James Jackson's Valhol rallied from just off the pace then held Parade Leader safely at bat to win the $125,000 Whirlaway Handicap at the Fair Grounds. On a fast track, the 6-year-old gelded son of Diazo completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.94.
The Dallas Keen-trained Valhol earned his third official stakes win, with all three coming at the New Orleans track. Last year, he won the Tenacious and Diplomat Way Handicap's over the same strip. As a maiden Valhol also won the 1999 Arkansas Derby on the track but was later disqualified when it was alleged that jockey Billy Patin possessed an illegal electrical device, also known as a "buzzer," in the 4 1/2-length victory.
"It's kind of scary because since he's got here he's been training almost too good," Keen said. "We wanted him a lot closer today and (to) stay out of trouble. The main thing I didn't want is for him to eat dirt all the way around back behind horses because he's got a lot of tactical speed."
Winning rider Robby Albarado agreed with Keen.
"He's tactical. He places himself on his own and I give credit where credit is due and that's to Dallas Keen's team," Albarado said. "They did an exceptional job preparing him and I was just a passenger. I figured Parade Leader would be coming because I rode him last time and he got in a bunch of trouble."
Parade Leader, a full brother of multiple graded stakes winner Parade Ground and promising 3-year-old King's Consul, finished a half-length ahead of fellow longshot Fight for Ally. True Concern, Milwaukee Brew, E Z Glory, Tahkodha Hills, Drewman, and Astrologist completed the order of finish.
The 13-10 favorite, Valhol returned $7.20, $4.20, and $3.60. Parade Leader paid $11.20 and $7.40 and completed the $97.60 exacta. Fight for Ally was worth $15 to show.
Valhol earned $75,000 for the win, his fifth in 16 starts. (Chart, Equibase