J. Paul Reddam’s Land Over Sea tried everything but could not get out of the shadow of the Fox Hill Farms-owned Songbird.
But Land Over Sea finally got her first opportunity to shine in a race without Songbird, and she didn’t waste it.
The Doug O’Neill-trained filly fell behind early but made a late burst and blew past the competition for a 4½-length victory in the Grade II $400,000 TwinSpires.com Fair Grounds Oaks on Saturday.
“She’s a really quality horse, and she ran very well today,” jockey John Velazquez said. “When I came down the lane, she switched leads and showed the quality she is and what she was chasing out in California (Songbird).”
Land Over Sea finished behind Songbird in her last five starts, and O’Neill said shipping her from California to New Orleans for Saturday’s Fair Ground Oaks would be a good opportunity to get away from the Songbird rivalry while also racing against quality opponents.
The win in New Orleans’ final leg of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks moved Reddam’s filly to the top of the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard at 128 points and makes her a prime candidate to be one of the betting favorites going into the race May 6.
Six of the past 11 winners at the Fair Grounds Oaks have gone on win at Churchill Downs as well.
“It went great. She ran so well. I loved where she was all the way around,” O’Neill said. “Johnny kept after her and Land Over Sea loved the long stretch and really took advantage of it. There was no quit in her.
“Now we just hope we can do this all over again in Kentucky.”
Land Over Sea paid $5.60, $3.40, $2.60.
In his last time out, Earle Mack-owned Take the Stand ran a valiant race but lost by a neck in the Grade III $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes.
He wasn’t going to let that happen again Saturday.
The 5-year-old grabbed an early lead and held on late to win the Grade II $300,000 Muniz Memorial Handicap at the Fair Grounds.
“He loved the lead last time and was happy. Unfortunately we got beat then,” jockey Edgar Prado said. “He was running every step of the way today and drew off in the stretch. The first quarter we were going pretty easy. We picked it up in the second quarter and he was doing it so easy. When they tried to come close to me, my horse just leveled off again.”
Assistant trainer Rodolphe Brisset even said after the race that he was slightly surprised how well Take the Stand handled the speed in the race.
“We were not really expecting to be on the lead today because there was a lot of speed on paper,” he said. “But the horse took (Edgar Prado) there again — same as in Tampa — and he just took off at the quarter pole and was very impressive today.”
Take the Stand paid $18.00, $9.60, $7.00.
New Orleans Handicap
The Vincent Scuderi-owned S’Maverlous was not as well known as some of his counterparts going into Saturday’s race, but that might not be the case anymore.
The 6-year-old gelding overcame the likes of International Star and Eagle — along with 20-1 odds — to pull off an improbable victory in the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap.
“No complaints from me,” said trainer Mike Maker. “I got him last fall at Belmont. He’s bred for the distance. You take horses who are doing well, you hope they can run the way he did. We rolled the dice and it paid off.”
It was S’Maverlous’ first victory in his past five starts.
“He broke very good. He took me there and then went on and won the race,” jockey Jose Lezcano said. “He was very good today. I stuck with (Coup de Grace) and my horse was very comfortable, and I had plenty all the way around.”
S’Maverlous paid $42.40, $15.60, $6.40.