Wonderful Justice Stays Perfect Winning the Black Gold | Eddie Johnston Memorial and Red Camelia Recaps
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Contact: Kevin Kilroy
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Big Chopper scored his second stake of the meet, this time on the turf in the Edward J. Johnston Memorial
Fort Polk Grinds Out the Red Camelia
New Orleans (Saturday, March 4, 2023) – Blue Diamond Stud Farm’s homebred Wonderful Justice followed up his debut win four weeks ago with a stakes victory, taking the $75,000 Black Gold Stakes by a neck at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Ridden by Colby Hernandez and trained by Brad Cox, Wonderful Justice tended to the pace throughout the 1 1/16 miles over the firm Stall Wilson turf course with the rail out at 34 feet, stopping the timer in 1:49.19 and prevailing over a field of eight 3-year-old males.
“Perfect trip,” Hernandez said. “He broke sharp and sat stalking the 1 horse (Reckoning Force), and then he kicked on. Brad (Cox) did a great job with this horse.
Breaking from the rail, Reckoning Force shot out to the lead and clicked through the opening fractions in :24.71 and :51.83. Loosely pressing in second, Wonderful Justice kept Reckoning Force measured up and made his bid at the sixteenth pole, grinding out the lead. The late-kicker Myredwhiteandblue came flying but could only beat Reckoning Force to the wire. Grade 2 winner and 4-5 post-time favorite Andthewinneris stumbled out of the gate and came on the scene late for fourth.
“He improved in his second start,” Cox said of the winner. “I think he’s got a big future. He’s been improving and developing a lot mentally. I thank the ownership group for giving us an opportunity with him. He has the pedigree for stretching beyond one mile and a sixteenth. There’s plenty of opportunity on the Kentucky circuit and the NYRA circuit and I think he’ll be competitive at the top of that division.”
Bettors let Wonderful Justice go at 6-1, and his backers were handsomely rewarded with $15.00, $7.80, and $5.80.
Mazing Mark, Lord Donegal, Winters Lion, and Tapio rounded out the order of finish.
A perfect two-for-two, Wonderful Justice now has amassed $75,000 in earnings. The son of Justify out of the Giant’s Causeway dam I’m Wonderful was bred in Kentucky by his owners.
Corey Lanerie, jockey of the post-time favorite Andthewinneris (finished fourth):
“We got slammed leaving the gate, which kind of knocked him off balance. In the first turn, I think he took another gut punch. But other than that, I worked out a pretty smooth trip. When I got out, I thought I was going to run them down.”
Fans were treated to a thrilling 43rd edition of the $75,000 Edward J. Johnston Memorial as Big Chopper held off a fast-charging Who Took the Money for a nose victory. The versatile colt won the Louisiana Champions Day Sprint on dirt earlier in the meet.
Trained by Scott Gelner and ridden by Corey Lanerie, Big Chopper completed about one mile 1:42.18 over the “firm” Stall Wilson Turf Course with the rail remaining 34 feet out.
“There are not many like that that can change their style and run well at any distance,” Lanerie said. “Going into the race I really thought I would be the pace. But he broke within himself today and he relaxed. If he would have gotten any bit rank on the backside, someone would have run him down.”
The stretch battle began around the far turn when Big Chopper split front-running foes Maga Man and Mangelsen, who tallied early quarter-mile fractions of :25.78 and :52.05. Lanerie began to ask Big Chopper for his best run as Budro Talking came flying into the mix and Who took the Money gathered his run down the center of the course. Big Chopper gamely fought to stay in front of Budro Talking and as the wire neared, Who Took the Money surged forward in the photo’s flash, which showed only a nose difference between Big Chopper in first and the 1-2 favorite Who Took the Money in second. It was another nose back to Budro Talking in third.
“He got overlooked again today,” Gleaner said. “Every time I’ve run him here, people always say turf, and I’ve never had a chance to run him many times on the turf. Today he showed up and got it done. He can sprint or go long, dirt, or turf. He represents himself well. I didn’t know Eddie (Johnston) that well, but I knew him, and I was glad just to be in this race and honored to win it in his name.”
At 15-1 Big Chopper rewarded his backers with payouts of$33.60, $8.00, and $5.00.
After a mid-pack stalking trip, Smarty Alex finished fourth followed in order by Wicker Rose, Maga Man, Mangelsen, and Highland Creek.
Big Chopper improved his overall mark to 17-5-4-1 with earnings of $260,333. The 4-year-old son of Shackleford out of the Unusual Heat mare Miss Well Molded was bred in Louisiana by Kendel Standlee.
Deshawn Parker, jockey on Who Took the Money (finished second):
“Everything was perfect, he runs his race all the time. That’s just how he runs, so you win them and then you lose them, but he ran hard and made his run.”
Patricia and Steve Roe’s Fort Polk overcame the field of eight fillies and mares in the stretch to win the 47th running of the $75,000 Red Camelia Stakes. Finishing less than a length shy of winning last year’s edition, this is the first turf stakes victory for Fort Polk, whose only other stake victory came in the Louisiana Champions Day Distaff on the dirt in 2021. The 7-year-old Louisiana-bred beat seven older fillies and mares by 1/2 length.
Piloted by Emanuel Nieves and trained by Pat Mouton, Fort Polk completed about one mile in 1:42.31 over the “firm” Stall Wilson Turf Course with the rail remaining 34 feet out.
“Everything worked out how we wanted it,” Nieves said. “I got in a good position, avoided traffic, and when I asked her, she was ready to go.”
Flashing speed from her outside draw, Cheapskate Diva fought for the lead in the early going and held it while setting opening fractions of :24.79 and :49.92. While three others chased the front-runner, Fort Polk found midpack position going three-wide, A G’s Charlotte saved ground on the rail behind her, and Wholelottamo kept her eyes on the field from the back. Fort Polk dug in eyeball-to-eyeball with Cheapskate Diva, bid past, and then had to fend off 9-5 favorite A G’s Charlotte’s bid from the rail. Wholelottamo came flying from the back but too late as Fort Polk got the best of the late-runners. A G’s Charlotte finished second, Wholelottamo in third, and Cheapskate Diva held on for fourth.
“It’s easier to win tough races like these when you’ve got the horse,” Mouton said. “She’s easy to train, responds well to it, and gives you her best all the time.”
Blessed Anna, Free Like a Girl, and Eve’s Delight completed the order of finish. Winning Romance was scratched after flipping in the paddock prior to the race.
Fort Polk was sent off at 9-2 and returned $11.60, $5.80, and $3.60. She boosted her career record to 41-10-7-11 and earnings to $384,460.
Racing continues at Fair Grounds on Sunday, March 5, with a 1:15 p.m. CT first post. There is a $3,450 carryover in the $1 Pick 6 which begins in Race 3 (15% takeout).
Marcelino Pedroza Jr., jockey of A G’s Charlotte (finished second):
“My trip was good. She makes you think you have a ton of horse and gives it to you, and then she’s like ‘eh I don’t know’. But then gives it to you again. In and out, in and out. She has been working so well without the blinkers, maybe that is the key.”
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 151st Thoroughbred Racing Season – highlighted by the 110th running of the Louisiana Derby – will run from Nov 18, 2022 through March 26, 2023. More information is available online at www.fairgroundsracecourse.com.