It seemed like only a matter of time, but it seems as if the curtain has finally opened for Mike G. Rutherford’s Stageplay.
The daughter of former Preakness winner Curlin came in as a heavy favorite and lived up to the expectations, winning the 24th running of the Listed $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes on Saturday at the Fair Grounds.
The 3-year-old took the first leg of the Road to the Kentucky Derby at the Fair Grounds and claimed her third victory in only her fourth career start.
With that pedigree and winning background, many believe that Stageplay is on her way to possibly becoming the next great filly to come from the Fair Grounds, but trainer Steve Asmussen is still trying to take things one race at a time.
“She’s got a lot of talent and, obviously, her goal is to make it to the (Kentucky) Oaks,” he said. “Hopefully, this will be the first step in a successful 3-year-old campaign, but we’re still approaching this as just the first step.”
Jockey Florent Geroux, who rode Stageplay for the first time competitively on Saturday, said that he can certainly see a bright future for the young filly.
“She has a ton of talent, and the people she has behind her speak for themselves,” he said. “She ran a really good race and I look forward to working with her again in the future.”
Midnight On Oconee took second place in Saturday’s race and finished 11/4 lengths behind Stageplay, but trainer Larry Jones said he was happy with the way she ran against the heavy favorite coming in.
“She finished well, she was trying to get back,” said Midnight On Oconee’s trainer Larry Jones. “I was very pleased and loved the with the way she galloped back. It seems she’s figuring out what she’s doing now.”
Stageplay paid out $3.20, $2.20, $2.10
Marie G. Krantz Memorial Handicap
In her last start at the Fair Grounds, Elm Racing’s Street of Gold ran well in the $60,000 Blushing K.D. Stakes, but barely fell short of first place.
She wasn’t going to let that happen again.
The Brad Cox-trained mare was in the back half of the pack for most of the race, but finished strong a squeaked out a first-place finish in the $60,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial.
“I don’t want to sound over-confident, but I had a great feeling we would get it in the end,” said jockey Robby Albarado. “He’s got really good straight-line speed and was able to display that in the end.”
It was Street of Gold’s first victory since the Amelia Island Handicap in June 2015 and Cox said that Street of Gold has continuously been close, but it’s good to finally be back in the winner’s circle.
“Man, I cannot tell you how much this win means for us,” he said. “We’ve been close so many times, it’s just kind of a relief to finally get the result we’ve been working so hard to get.”
Street of Gold paid out $5.00, $3.20 and $2.80.
It may have been a year since his sweep of the three Road to Kentucky Derby races, but International Star wasn’t done piling up wins at the Fair Grounds quite yet.
The Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey-owned colt got a late lead and sprinted past the pack to win the $75,000 Louisiana Stakes.
International Star’s trainer, Mike Maker, said that Saturday’s win is yet another chapter in what has been an unbelievable year for the 4-year-old.
“There’s no doubt he’s a special one,” he said. “We know he’s a very good finisher, and he showed that once again today.”
International Star — which has only participated in one race since his victory in the Grade II $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby—took a little while to get going, but displayed the finishing speed in the end that made him one of the biggest storylines at the Fair Grounds last year.
“He does that sometimes, it seems like,” jockey Miguel Mena said, when asked why International Star finishes races so well. “It seems like he says, ‘OK, it’s the end, now its time to turn it on. But he can actually do it, which is why he’s special.”
International Star paid out $7.80, $3.60 and $2.60.
Col. E.R. Bradley Stakes
Trainer Brad Cox said it wasn’t planned for Chocolate Ride to take the lead immediately out of the gate, then hold off challengers the rest of the way.
But that’s what happened in the wire-to-wire victory in the $125,000 race on turf for 4-year-olds and up.
“He just showed a tremendous amount of heart,” Cox said.
Jockey Florent Geroux said breaking from the No. 2 post helped. He took the inside, with the No. 5 horse, Sky Flight, less than a length behind most of the way.
“It was not an easy race,” Geroux said. “He had to work really hard the whole race.”
Sky Flight sagged a bit after the first turn, Geroux said. That was the break he needed.
“He got a little breather,” he said. “But my horse was able to handle the pressure.”
Cox said the win opens a lot of possibilities for Chocolate Ride.
“He’s a 6-year-old gelding, so you might as well go for the money, right?” Cox said. “Or we may enter him in the (Mervin) Muniz Stakes” on March 26, Louisiana Derby day.
Darrell Williams contributed to this report.