Brittlyn Stable's homebred Sunbean ran away with the $59,400 Gentilly Stakes for three-year-old state-breds at Fair Grounds on Saturday, Louisiana Derby Preview Day, as the 4-5 favorite.
The Al Stall Jr. pupil came from off the pace and made his move four wide around the far turn before pulling away by 4 3/4 lengths. With Colby Hernandez in the saddle, Sunbean covered one mile and 70 yards in 1:42 3/5 over the good main track in a race that was originally slated for about a mile on the turf.
"I knew there was quite a bit of speed and when they broke they were ripping right along there," Hernandez said. "When I got around going into the second turn I just eased my hands out a little bit and he just picked it up for me. I smooched at him at the quarter-pole and he just ran on by.
"This horse has carried me the whole meet," Hernandez added. "I've been having a tough meet and he's just carried me right along."
Hopeful Notion was runner-up, while another 5 3/4 lengths back in third was Nubin Ridge. Skip the Pinot went straight to the front after being brushed at the start to post fractions of :23 3/5, :46 3/5 and 1:12 1/5 but faded in the stretch to cross the wire in fourth. Heitai, Johnny Handsome, Phantom's Ghost and Pure Pegasus rounded out the order of finish.
Sunbean was cross-entered into the Grade 2 Risen Star later on the card but his connections chose to run here after drawing an outside post from the also-eligible list. The son of Brahms broke his maiden over this track in the Louisiana Futurity on December 31 and has now won three straight. The bay colt has a short career line of 4-3-1-0 and $131,769 in lifetime earnings.
"Yes. I wasn't scared," Brittlyn Stable's Evelyn Benoit said when asked if Sunbean would have run in the Risen Star if he had drawn a better post.
"It's not about whether we would have won or lost; it's about showing that Louisiana can put an animal out there that's as competitive as Kentucky or New York and we will do that," she added.
Two races later, L Barrett Bernard's Snuggs and Kisses pulled off the upset over 2-5 favorite Daisy Devine in the $72,750 Bayou Handicap in another race that was taken off the turf.
"We weren't going to run if it stayed on the grass," trainer Tom Amoss said. "The whole idea was to run if it came off the grass. Daisy Devine is a great filly. Obviously, she is a great turf filly. So, maybe a little vulnerable today on the dirt. We were able to take advantage of it. My filly ran her heart out and, you know, (jockey) Rosie (Napravnik) rode a good race too."
"Today, quite frankly, if you're going to beat Daisy Devine you're only going to it running on the dirt and when she's conceding a lot of weight to us," Amoss added.
Snuggs and Kisses broke to the lead and posted fractions of :24 1/5, :48 2/5, 1:13 1/5 and 1:38 2/5 in her wire-to-wire win. Daisy Devine was able to draw even on the far turn but that was as close as the favorite got as she could not overtake the winner, who crossed the wire a head in front. Snuggs and Kisses stopped the teletimer in 1:45 1/5 going 1 1/16 miles over the fast track.
"You know, we were able to get a really nice pace from the inside," Napravnik said. "At the three-eighths pole, Daisy Devine was kind of creeping up on us and I said 'Oh boy, here she comes' but my filly really stuck it out and kept her nose in front the whole way. It was a very game effort."
Ausus was a fast closing third by three parts of a length and it was another 10 3/4 lengths back to fourth-place finisher Anniversary Girl. Zapper Belle was fifth while Our Lady in Red did not finish as she broke down near the sixteenth-pole.
Snuggs and Kisses was entering off a win in an allowance/optional claimer on February 7 at Delta Downs. The six-year-old daughter of Soto increased her lifetime earnings to $288,020 and now sports a career mark of 32-12-2-7.