As trainer Tom Amoss watched Saturday’s Grade II $200,000 TwinSpires.com Rachel Alexandra Stakes on a television above the track, he only had one thought on his mind in relation to his entry, Venus Valentine.
“I just kept saying to myself, ‘please get in the picture soon’,” he said jokingly.
The Rosemont Farm-owned filly shot her way into the picture soon enough and burst past the rest of the field to take a shocking win in the second leg of the Fair Grounds’ Road to the Kentucky Derby series on Saturday.
Venus Valentine came into the race with 74-1 odds and only one career win under her belt, but she put together a late run to come away with the improbable win against a formidable field.
“In my wildest dreams, I can’t say I thought we’d beat these kind of horses today,” Amoss said. “The one thing that stood out in this field was that there was a ton of speed in this particular field.
“We thought that maybe we could find a way to be competitive, but she jus had an outstanding finish.”
Venus Valentine was in the back of the pack for the majority of Saturday’s race, but jockey Corey Lanerie said he thought she would have enough to make one last push down the stretch.
“I just let her run her style,” he said. “Every time I asked her to give me a little more, she was able to do it. So I figured she would have a little bit left in the tank at the end, and she gave me all she had.”
Mike Rutherford’s Stageplay came into Saturday as the overwhelming favorite following her win in the Silverbulletday Stakes on Jan. 16, but came away with an underwhelming fifth place finish on Saturday.
Trainer Steve Asmussen said that Stageplay, which recorded three wins in her four career starts, had a disappointing day in Saturday’s race and that he’ll need to go back to the drawing board.
“Obviously, it was a disappointing performance, so we need to figure it out and go from there,” Asmussen said.
In his four starts at the Fair Grounds, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s International Star has never walked away with anything less than a first-place finish.
That streak came to an end on Saturday as the Paul McGee-trained Majestic Harbor jumped out to an early lead and held on late to win the Grade III $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap.
“He did break a little slow today and it took him a few strides to get himself together,” said jockey Corey Lanerie. “I just let him do his thing. Once he got up front he was comfortable and he get me what he had.”
After a disappointing fourth-place finish in Jan. 16’s Louisiana Stakes, trainer Paul McGee said it was important for Majestic Harbor to bounce back with a good showing on Saturday, and he did just that.
“With as bad of a trip as he had last time, I was worried,” McGee said. “But he breezed so well out of that race. He’s been touting himself the last couple weeks, so we figured we would come back in this race.”
Daisy Devine Stakes
Richard and Bertram Klein’s Cash Control snagged a win on the dirt track for the Tiffany Lass Stakes in December, but he had a chance to show off his ability on a turf course Saturday.
The 5-year-old did just that after trailing the majority of the race and squeezing out a victory in the $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap on Saturday by a head.
“I just kept pushing him and he gave me a little bit more when I needed it from him,” said jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. “He’s a great horse and it showed with the way he finished today.”
Trainer Brad Cox added that the win meant a lot to him and he wasn’t surprised by how Cash Control was able to finish the race as strongly as he did.
“We know he’s capable of doing really good things, so we weren’t surprised,” Cox said. “Shaun did a great job with him and it means a lot to get two wins from him like this over the past few months.”
Fair Grounds Handicap
Maybe it’s time for Wentworth Brochu to consider changing his 6-year-old colt Chocolate Ride’s name to “Chocolate Turf Ride”.
The Cox-trained colt jumped out to an early lead and never let up before winning the Grade III $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap on Saturday.
“He loves this turf course,” said Cox. “It worked out today and he’s really doing well…I’m really happy with the way he’s continuing to improve every time we bring him out.”
Cox also added that the “obvious” next move for Chocolate Ride will be to prepare for the Mervin H. Muniz, Jr. Memorial Handicap on March 26.
“From here, I think that’s the obvious choice,” he said. “That’s the next stop, but we’ll just be enjoying this win today.”
Chocolate Ride paid out $4.60, $2.60 and $2.4