Expansion closed with determination between horses to score a 32-1 surprise by a head in the $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT) Feb. 19 at the New Orleans track (VIDEO).
There were three heads on the line as the conclusion of the 1 1/8-mile test with Expansion edging runner-up Sleepless Knight for the victory with Dubious Miss a nose back in third. The final time was 1:54.94 on a course rated "good."
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Expansion had done little in two starts on the Santa Anita turf this season but came to life in his Fair Grounds debut.
"He worked super on the turf (in Southern California)," Asmussen told HRTV, "but didn't seem to like it in races. He wasn't catching anybody. He had a great trip today with a slow pace."
The 6-year-old son of Maria's Mon, ridden by Gerard Melancon, settled in fourth after a half-mile on the outside behind Workin for Hops, who set a pedestrian pace (:26.70, :53.55, 1:18.76) under a tight hold with Dubious Miss and Sleepless Knight in close attendance. Off the rail on the final turn, Expansion was asked for more leaving the quarter pole and responded to challenge the leader at the eighth pole. In the drive for the line as Dubious Miss took the lead along the inside, Expansion prevailed under strong urging.
“I had a really, really good trip, and I rode a really, really good horse,” said Melancon. “Steve told me speed was holding in California and that’s why he brought him here. Fortunately, I was able to hold this horse together at the end.”
Sleepless Knight, the 3-1 favorite, was forced to alter course for Joe Bravo to the outside when lacking room mid-stretch. He regathered and came flying late to just miss while pipping Dubious Miss and Corey Lanerie for the runner-up spot.
Owned by Millennium Farms and Mike McCarty and bred by Darley, Expansion won for the fifth time in 26 lifetime starts and increased his earnings to $466,110 with the winning share of $75,000. All but two of Expansion's races have been on turf.
The bay horse is out of La Sylphide (by Barathea).
The second-longest shot in the field of nine, Expansion carried 118 pounds and paid $66.40, $18.40, and $9.40. Sleepless Knight, in his graded stakes debut for trainer Kelly Breen, returned $5.40 and $4 and rounded out a whopping $531.20 exacta. Dubious Miss paid $4.80 to show.
It was 1 1/4 lengths to Working for Hops in fourth. He was followed by Joinem, Gran Estreno, Loup Breton, Skip a Smile and Telling.
Hidden Glance, Le Grand Cru and Midnight Mischief, scratched.