Trainer Brad Cox is set up well for the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Stakes on Saturday at the Fair Grounds.
Cox has 5-2 favorite Inveniam Viam, a proven 5-year-old who has won five of nine starts in 2017. He also has Dontmesswithjoanne, the 3-1 second favorite who is a promising 3-year-old that may be up and coming.
“We're excited about both of them,” Cox said. “They're both coming into the race really well, like they were the last time.”
The $100,00 Champions Day Ladies Stakes is the sixth race on a 10-day card featuring accredited Louisiana bred racehorses. The race, for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward, will be contested on turf at 1 1/16 miles. Nine are entered, including 4-1 third favorite Mr. Al's Gal, a 3-year-old trained by Justin Jeansonne.
Inveniam Viam, who will break from the fifth gate, and
Dontmesswithjoanne, who will come out of the sixth, recently faced each other in the Si Cima Overnight Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Nov. 18. Inveniam Viam won, with Dontmesswithjoanne finishing an encouraging third.
Inveniam Viam likes to stay close to the pace, always within striking distance to win. Dontmesswithjoanne is the opposite, preferring to come from well off the pace.
“There wasn't much of a pace last time (in the Si Cima), but (Dontmesswithjoanne) went on to finish third, which was a really good effort,” Cox said. “Inveniam Viam had a good, ground-saving trip. She set around both turns, and once (jockey Shaun Bridgmohan) asked her to run, she did. She fought hard to the wire.”
Pace is why Cox said this race may favor Dontmesswithjoanne.
“There's more speed in this race, at least on paper,” Cox said. “This race may give Dontmesswithjoanne an advantage.
“But she is more pace-dependent than Inveniam Viam, who is older, more seasoned and has been around the track a few more times. (Inveniam Viam) definitely has the experience in class edge right now.”
Since about this time last year, Inveniam Viam has won six of nine starts. She won an allowance optional race Dec. 23 at the Fair Grounds, and two races later began a four-race win streak that included an allowance race at Churchill Downs in June and the Ellis Park Turf Stakes in July. She was sixth in a Keeneland allowance in October before winning the Si Cima.
Dontmesswithjoanne, who has just seven career starts since beginning in November 2016, won an allowance race at Churchill in September before the third-place finish in the Si Cima.
Dontmesswithjoanne will be ridden by Florent Geroux, the Fair Grounds' leading jockey the past two seasons. Geroux mentioned Dontmesswithjoanne before the Thanksgiving Day races as a top mount he definitely was looking forward to riding during this meet.
“She is a very talented horse who is just scratching the surface,” he said.
Cox said Dontmesswithjoanne “definitely has plenty of upside.”
“We're looking for her to improve and step up with time and racing,” he said. “(The two horses) are definitely different in running styles and age and experience. We'd like Inveniam Viam to keep winning stakes races and for Dontmesswithjoanne to start winning stakes races consistently. So, we'll see Saturday.”
Mr. Al's Gal, a 3-year-old who will be ridden by Diego Saenz, has six wins in seven starts this year. However, running in the Ladies Stakes appears to be a big step up in class. Nearly all of Mr. Al's Gal's victories have come at Louisiana tracks Delta Downs, and Louisiana Downs, but she won the Louisiana Futurity at the Fair Grounds last December, and April 1, 2017 won the Crescent City Oaks at the Fair Grounds.