The Bob Wright Memorial — Will They Send or Will they Rate? Jockey’s Race in Saturday Stakes Could Foreshadow Riding Title
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The Bob Wright Memorial — Will They Send or Will they Rate?
Jockey’s Race in Saturday Stakes Could Foreshadow Riding Title
Saturday’s Turf Stakes Will Chart Path for Stidham’s Pixelate and Foster’s Pirate’s Punch
New Orleans, LA (November 26, 2021) – When the horses break from the gates for the inaugural Bob F. Wright Memorial Stakes, a lot more will be on the line than the $75,000 purse offered at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The Wright features many of the logical contenders for this year’s jockey title. Run over 1 mile and 1/16 on the turf course which played favorably to front-runners on opening day, how the race plays out will depend on the decisions of the riders. In a race with four horses who have proven dangerous on or near the lead, and four horses who possess a late kick, everyone is wondering: who will send and who will make the last move?
With a strong jockey colony of the usual suspects (James Graham, Mitchell Murrill, Adam Beschizza, Colby Hernandez, and Declan Carroll), four of this meet’s most exciting jockeys weren’t in the hunt last year when James Graham won his third title. Reylu Gutierrez, Jareth Loveberry, Deshaun Parker, and Angel Suarez. All mentioned, except Beschizza who is finishing the meet at Churchill Downs, have live mounts in the Wright. Rider’s up!
Starting from the outside post, two-time graded stakes winner Pirate’s Punch could enjoy the run of the race. Exiting a fourth-place finish at Keeneland against next-out winner Thomas Shelby and always dangerous Warrior’s Charge, the saint of circumstance has Grant Forster’s five-year-old star trying turf for the first time.
“We shipped him to run in the Delta Downs Mile two weeks ago,” Forster said. “He was just a little flat when he got there. He went off his feet for a couple nights, it wasn’t anything major, but we didn’t want to run because he always does tremendous and ships great and for whatever reason had a couple dull days there right before the race. We started focusing on this race. We have always wanted to try him on the turf, but when you have a horse running great on dirt it doesn’t really give you the opportunity—you’d hate to potentially waste a race. This seems like the perfect opportunity.”
Will Hernandez repeat his nonchalant send and sayonara tactics that he employed with Just Might in Thursday’s Thanksgiving Classic?
“As Pirate has gotten older, he’s wanted to settle more,” Forster said. “But it looks like he would be the speed of the speed on Saturday if he wants it. We’re going to let Colby [Hernandez] and Pirate do whatever Pirate is comfortable doing.”
After twenty-two career starts, this son of Shanghai Bobby knows how to get out and stay out in front. Pirate’s Punch has tallied four of his five victories on the early lead. But those aren’t the races that impressed the connections most.
“I thought his best race last year was the Salvatore Mile when he settled off a fast pace that day,” Forster said. “It seems like even more so in his works this year, he is more relaxed. He comes flying home in every work. Even though it looks like on paper we should send him and go, we feel like we made a mistake sending him in his second race this year. The horse is a really smart horse, so let’s let him do what he wants to do.”
Maybe the most exciting new rider isn’t exactly new—he’s making his comeback. Riding Goldophin-owned Pixelate from the inside post, Angel Suarez suffered a meet-ending broken femur one month into his first residence at Fair Grounds. An Eclipse Award finalist for outstanding apprentice jockey in 2012, Suarez has been excellent at Deleware Park and many around the track are predicting he will carry that success forward.
“Angel started the meet great for us last year,” Pixelate’s trainer Mike Stidham said. “We’re actually the ones who told him to come. He actually had just won his stakes on Pixelate, but he got injured in the very next race after that. I think he really is in a position to take up where he left off. I think he could have a great meet. He’s a really talented rider and I am going to give him some opportunities.”
Another two-time graded stakes winner with lifetime earnings of $1,100,993, this City Zip colt looks to be in form, though obscured on paper by the tough go he had at Keeneland in the G1 Turf Mile. Usually closer to the front, Pixelate stumbled early, forcing Tyler Gaffalione to settle second to last. He was able to save ground but had no lane to carry forward his momentum in the homestretch until it was too late. He finished 4 lengths ahead of Saturday’s Micahel Maker-trained rival, Monarchs Glen.
“He’s been one of those kinds of horses that have been as honest and consistent as any horse I have ever trained,” Stidham said. “He shows up every time. This is a race he should be very very tough in. He’s doing well and with a good trip, we should be live.”
Pirate’s Punch’s draw may give the old-timer Hernandez the edge. But to his inside, three Michael Maker horses loom large. First is Big Agenda who has been edging towards his first stakes victory. This 6-year-old turf-specialist has learned to rate as he matures, too. But his rider James Graham is as dangerous as they get when he has the lead. So will he send?
Drawn 6th is Forty Under. Mitchell Murrill will ride this 5-year-old who showed tremendous promise at age 2, winning the G3 Pilgrim and racing in the G1 Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf. His lone victory since his freshman campaign was this past summer in an $80k Allowance at Saratoga.
Then comes stakes-winner Monarchs Glen. Reylu Guttierrez is up and he is hungry to prove himself. This classy son of Frankel will be displaying his talents late.
Paul Brown took over training Mutaktif in September and in his one race since, the horse clocked his fastest pace figures, pressing until a half-length short of Dyn O Mite in that second-level Keeneland Allowance.
Joe Sharp and Deshawn Parker teamed up for an impressive victory on opening day. They’ll have another shot wirh Logical Myth. This gelding had always run his fastest early on–until his last start where he won the Speaker’s Cup at Mountaineer from eleven lengths back.
All this early pace could play right into newcomer Jareth Loveberry’s hands as he rides Another Mystery, an Illinois-bred from turf-specialists Team Block. Last time out he was steadied twice–early and in the second turn–then faced traffic late. But when he did his running, he showed his talent and form. The price should be right for this 8-1 morning line stakes winner.
If things go well for Pirate’s Punch, Forster will have a tough decision to make–keep on the grass or go back to the original plan.
“We have our eye on the dirt stakes the day after Christmas [The Tenacious Stakes],” Forster said. “Obviously if he runs huge on the turf on Saturday then that will open us up some options for us for the rest of the meet.”
And for Pixelate? The G2 $300,000 Muniz Memorial on Louisiana Derby Day seems like a logical goal.
Stidham said, “We’ll see where we are at moving forward with a race like the Muniz at the end of the meet.”
After 4:45 post for the 6th race on Saturday, courses will be charted and one jockey battle will be in the books. Graham, Murrill, Hernandez, and Carroll have the early speed in this race. The newcomers will just have to be patient.
Bob F. Wright Memorial Stakes. Renowned lawyer, philanthropist, entrepreneur and “Louisiana Legend”—it’s an honor to run the 1st annual Bob F. Wright Memorial Stakes. Post time is 1:05 CT for Saturday’s 10-race card.
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.