Three-year-olds Take to the Turf in Saturday’s Pago Hop and Woodchopper

Contact: Kevin Kilroy
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Also on the New Year’s Eve card – La-Bred 2-year-olds face off in pair of Futurity Stakes

New Orleans, La (Dec 29) – Hunter Valley Farms’ A Mo Reay, scratched from Monday’s $100,000 Blushing K.D. against older and re-entered to face fellow 3-year-old fillies in Saturday’s $100,000 Pago Hop at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, has been installed as the 3-1 morning line in what will be her first start for trainer Brad Cox. The Uncle Mo filly is looking for her first win on the grass, having only tried it twice – in the Riskaverse at Saratoga and last out in the Pebbles (G3) at Aqueduct.

With the portable rail set at 34 feet, starters will be limited to eight runners for the pair of one mile turf races for 3-year-olds that will be run on Saturday, Dec 31. The $100,000 Woodchopper for the males is scheduled as Race 5 with a post time of 3:15 p.m. CT. The $100,000 Pago Hop for females is scheduled as Race 8 with a 4:45 p.m. post. First post for the 10-race card that includes the pair of Louisiana Futurity Stakes is 1:15 p.m. 

Trainer Joe Sharp has entered three fillies in the Pago Hop. Carl R. Moore Management’s Fancy Martini and Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch are part owners of both Elle of the Ball and Dreamworker.

“All fillies are doing well,” Sharp said. “They’re all live. The weather looks a little bit sketchy, so if it were to rain off we’d likely go with Elle of the Ball. She was second on the slop last time and has been effective on the dirt. We’ve always loved Fancy Martini. The race she ran at Keeneland was huge (winning an allowance in October at 54-1), even not having the best trip. The only two bad races she has run were at Churchill, for whatever reason the turf there is not one of her favorite surfaces. Dreamworker loves Fair Grounds’ turf course. She was two-for-two early last year on it. We freshened her a little bit this summer and we’ve just been waiting for a spot for her since her race at Kentucky Downs.”

Chief among A Mo Reay and the Sharp trio’s competitors in the Pago Hop is Brereton C Jones’ Trobairitz. Trained by Neil Pessin, both of her wins have come sprinting on the Stall-Wilson turf course at Fair Grounds. Running her top speed figure last out in an allowance race going 7 furlongs at Kentucky Downs, the Summer Front filly got nailed at the wire to finish second to Sara Mia.

“Trobairitz is doing fantastic,” Pessin said. “In her last race she ran really well but got caught at the wire after moving maybe a sixteenth (of a mile) too early.”

Drawing post No. 4, Trobairitz retains the services of Adam Beschizza.

Another top competitor in the Pago Hop is Team Block’s Illini Princess winner Trail Ridge Road. The Chris Block-trained Illinois-bred filly has two turf wins in her five career races. 

If there is a scratch, Gerald Bruno Jr., Carl Deville, and Chasey Pomier’s Free Like a Girl will draw in and could prove dangerous in her first try on the grass. The 8-time stakes winning Louisiana-bred finished second to some mighty foes in her 3-year-old campaign, including Ova Charged last out in the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint and Society in August’s Charles Town Oaks (G3) against open company.

Here’s the complete field for the Pago Hop Stakes from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line): 1. Elle of the Ball (Rey Gutierrez, Joe Sharp, 10-1); 2. Blissful (Brian Hernandez Jr., Cherie DeVaux, 9-2); 3. Dreamworker (Deshawn Parker, Joe Sharp, 5-1); 4. Trobairitz (Adam Beschizza, Neil Pessin, 8-1); 5. Dressed (Corey Lanerie, Wayne Catalano, 8-1); 6. Fancy Martini (James Graham, Joe Sharp, 6-1); 7. A Mo Reay (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 3-1); 8. Trail Ridge Road (Jareth Loveberry, Chris Block, 7-2); AE 9. Free Like a Girl ( Pedro Cotto Jr., Chasey Pomier, 3-1).

The Woodchopper

The $100,000 Woodchopper is headlined by three horses from the Brad Cox barn, including Donegal Racing’s Ready to Purrform, who was made the favorite at 5-2. The Kitten’s Joy colt has run twice since winning the Hall of Fame (G2) this summer at Saratoga, but could not menace the likes of Kitodan and Grand Sonata in the Dueling Grounds Derby (G3) at Kentucky Downs or Balnikhov and Wit in the Bryan Station (G3). Florent Geroux gets the call and will break from the far outside in post No. 8.

The morning line second-choice from the Cox Barn, Gary and Mary West’s Open Road looks to carry this fall’s dirt form to the grass making his first run since finishing third behind Business Model and B Dawk at Keeneland. The son of Quality Road is out of the Harlan’s Holiday dam Blast. Joe Talamo comes to town to ride Open Road, who drew post No. 3 and was made 3-1 in the morning line.

The last of Brad Cox’s entries is Juddmonte’s Straight Answer who drew the rail and will get the services of Corey Lanerie for his second start in the United States. His only wins so far came sprinting on the turf in Ireland in his first two tries.

The winning trainer and jockey combination from last year’s Woodchopper teams up to try to do it again, this time with Sutherland. The Silverton Hills homebred won his last start, but like all of his seven career runs, it was a sprint. Sound familiar? The same story was true with Calhoun’s 2021 winning entry Excess Magic.

The Cypress Creek Equine and Whispering Oaks Farm gelding Un Ojo makes his return to racing in the Woodchopper. Earning a spot in the Kentucky Derby with a 75-1 upset win in the Rebel Stakes (G2) and a second in the Withers Stakes (G3), Un Ojo had to scratch the week prior to the Run for the Roses due to a foot bruise. It will be the Ricky Courville trainee’s first try on the turf, but if his big late kick translates, he could be dangerous in this spot. Colby Hernandez will climb aboard for his first trip on the monocular son of Laoban who lost his left eye in a paddock incident as a foal. Un Ojo will break from post No. 6. 

Here’s the complete field for the Woodchopper Stakes from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line): 1. Straight Answer (Corey Lanerie, Brad Cox, 4-1); 2. Underdressed (Marcelino Pedroza Jr., Rey Hernandez, 12-1); 3. Open Road (Joe Talamo, Brad Cox, 3-1); 4. Britain’s Kitten (Deshawn Parker, Brian Williamson, 6-1); 5. Sutherland (Rey Gutierrez, Bret Calhoun, 6-1); 6. Un Ojo (Colby Hernandez, Ricky Courville, 6-1); 7. Life is a Banquet (Adam Beschizza, Brett Brinkman, 20-1); 8. Ready to Purrform (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 5-2).

La-Bred 2-year-olds face off in pair of Futurity Stakes

Eight boys and seven fillies entered the pair of 2-year-old Louisiana-bred sprint stakes to be run on Saturday, Dec 31. Scheduled as Race 9 with a 5:15 p.m. CT post time, the 60th running of the $100,000 Louisiana Futurity (boys) features a rematch of two impressive juveniles, Jack Hammer and Z’s Resurrection. The 56th running of the $100,000 Louisiana Futurity (girls) will be the second race on the card scheduled for 1:45 p.m. CT and is headlined by Norah G and Hopeitsmyluckyday. Both races will be run at 6 furlongs. The ten-race New Year’s Eve card also includes a pair of turf stakes for 3-year-olds, the $100,000 Pago Hop and $100,000 Woodchopper. First post time will be 1:15 p.m. CT.

Allied Racing Stables’ homebred Jack Hammer is a half sibling to Winning Romance, a three-time stakes winning star in the older filly and mare La-Bred division.  Like his sibling, Jack hammer is trained by Bret Calhoun. In his one race which took place on the Louisiana Champions Day Preview Weekend undercard, the son of Jimmy Creed went 5 1/2 furlongs gate-to-wire over a sloppy track to beat Z’s Resurrection by 4 1/2 lengths. The Bind gelding Stiff Drink, who entered the Futurity, ran 4th in that race as well. Jack Hammer draws favorably as the likely lone outside speed presence in post No. 6 with Rey Gutierrez back aboard. 

Trained by James “Sweet” Hodges, Z’s Resurrection’s second race came on the Louisiana Champions Day undercard where he trounced the field by 6 lengths. The gray son of Ocean Knight was on the muscle in the paddock and proceeded to get the jump on the field that day and never look back. 

“He came out of it good,” Hodges said. “If everything goes along well enough I think we’ve got a shot. I decided to keep Bri (jockey Brianne Culp) on because she rode him so well.”

Here’s the complete field for the Louisiana Futurity (Boys) from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line): 1. Stiff Drink (Alex Castillo, Joey Foster, 8-1); 2. Z Resurrection (Brianne Culp, James Hodges, 3-1); 3. Calicoco (Deshawn Parker, Shane Wilson, 7-2); 4. King’s Lute (Tim Thornton, Carl Woodley, 6-1); 5. Flash N Class (Juan Vargas, David Gomez, 15-1); 6. Jack Hammer (Rey Gutierrez, Bret Calhoun, 2-1); 7. Ranch Water (Corey Lanerie, Allen Landry, 15-1); 8. Steauxlit (Joe Stokes, Allen Landry, 12-1).

Louisiana Futurity (Girls)

After overcoming a tough break to defeat a nice field in her debut on the Louisiana Champions Day Preview Weekend undercard, Norah G again broke poorly in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie, and this time it cost her, as she fell just short of the more seasoned Free Drop Maddy 

“We think she’s ducking out of the starting gate,” Norah G’s trainer Patricia West said. “We’ve talked with the starter and will be trying something different so she does not do that again.”

Breaking from the outside in her first race and the inside in her second, Tom Galvin’s homebred will break from post No. 5 on Saturday and retains the services of Deshawn Parker. Her trainer Patricia West has been hot at the meet, winning with five of her twelve entries. 

Trainer Justin Jeansonne won this race both in 2016 with Mr. Al’s Gal and in 2017 Iona Star. He sends out Horse Players Club’s Paramour who broke her maiden against $10,000 claimers last out.

Here’s the complete field for the Louisiana Futurity (Girls) from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line): 1. New Destiny (Florent Geroux, Jayde Gelner, 5-1); 2. Shes a Lucky Rebel (Jose Luiz Rodriguez, Shane Wilson, 20-1); 3. Everlyn’s Angel (Joe Stokes, Allen Landry, 8-1); 4. Star Moment (Colby Hernandez, Ron Faucheux, 5-1); 5. Norah G (Deshawn Parker, Patricia West, 4-5); 6. Paramour (Jareth Loveberry, Justin Jeansonne, 30-1); 7. Hopeitsmyluckyday (Emmanuel Nieves, James Hodges, 9-2). 



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