Chocolate Ride winning the Jan. 16 Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap

Chocolate Ride winning the Jan. 16 Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap

Amanda Weir Hodges / Hodges Photography

Local Legends Meet in Fair Grounds Handicap

Chocolate Ride, String King have 19 Fair Grounds starts between them.

The Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT) Feb. 20 has a certain "local flavor" that people in New Orleans will love. While nine older runners passed the entry box for the about nine-furlong feature tucked between the Rachel Alexandra Stakes and Veterans Ford Risen Star Stakes (both gr. II), two stand out as local legends.

Chocolate Ride, the defending winner of the Fair Grounds 'Cap, and state-bred hero String King have combined to make 19 starts over the turf course at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Their 11-4-1 record in those races and $813,484 in earnings speak volumes for their affinity of the surface.

Chocolate Ride, a 6-year-old gelding by Candy Ride , is the 7-5 morning-line choice for the race as he has won five straight races over the course. Following an allowance win and a score in this race a year ago, the Brad Cox-trained runner took the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Handicap (gr. IIT) March 28. He returned as good as new Nov.27 to win an allowance optional claiming race and the Jan. 16 Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap (gr. IIIT).

Always close or on the pace, Chocolate Ride drew well in post 6 and will again be ridden by Florent Geroux. He'll tote top weight of 123 pounds.

The majority of Charles Smith's String King's wins have come against state-breds although he won last year's Bradley. Beaten a nose Dec. 12 in the Louisiana Champions Day Turf Stakes, he was fifth in this year's Bradley behind top three Chocolate Ride, Roman Approval, and Blarp, who all come back in the FG 'Cap. A crisp :35 3/5 three-furlong breeze Feb. 13 may set him up for a sharper effort.

Three Diamonds Farm's Roman Approval is the 4-1 second choice off his Bradley effort and stakes-placing last fall in the Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes (gr. IIIT). The 5-year-old son of Roman Ruler should appreciate an extra sixteenth from his last start and second trip over the course.

Local product Al Stall Jr. will send out Departing, who is listed as the 9-2 third choice. Relatively new to turf racing the 6-year-old son of War Front  did win the Firecracker Stakes (gr. IIT) over Churchill Downs' turf last June and comes to Fair Grounds off a good second in Oaklawn's Fifth Season Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 16.

Robert Persons and Earl Conrad Sanderson Jr.'s Blarp is also by War Front. Trained by Joe Sharp, the 5-year-old as posted Equibase Speed Figures good enough to be considered a player here.

Entries: Fair Grounds H. (G3T)

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Saturday, February 20, 2016, Race 10

  • Grade IIIT
  • About 1 1/8m
  • Turf
  • $125,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 4:52 PM (local)
11Wireless Future (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateCorey J. Lanerie116Thomas M. Amoss8/1
22Potomac River (KY)Juan P. Vargas115Jeff Engler20/1
33Roman Approval (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJavier Castellano118Michael J. Maker4/1
44Pumpkin Rumble (PA)Mitchell Murrill116Gary M. Scherer12/1
55Same As (KY)Francisco C. Torres112Jeff Engler20/1
66Chocolate Ride (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateFlorent Geroux123Brad H. Cox7/5
77Departing (KY)John R. Velazquez121Albert M. Stall, Jr.9/2
88Blarp (KY)Colby J. Hernandez116Joe Sharp8/1
99String King (LA)James Graham116Charles Craig Smith10/1