Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey's odds-on favorite Badge of Silver returned to his favorite track, Fair Grounds, to register a resurgent victory in the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) Saturday.
The result capped a huge day for trainer Bobby Frankel, who earlier won the $600,000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) with High Limit. Since being transferred to Frankel's barn from Ronny Werner last fall, Badge of Silver has two graded stakes wins in three tries and a second-place finish in the Cigar Mile (gr. I).
In front early, Badge of Silver dueled with Wanderin Boy at a hot pace (:22 3/5, :45 2/5, 1:10) but had something left in the stretch when Jerry Bailey called upon him. After falling back behind Second of June and Pollard's Vision coming out of the final turn, the 5-year-old son of Silver Deputy
accelerated away in mid-stretch on the inside and, under strong handling, held off the late challenge of Limehouse and Ramon Dominguez by a length.
"I really didn't want to go to the lead with (Wanderin Boy), but Bobby told me in the paddock to take advantage of the inside post and go, so I did that and he did everything else," said Bailey.
Bailey became the first jockey to win the New Orleans Handicap and the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) in the same year.
"At the quarter pole, I was saying, maybe I gave (Bailey) the wrong instructions," Frankel said. "When we turned for home, I thought we were beat, to be honest with you.
"They came up to him and it looked like they got a head in front of him, then when Jerry asked him, he took off. He did the same thing in the Cigar Mile. He put it into another gear in the stretch."
Limehouse, who raced near the back while along the inside, came rolling late after switching off the rail for Dominguez.
"I was a little further back than I wanted, but with that pace my position was good," said Dominguez. "When I asked him, he came running hard. He was game to the finish."
Second of June, who gained the lead at the quarter pole after a sweeping move on the turn for Eibar Coa in an encouraging effort, settled for third, another five lengths behind. Pollard's Vision (John Velazaquez) finished fourth by another three-quarters of a length.
The final time was 1:48 3/5 for the 1 1/8-mile test for older horses, three ticks off the track record.
The dark bay horse Badge of Silver won for the fourth time in five tries over the Fair Grounds main track. He won the Risen Star (gr. III) in 2003 by 10 lengths before running sixth in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and going to the sidelines for more than 10 months. Overall, Badge of Silver is 6-2-0 in 10 career starts with earnings of $629,725. From the Silver Hawk mare Silveroo, he has now won back-to-back graded stakes after taking the Hal's Hope Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park in January.
Sent off at 4-5, Badge of Silver paid $3.60, $2.60 and $2.40, combining with Limehouse ($4.60, $3.80) for a $17.80 exacta. Second of June returned $5.60.
After Pollard's Vision, the second choice in the field of nine at odds of 11-2, came Colonial Colony, Alumni Hall, Wanderin Boy, Musique Toujours and Freefourinternet.