By Jim Mulvihill
Gary Broad’s 4-year-old colt Core Beliefs, racing for the first time since fifth-place finish in the Grade I Pennsylvania Derby six months ago, took a winding tour of the Fair Grounds stretch and repelled a bid from runner-up Silver Dust to win the Grade 2, $400,000 New Orleans Handicap by three-quarters of a length.
Core Beliefs and jockey Florent Geroux settled in third while racing three-wide on both turns behind early splits of 23.56 and 47.26, set by 2018 Louisiana Derby hero Noble Indy, who had broken through the gate and unseated John Velazquez before the start. Geroux took the lead into the stretch and put Core Beliefs to a drive, appearing desperate to find more as they drifted in and out coming to the eighth-pole.
“I had horse, I was just hoping he’d keep his focus,” Geroux said. “That was my only concern, not whether we had enough horse, but keeping him busy and keeping him focused to the wire. He was trying to wander around and I just needed to keep him occupied.”
Geroux, riding the Quality Road colt for the first time, heeded Eurton’s instructions to keep Core Beliefs in the clear even if it meant giving up ground on the turns.
“He loves the outside so much,” Eurton said. “We saw that in the (Grade III) Ohio Derby. He gets a little bogged down when he gets stuck on the rail.”
Silver Dust, the winner of last month’s Grade III Mineshaft Handicap, the local prep for the New Orleans ‘Cap, was close up throughout and kept on for a solid second. He returned $7.80 and $4.80.
“We were following the winner and had every opportunity down the lane to go by,” said Silver Dust’s trainer Bret Calhoun. “Peter (Eurton) did a phenomenal job getting that horse ready off the layoff. I felt pretty good turning for home I thought we might get by. That horse just kept fighting on.”
Lone Sailor – owned by Gayle Benson’s GMB Racing – closed with his customary late rush from the back of the field but ran out of ground, just as he did on this day last year in the Louisiana Derby.
“He showed what happens when he gets pace,” jockey James Graham said. “He tried, and I hope he’s going to take another step forward.”
Core Beliefs earned $240,000 to raise his career earnings to $872,660 from an overall record of 9-3-1-3, with his other stakes victory coming in the Ohio Derby he won by a nose over Lone Sailor. The winner paid $20.20, $9.40, and $6, while Silver Dust returned $7.80 and $4.80 and Lone Sailor was worth $3.60 to show.
Rounding out the order of finish were Bandua, Copper Bullet, Noble Indy, Souper Tapit, Krewe Chief and Mr. Buff.