Snuggs and Kisses upset Daisy Devine in an off-the-turf edition of the $72,750 Bayou Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots Feb. 23, fighting on gamely down the lane to manage a gate-to-wire score by a head (VIDEO).
Carrying 11 pounds less than her turf specialist rival over a good track in the 1 1/16-mile test, the 6-year-old daughter of Soto struck out on an early lead under a 115-pound impost including jockey Rosie Napravnik. She was closely followed all the way around by Daisy Devine with regular rider James Graham in the irons.
Daisy Devine, back-to-back winner of two grass stakes at Fair Grounds and on a three-race win streak over the lawn, was making her first dirt run since a third-place finish in the Indiana Oaks (gr. II) in October of 2011.
"Today, quite frankly, if you're going to beat Daisy Devine you're only going to do it running on the dirt and when she's conceding a lot of weight to us," trainer Tom Amoss remarked. "We weren't going to run if it stayed on the grass. The whole idea was to run if it came off the grass. Daisy Devine is a great filly. Obviously, she is a great turf filly. So, maybe a little vulnerable today on the dirt. We were able to take advantage of it. My filly ran her heart out and, you know, Rosie rode a good race, too."
Snuggs and Kisses set early fractions of :24.30 and :48.48 while 2-5 favorite Daisy Devine tracked along about half a length back off her outside hip. When they went three-quarters in 1:13.20 Daisy Devine appeared poised to make her move and came within a head of taking the lead. But Snuggs and Kisses dug in determinedly on the rail to engage in a fierce stretch duel.
They went the mile in 1:38.48 and flashed under the wire in a photo finish, with Snuggs and Kisses gamely getting the bob for a final time of 1:45.38. It was three-quarters of a length back to second choice Ausus
"You know, we were able to get a really nice pace from the inside," said Napravnik, who collected her third consecutive Bayou Handicap score. "At the three-eighths pole, Daisy Devine was kind of creeping up on us and I said 'Oh boy, here she comes' but my filly really stuck it out and kept her nose in front the whole way. It was a very game effort."
Trainer Andrew McKeever was not disappointed in Daisy Devine's effort, although he wished the race hadn't come off the grass.
"Too much weight on the dirt," he said. "Wouldn't have mattered on the turf, probably, but on the dirt, too much."
Snuggs and Kisses, bred in Kentucky by Hall Family Trust out of the Baron O'Dublin
mare With a Splash
, improved her career record to 12-2-7 with earnings of $288,020 from 32 starts for owner L. Barrett Bernard. She came off a strong 6 1/4-length allowance victory going seven furlongs at Delta Downs