek, 10-1); 9. Risk Manager (Ricardo Santana Jr., Sarah Davidson, 20-1); 10. Native Thunder (Mitchell Murrill, Dallas Stewart, 30-1).
Classy Graded Stakes Winner Adventuring Headlines $100,000 Tom Benson Memorial
Godolphin’s homebred Adventuring, a Grade 3 winner last year in the Lady’s Marathon at Kentucky Downs, was installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite among a competitive field of 10 fillies and mares that were entered in the $100,000 Tom Benson Memorial at Fair Grounds Racecourse & Slots.
The Tom Benson Memorial, run at 1 1/16 miles on the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, will go as Race 8 at 3:32 p.m.CT. First post on the 15-race Louisiana Derby Day extravaganza is noon CT. The portable rail has been moved to from 34 to 28 feet for all this weekend’s turf races, and with that, field sizes are expanded to ten entries.
Trained by Brad Cox, Adventuring began her 5-year-old campaign in late January when she finished third in the La Prevoyante (G3) at Gulfstream Park. As a 4-year-old, Adventuring secured two victories from just four starts in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon and the West Virginia Presidents Cup. The classy daughter of Pioneerof the Nile will cut back to 1 1/16 miles on turf, her shortest distance since winning the 1 mile and 70 yard West Virginia Presidents Cup on dirt. Luis Saez will have the mount from the rail.
Among Adventuring’s top rivals in the Tom Benson Memorial is Merriebelle Stable’s Argentina Group 1 winner Didia (ARG). Trained by Ignacio Correas IV and ridden by Vince Cheminaud, Didia made her first state-side start on July 18 at Colonial Downs where she defeated eight rivals in a conditioned allowance event. One month later, Didia rallied from more than 5 lengths off the early pace in the Old Nelson Stakes to defeat 11 rivals by one-length. Didia’s victory in the Old Nelson earned her a 95 Brisnet Speed Rating, which ties for the fastest last-race figure in the Tom Benson Memorial with She Can’t Sing.
“Her two races (at Colonial Downs) both impressed me because we have changed her style completely,” Correas said. “She was a freak in Argentina. She won the Copa de Plata (Group 1), the biggest race in Argentina. I think she went 1:56 going one mile and a quarter wire-to-wire. I didn’t want her to be a horse who goes to the lead and has to fight with everybody. The first race at Colonial Downs, I think they went 51 seconds through the first half-mile, or something like that, brutal for a closer. I’ve never sweated that much, at the quarter pole she was fifth or sixth, and then she came up with a run. She won a race where nothing was in her favor. Then we beat that Alms, she was a very good filly.”
Didia has been on the sidelines since the Old Nelson Stakes but has recorded 11 published workouts at Keeneland since January in preparation for her 5-year-old bow.
“We didn’t miss a beat over the winter,” Correas said. “After Colonial Downs, there was not much for her to go on to, unless you wanted to run in a Grade 1. I thought it was smarter to give her a break. It’s time to start the second campaign. I have big hopes for her. I think she is as close as I can get her to be 100%. She is very sharp. I hope I can start a very big year for her. I think she is the real thing. We are coming back from a 6-month layoff, but she’s ready. I cannot tell you that she will not be better in her second run, but she is on top of her game. She is training fantastically.”
The six-time winning daughter of Orpen will break from post No. 6 and was made the 3-1 second choice on the morning line.
Didia’s aforementioned rival She Can’t Sing pulled a 9-1 upset victory in the 2022 Tom Benson Memorial. The eight-time winning daughter of Bernardini was the one-length victory of last year’s contest where she defeated eight rivals. Following her victory in the Benson, the Chris Block trainee won the one-mile Chilukki Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs and finished third in the Houston Ladies Classic (G3). Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., who was aboard She Can’t Sing in the Chilukki, will have the mount at odds of 9-2.
Here is the complete field for the Tom Benson Memorial from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): 1. Adventuring (Luis Saez, Brad Cox, 2-1); 2. New Boss (Deshawn Parker, Bret Calhoun, 12-1); 3. Trail Ridge Road (Joel Rosario, Chris Block, 12-1); 4. Island Hideaway (GB) (Cristian Torres, Karl Broberg, 15-1); 5. Gather As You Go (James Graham, Tom Proctor, 20-1); 6. Didia (ARG) (Vince Cheminaud, Ignacio Correas IV, 3-1); 7. Trobairitz (Florent Geroux, Neil Pessin, 12-1); 8. She Can’t Sing (Brian Hernandez Jr., Chris Block, 9-2); 9. New Year’s Eve (Flavien Prat, Brendan Walsh, 5-1); 10. Russian Mafia (Corey Lanerie, Eduardo Rodriguez, 20-1)
Tom Benson Memorial Additional Quotes
Brendan Walsh, trainer of New Year’s Eve
“She ran here last year and then went down and won the Edgewood at Churchill on Oaks day. I added the blinkers before the Edgewood, but I’ve taken them back off and she’ll keep them off for Saturday. She’s a little fresh at the moment, that’s why I decided to take them off for a run or two. Last year she was a slow learner and would be all over the place and that’s why we put them on at Churchill and it really stepped her up. But I think she’s experienced enough to have them off.”
Neil Pessin, trainer of Trobairitz
“We’re taking a shot here. The mare is doing good. We’d like to get a stakes win for her pedigree, her breeding. We’d like to get some graded placing in there (her page) at some point. We’ll just see how she does and decide where to go from there. I know there are some heavy hitters in there, it’s a nice field. She’s doing really well, and now is the time to take a shot. If she’s going to go to Kentucky and run in graded stakes, she’s going to have to hook these types.”
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