Earle Mack, Wachtel Stable, and Brous Stable's Take the Stand popped the gate on top from the rail post position and never looked back in a handy victory in the $300,000 Muniz Memorial Stakes (gr. IIT) March 26 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
The 5-year-old Not For Sale horse, bred in Argentina by Santa Maria de Araras, tried the same tactics for trainer Bill Mott in the Feb. 13 Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/16 mile on the turf at Tampa Bay Downs but was caught at the wire by Reload as a 61-1 longshot. On Saturday, Take the Stand, who paid $18 to win, never had an anxious moment under Edgar Prado, who also rode him in the Tampa Bay race.
Take the Stand, a group III winner on grass in Argentina, led the Muniz field through fractions of :23.54 for the opening quarter-mile, :47.59 for the half-mile, and 1:10.98 for six furlongs while tracked by a rank Roman Approval. Favored Chocolate Ride, six-for-seven on the turf at Fair Grounds, stalked in third through the far turn of the 1 1/8-mile stakes.
Take the Stand held firm through one mile in 1:35.38 as Chocolate Ride moved to second, and then easily held off the rally of World Approval, who finished second. Closing Bell rallied for third, while Chocolate Ride flattened out to finish fourth.
"He loved the lead last time (at Tampa Bay) and was happy," Prado said. "Unfortunately we got beat then. He was running every step of the way today and drew off in the stretch. The first quarter we were going pretty easy. We picked it up in the second quarter and he was doing it so easy.
"When they tried to come close to me, my horse just leveled off again."
Rodolphe Brisset, assistant trainer to Bill Mott, said the connections didn't expect Take the Stand to be on the lead. "There was a lot of speed on paper, but the horse took (Prado) there again, same as in Tampa, and he just took off at the quarter pole and was very impressive today," he said.
The final time of 1:47.80 is a new course record. Chocolate Ride held the previous record of 1:48.18 set in last year's Muniz Memorial.
Florent Geroux, who rode Chocolate Ride, said the Candy Ride gelding had a great trip. "I thought I was perfect where I was on the first turn," the jockey said. "I was sitting right behind the pace. I tried to challenge the two horses in front of me at the half-mile pole, but I only passed one. The other kept running. He went fast."
Take the Stand, out of the Wild Event mare Taken Away, now has six wins, two seconds, and one third in 12 starts.