Spanish Empire won the biggest race of his career when he captured the $60,000 Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds on Friday by one length over heavily favored Tenpins.
Comic Truth was third, three lengths behind the winner. The time for 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track was 1:43.58.
As usual, the multiple graded-stakes winning Tenpins flashed good early speed from his inside post, but longshot Fitzroyal dueled with him through early fractions of :23.85 and :48.12. Spanish Empire stalked the top pair, then pounced as the field was arriving at the top of the stretch. The 4-year-old son of Pleasant Colony took a clear lead in the stretch, then shifted toward the rail, but was still able to hold on over a resurgent Tenpins.
"I was able to ease in behind them and take back," said winning jockey Eddie Martin Jr. "I just took my time from there on out. Down the backstretch, I gave him a little notch and off he went."
Spanish Empire took six starts to break his maiden, then finished last in his first start versus winners on turf. He was then transferred to trainer Steve Asmussen's barn, for whom he has now won three of four starts, with his lone blemish being a runner-up effort in the Tenacious Handicap on December 6.
"It was a very exciting win, because of the level of competition," Asmussen said. "We felt that this horse deserved a chance, and he was definitely coming in right."
Spanish Empire won for the fourth time in 12 races and increased his career earnings to over $156,000. He is owned by the partnership of Jubilee Stable, Twin Creeks Farm, and Martin Cherry.
At 11-1, Spanish Empire was the third-longest shot in the seven-horse field, paying $25.60, $5.80 and $2.60. Tenpins, the 7-10 choice, returned $2.80 and $2.10. Comic Truth's show was $2.40.