Surrounded by owners with stables of horses and abundant win totals, John Wentworth stood alone as the only rookie owner in Saturday’s Grade II $300,000 Mervin H. Muniz, Jr. Memorial Handicap.
By the end of the race, Wentworth was surrounded once again. But this time, it was by family and friends as he celebrated the victory of his first thoroughbred in the 1 1/8 mile race at the Fair Grounds thanks to Chocolate Ride.
“This is the first thoroughbred I’ve ever owned. I can’t believe it,” Wentworth said following the race.
Chocolate Ride, a 5-year-old gelding was running in $40,000 claiming races before trainer Brad Cox took a chance on him. It paid off, with Chocolate Ride picking up the win in his first stakes completion in 11 career starts in Feb. 21’s Fair Grounds Handicap.
Ridden by Louisiana native Joe Talamo, Chocolate Ride followed that surprising effort with a course record-setting victory on Saturday, proving the chance Cox took on him was well worth it.
“We claimed him with intentions of taking him to Oaklawn to run in allowance races, but after we’ve had him a little while, his feet wouldn’t hold up,” Cox said. “We got him down here, and he’s thrived on this turf course.”
Chocolate Ride finished in 1 minute, 48.18 seconds and paid out $10.60, $4.40, $3.20.
Finishing second, pre-race favorite Slumber paid out $3.20 and $2.80.
New Orleans Handicap
Last time out, Moreno lost to the Shared Belief, the world’s top-ranked horse.
This time, Moreno fell to a lesser-known thoroughbred.
Call Me George, a longshot ridden by meet-leading jockey James Graham, moved from fifth to the winner’s circle during the final stretch of the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap at the Fair Grounds, a move which surprised trainer Grant Foster and netted Graham his 2,000th win.
Foster wasn’t after the 1 1/8-mile race.
“I got discouraged on the far turn when he started to drop back and others were moving,” Foster said. “At that point, I was just hoping he would re-rally — he always does. For some reason, he just doesn’t run the turns very well.”
Call Me George, though, can handle the straightaways.
“I knew he would keep coming, but at that point, I didn’t think there was any way he could get up and win,” Foster said. “I thought he could hit the board, get a fourth or fifth.”
Call Me George paid $46.40, $15.20 and $5.20.
The loss was devastating for Moreno, who faded to third, paying $2.40. Albano finished second, returning $4.20 and $3.
On March 7, Moreno, a speed horse, finished behind Shared Belief in the Grade I $1 million Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita Park.