By Ryan Martin
Pin Oak Stable’s Synchrony ($4.20, $3.40 and $2.80) once again displayed his strong affinity for the Stall-Wilson Turf Course in Saturday’s Grade III $150,000 Fair Grounds Handicap, which he won for the second year in a row.
Guided by regular rider Joe Bravo, the 6-year-old son of Tapit sat well off the pace while Great Wide Open (Ire.) displayed his typical front running fashion and set opening fractions of 23.18, 47.37 and 1:11.34. Synchrony went six wide at the top of the stretch while 35-1 longshot Bandua took the lead, but made a strong run and proved to be the best horse in the race. He won by 1 ¼ lengths in a final time of 1:48.09. Bandua ($18.00 and $10.60) held on for second while Markitoff ($10.60) completed the trifecta.
The Fair Grounds Handicap was Synchrony’s first start of 2019. In his last effort he was a troubled third in the Grade II Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar in November.
“He was the best horse in his last race, anyone could have seen it,” Bravo recalled. “In turf racing, it’s all about getting position and how you win races like that is by putting them in position and he was unfortunate not to hit daylight,. Today I was worried about the speed favoring turf course and I had to use him a little bit. What makes him a good horse is that he listens to the rider. He’s a special animal and hopefully he stays healthy for the future. He makes the rider look good.”
Trained by Michael Stidham, Synchrony is undefeated in four starts over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course.
“His works coming in were as good as I could ever want them to be,” Stidham said. “Schooling the last couple of days and coming into the paddock today, he was just so cool and so calm that I knew he was set up for a big one. We worried about the speed bias and I told Joe to not let him drift out the back door. We had to have some kind of position turning for home to have a shot to win and he did it.”
Following the race, Stidham stated that Synchrony would attempt to defend another title next out in the Grade II $300,000 Muniz Memorial Stakes on March 23.
“This is home and we would try to win the race again, we like to win at Fair Grounds,” Stidham said.
Stidham also noted that a long term goal would be the Grade I $1 million Old Forester Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Last year, he finished a close third in the event which was contested over a yielding course.
“That would be our plan as long as the turf is firm,” Stidham said. “He’s a really good horse. He has shown it over and over again. I think he’s still got a Grade I sitting out there somewhere waiting for him.”
Adam Beschizza, the rider aboard longshot runner-up Bandua, was pleased with his horse’s effort.
“He’s a horse I’ve always held in high regard,” said Beschizza, who piloted the son of The Factor in his last two efforts. “I couldn’t believe he was such a price. This is probably the only time he’s been settled in somewhere. He’s always been on the move. He came here from Ireland, and then went to Chicago and Canada. He’s become more Americanized. That’s just the start of something. I can’t say that his first two or three runs were truly him.”
The Fair Grounds Handicap was Synchrony’s fifth graded stakes triumph. Other than his trio of local graded stakes wins, he collected a pair of Grade II victories at Monmouth Park last year in the Oceanport Stakes and Red Bank Stakes.
Synchrony earned $90,000 from the Fair Grounds Handicap win which enhanced his lifetime earnings to $733,052.
Completing the order of finish were Great Wide Open (Ire.), First Premio, Tiz a Slam, Sir Dudley Digges, Combatant and Big Changes.
A Kentucky homebred, Synchrony is out of the Forest Wildcat broodmare Brownie Points who was a multiple stakes winner on dirt and turf. She also produced stakes-placed Chocolate Kisses.