Last year's Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) heroine looked every bit as good in her first start as a 4-year-old as she did when capturing the nation's premiere race for 3-year-old fillies in 2012. The Fair Grounds' listed $150,000 New Orleans Ladies Stakes March 9 may well be next up on her dance card.
Believe You Can had just three opponents in the 1 1/16-mile test and went off as the 1-5 choice. She came away well to race on the front end while off the rail.
"She was ready," trainer Larry Jones remarked in the winner's circle after the Tiffany Lass, and the Hopkinsville, Ky., native had been indicating as much in recent days after a series of his filly's bullet works. "She was getting herself ready a lot quicker than we anticipated so we had to really stretch her works apart. Instead of five days, she'd be working every 14, 16 days. She was ready to go in early January and we just had to wait for this race."
Believe You Can's regular rider, Rosie Napravnik, once again in the irons after becoming the first female jockey in history to win the Kentucky Oaks last year, was quick to agree.
"She's been training great," said Napravnik. "I anticipated her comeback race and I thought she'd be really ready today."
Believe You Can paid mutuels of $2.40 and $2.10 in the Tiffany Lass, which had no show wagering, and accomplished the distance in 1.44.68 on a fast track after ticking off early splits of :24.12, :48.48, and 1:13.02.
The daughter of Proud Citizen—El Fasto (by El Prado) increased her career earnings to $1,149,484 with her seventh lifetime win in 11 trips to the post. Coffeepot Stables' Imposing Grace finished second, paying $2.20, 2 3/4 lengths in front of Merrill Scherer and Dan Lynch's Myriad. Cheerleader completed the order of finish.
Later in the card, Steve Ballou and Harriet Waldron's Cor Cor took the inagural running of Fair Grounds' $75,000 Battle of New Orleans Stakes over seven other 3-year-old fillies going about 5 1/2 furlongs over the yielding turf.
Racing on grass for the first time in her career, the daughter of Smoke Glacken broke in stride, made the pace throughout and cruised home 4 1/4 lengths in front of Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein's Gator Zone, who finished a length and a half to the good of Feel The Thunder Stable & Scott Unter's My Princess Dawn.
"She won, so I'm happy," said Florida-based trainer Joan Scott, who was returning to New Orleans for the first time since 2003. "I felt it was the right spot for her to come over here for this race."
Napravnik was aboard Cor Cor for the first time and completed a sweep of the day's two stakes events.
"I've watched her replays and she is one of the quickest horses out of the gate that I've ridden," Napravnik said. "She drifted out in the stretch a little bit, which I've seen that she's done that a little bit in some of her previous races, but she handled the turf well and she ran a big race."
Cor Cor, who paid $3.80, $3 and $2.10, toured the distance in 1:04.86 after establishing early fractions of :22.04 and :44.24, and was coming off a runner-up finish to Kauai Katie in the Jan. 1 Old Hat Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park after winning the $68,000 Sandpiper Stakes before that at Tampa Bay Downs. The Florida-bred filly increased her career earnings to $135,800 with her third win—but first on turf—from four lifetime trips to the post.
"It's kind of nice that she was able to win on the turf today," said Scott. "It gives us another set of options in the future. However, I do think we'll keep her going short."
Gator Zone returned $4.20 and $2.80 in the second spot, and My Princess Dawn paid $3.20 for the show.