Though Saturday’s $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes was the most anticipated race of the day, the excitement around it was over fairly quick.
After jumping out to an early lead, I’m a Chatterbox torched the competition, cruising to a six-length victory at the Fair Grounds on Saturday.
With the win, the Fletcher and Carolyn Gray-owned filly sets herself up as an early favorite heading into the Fair Grounds Oaks.
“She ran really well, and this was our first chance to race her,” said trainer Larry Jones, who has now won the race three of the last seven. “She got out to an easy enough lead, but when it came time to go she exploded. It was very exciting to watch.”
With the victory in the Silverbulletday, Jones wrapped up his second winning horse of the day, with Hard Aces coming away with the win in the Louisiana Handicap Stakes earlier in the day.
“It’s been a really good day today, no doubt,” Jones said. “I’m just fortunate to be able to enjoy it with everyone today.”
Top Decile came into Saturday’s race as an early favorite after finishing second in the Grade I $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup for Juvenile Fillies, but she got off to a slow start and finished in a disappointing sixth place.
“It’s a devestating setback,” said trainer Al Stall. “Coming off the way she ran in the Breeder’s Cup, you’re certainly not expecting to get beat by 20 or 30 lengths. We just have to figure out what went wrong and go from there.”
Forever Unbridled, the full-sister of 2014 Silverbulletday winner Unbridled Forever, came in second place in what was her first stakes race of her career.
“That was a nice step up,” said trainer Dallas Stewart. “We’re very happy with the way she ran. The winner was a very nice filly who’d been running in stakes company. This is our filly’s first time in the stakes so we’re very proud of her.”
With the win, I’m a Chatterbox increased her career earnings to $123,614 in her second win in four starts. She paid $19.20, $9.40 and $6.00.
Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap
After coming up one length short in the Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap in 2014, String King made a late push at the end to add one more win to it’s lengthy resume with a 11/4-length victory in the $125,000 race.
The win gave String King his 15th win in 33 career starts.
“He wasn’t at his best last year,” owner and trainer Charles Smith said. “He had a small problem right after that race, but evidently it had developed during that race or shortly before. He faded down the end, but he didn’t quit.”
The Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey-owned Gentleman’s Kitten was neck-to-neck with String King down the stretch, but a late surge gave the 7-year-old the victory in the end.
“That Louisiana-bred just got the best of me today,” said Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who was riding Gentleman’s Kitten. “He’s an exceptional horse. I didn’t fold. He had to really run to get by me.”
Saturday’s victory pushes String King’s career earnings to $818,552 and Smith said he was very excited about the fact that he is so close to reaching the $1 million mark.
“Oh, hell yes, I know” Smith exclaimed when asked if he was aware how close he was to reaching $1 million. “He’s as tenacious as any horse you will ever want to meet. He’s not a world-beater, but he’ll give you all he’s got. If a horse will give you that, there’s nothing else you can ask for.”
String King paid $8.20, $4.20, and $2.80.
Jones came into Saturday’s $75,000 Louisiana Handicap with much of the hype surrounding his 4-year-old Kentucky-bred Albano, but instead Jones found himself in the winner’s circle celebrating the victory of Hard Aces at the end of the race.
The upset victory gave the 5-year-old his fifth victory in 19 career starts. It was his first stakes victory and first overall victory since Jan. 2014.
Jones said he was impressed with the way Hard Aces ran, but acknowledged that his participation in the Tenacious Stakes on Dec. 21—and Albano’s lack of participation in a race since September — may have played a role in Saturday’s race.
“It’s hard to train a horse to run a mile and a sixteenth to his very best when he’s coming off a layoff,” Jones said. “Hard Aces had that recent race under his belt, and was a little bit more prepared today, but trust me, Albano will be back and this will sharpen him up a little bit.”
Last year’s Louisiana Handicap winner Fordubai put up a valiant effort, but finished in second place by four lengths.
“I got jammed up inside longer than I wanted to,” said jockey Robby Albarado. “I got outrun and I’m mad at myself.”
The win pushed Hard Aces career earnings to $215,145 he paid out $20.60, $5.60 and $2.80.
Marie G. Krantz Memorial Handicap
In her stakes racing debut, the Twin Creeks Racing Stable-owned Notte d’Oro came out victorious with a one-length victory in the $60,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Handicap.
“She ran great,” said jockey James Graham, who rode the winners in both turf races (String King) on Saturday. “Had a nice split at the head of the stretch and she came home well. I think she’s a really good horse and she proved it today.”
Though winning in your first stakes race is always an impressive achievement, Notte d’Oro’s trainer Michael Stidham said he fully expected the filly to come out and have a strong showing.
“She’s bred to run this kind of race and she did just that today,” said trainer Michael Stidham. “She’s a young filly that’s on the verge of reaching her best and we were expecting good things from her.”
Defending champion Eden Prairie had a chance to revisit the winner’s circle with a slight lead late in the race, but Notte d’Oro made a late push to edge out the victory at the last second.
“She came up well on the outside of me,” said Florent Geroux, who rode Eden Praririe. “She made me make my move earlier than I wanted to. It wasn’t what I expected.”
The win pushes Notte d’Oro’s career winnings to $111,060 and she paid out $11.00, $4.80 and $4.00