Ask Joe gets up late to take the Sugar Bowl under Miguel Mena.

Ask Joe gets up late to take the Sugar Bowl under Miguel Mena.

Lou Hodges Jr.

Ask Joe Turns in Sweet Win for Klesaris

Trainer picks up his first win at Fair Grounds meet in Sugar Bowl Stakes.

(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.