Travel Column Re-Turns Tables on Clairiere in TwinSpires.com Fair Grounds Oaks

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Travel Column Re-Turns Tables on
Clairiere in TwinSpires.com Fair Grounds Oaks

Cox Trainee Heads to Churchill Downs as Likely Kentucky Oaks Favorite

New Orleans (March 20, 2021) – Travel Column two, Clairiere one. The rivalry continues. Churchill Downs awaits.

Part III of a budding rivalry between OXO Equine’s Travel Column and Stonestreet Stables’ homebred Clairiere went to the former in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), as she took advantage of a decided race flow edge and easily held off the late rally of her nemesis by 2 ¾ lengths to set up the all-important fourth meeting in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), April 30 at Churchill Downs. Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots signature race for 3-year-old fillies has produced seven of the last 17 Kentucky Oaks winners and could build on that stat this year, as Travel Column and Clairiere head to Louisville as very likely the top two betting choices.

Florent Geroux had Travel Column ($6.20) just off the early speed of Souper Sensational, who set predictably dawdling early fractions of 24.35 and 48.64 in a race that lacked a true pacesetter on paper. Joe Talamo and the stretch running Clairiere took it all in from last in the field-of-7 early, and the pair were still just fifth while between horses after a half-mile. The cadence quickened entering the far turn when Travel Column got on even terms with Souper Sensational and then asserted her superiority in early stretch to take the lead. Clairiere was in full flight after rallying wide, but Travel Column was long gone at that point and coasted home to an easy win, covering the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.75. Clairiere rallied gamely and finished 2 lengths ahead of a tiring Souper Sensational.

Geroux has been aboard Travel Column, a daughter of Frosted, for all five or her career starts and has been impressed with not only her physical maturation, but her mental maturation as well.

“As a 2-year-old she was a little hot blooded, she got a little bit excited,” Geroux said. “Over the winter from 2-to-3 she showed improvement in all areas, which is what you want to see.

Travel Column always came with a lofty reputation for 2020 Eclipse Award winning trainer Brad Cox, as she cost $850,000 as a yearling and won by 4 ¼ lengths on debut at Churchill in September. She ran third in the Alcibiades (G1) at Keeneland in October then came to national attention in November with a troubled but decisive last-to-first win in Churchill’s Golden Rod (G2)—over Clairiere—to end her freshman season. Travel Column came back in the Fair Grounds’ February 13 Rachel Alexandra (G2), when she was forced to make first run into a solid pace and got run down by a neck by Clairiere. Geroux was much more comfortable early in the Oaks, though he also knows Travel Column can come from anywhere too.

“She put me in race and I wanted to stay as quiet as I could,” Geroux said. “She showed a very nice kick and put them away pretty easy. We are excited. We know she likes Churchill and her versatility is her greatest asset. She can stay close, but in the Golden Rod she was trapped and overcame adversity.”

Cox has won last year’s Fair Grounds Oaks with Bonny South and two of the last three Kentucky Oaks as well. Travel Column, who is now 5-3-1-1 lifetime with $517,184 in earnings earned 100 qualifying points for the Oaks and she now leads all 3-year-old fillies with 132. Cox has a great chance at making it 3-of-4 in Louisville, though he knows his filly will have to fire her best shot yet at Churchill.

“When you’re trying to win races like the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks you have to keep moving forward,” Cox said. “She’s a talented filly. She was an expensive yearling and it paid off. We can go to the last Friday in April. She puts a lot in her works, so I think six weeks will be a good thing for her.

Clairiere lost nothing in defeat in a race that was a perfect stepping stone to Louisville for trainer Steve Asmussen. The daughter of Curlin, out of the multiple grade 1 winner Cavorting, turned the tables on Travel Column in the Rachel Alexandra but was at the mercy of the pace Saturday. Clairiere, who earned 40 Oaks points (raising her total to 94) for her effort and is 4-2-2-0 lifetime, figures to like the added distance of the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks, along with the faster splits she figures to get.

“The pace didn’t suit us today, it kind of hurt us, the winner was right off of it,” Talamo said. “Nonetheless, around the turn I was smiling because she was making up some ground pretty good. Pace makes the race and obviously Travel Column had a perfect trip. I’ll tell you what, I think any added distance will definitely be a help. She doesn’t do a thing wrong and I don’t think you’ve seen the best of this filly.”

Churchill Downs awaits.

 

Additional Fair Grounds Oaks quotes:

Steve Asmussen trainer Clairiere (2nd): We knew we would be up against it just looking at the form. You couldn’t find a horse who wanted the lead. We are going to stay the course. We love her at a mile and an eighth and she’s run well at Churchill. If she stays healthy, we expect her to be in Kentucky for the Oaks.

David Carroll, assistant trainer (to Mark Casse) Souper Sensational (3rd), who raised her Kentucky Oaks points total to 24: The plan was to try to be aggressive because we knew there was no speed in there. John (Velazquez, jockey) said she caught the break and set nice fractions. We were very proud of her. We just got caught (for second) at the end. This is something we can build on.”

Luis Saez, jockey Li’l Tootsie (5th): I was comfortable with my position early but she just got a little tired. She was traveling nice but I knew the winner had a lot of horse. At the half-mile I tried to see what we had but we just couldn’t run with them. I knew it wouldn’t be that fast early so I tried to be close.

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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 is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN); it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and 13 off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. The 149th Thoroughbred Racing Season – highlighted by the 108th running of the Louisiana Derby – will run from November 26, 2020 through March 28, 2021. More information can be found online at www.FairGroundsRaceCourse.com.

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