(from Fair Grounds report)
Trainer Steve Klesaris was ready to celebrate after 11-1 shot Ask Joe captured the $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes by a head over Big Push in the finale of a five-stakes program at Fair Grounds.
When invited to a champagne toast in honor of Ask Joe’s victory – which coincidentally was Klesaris’ first of the meet – he quickly responded: “Let’s do it!
“It was a tough beginning,” added Klesaris, who brought his stable to New Orleans this season after recent winters in South Florida, “but this was a good way to break out of it.”
Ridden by Miguel Mena, the 2-year-old Ask Joe was allowed to settle early, challenged for command in the final eighth of a mile and got up in the final strides.
Ask Joe paid $24.80, $11.40 and $7.70 and accomplished the six furlongs in 1:10.53. It was the third win in five career starts for the son of Najran and increased his career earnings to $91,050.
Big Push, who pressed the pace throughout, held second at the wire, finishing a half-length to the good of front-running Valid Stripes, who set early fractions of :22.04 and :45.63 before giving way grudgingly in the final furlong.
Big Push paid $5.80 and $4.20, while Valid Stripes returned $6.40.
In the day’s other juvenile stakes test, the Ronny Werner-trained Leigh McLovin justified her favoritism with a wire-to-wire win in the $60,000 Letellier Memorial Stakes for fillies, getting the six furlong in 1:10.47 after early splits of :21.80 and :45.69,
Ridden by Robby Albarado, Leigh McLovin paid $5.60, $3.20 and $2.60, while finishing four lengths in front of runner-up A Day for Dancing, who returned $4 and $2.80. Hug It Out finished third, returning $3 while a half-length farther back.
The winner, a daughter of Flame Thrower, increased her career earnings to $69,080 with her second victory in three career starts.
Werner and Albarado teamed up for another stakes win in the $60,000 Esplanade for older fillies and mares when odds-on favorite Secret Gypsy took command in upper stretch and proved four lengths the best.
Secret Gypsy, a 3-year-old daughter of Sea of Secrets, paid $3.20, $2.40 and $2.20. She cruised through the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.22 following pacesetter Kalookan Dancer’s early fractions of :21.97 and :44.94.
Kalookan Dancer held second with mutuels of $7.40 and $5.60, with Precious Kiss returning $5.40 while finishing a length farther back.
The day’s other two stakes, both on turf, followed a familiar script from this day in 2007, with trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan teaming for wins.
In the $60,000 Bonapaw Stakes for sprinters, Storm Treasure wore down front-running favorite Chamberlain Bridge in the late stages to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Storm Treasure, a 5-year-old Storm Boot horse who finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in October, returned $6.20, $2.60 and $2.10 while covering about 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.24. Chamberlain Bridge, who led the field through early splits of :23.08 and :47:12, paid $2.20 and $2.10. John’s Road returned $3.40 to show.
In the $60,000 Woodchopper for 3-year-olds, Jimmy Simms made a stretch rally for a 3 1/4-length win, giving Bridgmohan his third win on the program.
Jimmy Simms, a 3-year-old Lost Soldier colt, increased his career earnings to $103,085 with his third win from seven starts. He covered about one mile in 1:39.21 over the firm grass footing.
The winner paid $7.80, $4.20 and $3.60. Runner-up Evade returned $7.20 and $5, while finishing three lengths ahead of Acting Zippy, who paid $6.60.
Pacesetter Myboycharlie set early fractions of :24.49 and :48.71 but tired to finish fourth. Betting favorite Macho Again, second in this year’s Preakness (gr. I), was making his turf debut in the Woodchopper and finished a well-beaten sixth.