Chocolate Ride delivers the victory in the Fair Grounds Handicap.

Chocolate Ride delivers the victory in the Fair Grounds Handicap.

Amanda Weir Hodges / Hodges Photography

Chocolate Ride Back to Defend Muniz Title

Ex-claimer has two grade III stakes wins to his credit in

Ex-claimer Chocolate Ride will be seeking to defend his title in the $300,000 Muniz Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) March 26 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots as the son of Candy Ride  has been assigned top weight of 124 pounds.

Claimed by Wentworth Brochu and trainer Brad Cox for $40,000 in November of 2014, the gelding has overcome foot issues to win six of seven career starts on the Fair Grounds turf course, including four graded stakes.

In his two starts so far this year, Chocolate Ride posted gate-to-wire victories in the Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap (gr. IIIT) on Jan. 16 and $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT), building on a 2015 season that saw him win four of six.

Chocolate Ride breaks from post four under regular rider Florent Geroux Saturday and will be conceding from four to 12 pounds to his challengers.

Live Oak Plantation's homebred multiple grade III winner World Approval was a front-running winner in a Gulfstream Park allowance in his seasonal debut for trainer Mark Casse. During his sophomore campaing of 2015, the gray son of Northern Afleet  won the American Derby and Saranac Stakes, both grade III, at the Muniz's nine-furlong distance. Julien Leparoux rides from post 10.

Three Diamonds Farm's Roman Approval, a closing second to Chocolate Ride in his last two, will attempt to turn the tables for trainer Mike Maker. The consistent 5-year-old son of Roman Ruler has finished first or second in 21 of 29 career starts, including eight graded stakes. He could benefit from Maker's additional entrant of Change of Command, who breaks from post six under Mitchell Murrill and could prove to be a rabbit to help set up Roman Approval's late run. Roman Approval will once again be ridden by Javier Castellano and breaks from post two.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has a pair of Muniz contenders in WinStar Farm's grade I-placed Closing Bell and Earle Mack and Wachtel Stables' last-out grade III-placed Take the Stand.

Closing Bell exits a seventh-place finish in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) on the dirt at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 6 and returns to his preferred surface. Second last year to multiple grade/group I winner Highland Reel in the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT), the son of Tapit 's lone stakes victory came when taking the Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs in mid-September. Jose Lezcano rides from post five.

Take the Stand contested the pace throughout in the grade III Tampa Bay Stakes last out on Feb. 13 but eventually finished second in a gutsy effort. Edgar Prado retains the mount from the rail on the Argentine group III winner and lightly raced son of Not For Sale.

The field is completed by Can'thelpbelieving (Velazquez, post three), Amigo (Bridgmohan, post seven), Blarp (Albarado, post eight), Potomac River (Jacinto, post nine) and String King (Graham, post 11).

Entries: Muniz Memorial H. (G2T)

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Saturday, March 26, 2016, Race 8

  • Grade IIT
  • About 1 1/8m
  • Turf
  • $300,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 3:52 PM (local)
11Take the Stand (ARG)Edgar S. Prado116William I. Mott6/1
22Roman Approval (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJavier Castellano118Michael J. Maker4/1
33Can'thelpbelieving (IRE)John R. Velazquez117H. Graham Motion8/1
44Chocolate Ride (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateFlorent Geroux124Brad H. Cox5/2
55Closing Bell (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJose Lezcano115William I. Mott8/1
66Change of Command (MD)Mitchell Murrill112Michael J. Maker30/1
77Amigo (FL)Shaun Bridgmohan112Ronny W. Werner15/1
88Blarp (KY)Robby Albarado114Joe Sharp15/1
99Potomac River (KY)John Jacinto113Jorge Gomez30/1
1010World Approval (FL)Julien R. Leparoux120Mark E. Casse9/2
1111String King (LA)James Graham115Charles Craig Smith15/1