By Ryan Martin —-
• Cox Slated For Big Day In Saturday’s Pago Hop, Woodchopper Stakes
• Stidham Enters Hallie Belle, Cedartown For Saturday’s Stakes; One Likely To Scratch
• Torres Begins New Career As Jockey’s Agent; Will Represent Camacho
COX SLATED FOR BIG DAY IN SATURDAY’S PAGO HOP, WOODCHOPPER STAKES
Trainer Brad Cox could have a successful day on Saturday, December 30 when he saddles two live horses in both of Saturday’s stakes events at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
In the $75,000 Pago Hop Stakes, a mile event of 3-year-old fillies on the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, Cox sends out Magic Joan who breaks from post four under Shaun Bridgmohan as well as Sensitive who will be guided by Florent Geroux from the 12-hole. Two races later, Cox will saddle Mr. Misunderstood and Cowboy Culture in the $75,000 Woodchopper Stakes, both horses are a spotless 2-for-2 over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course.
“It’ll be exciting if they all run well,” Cox laughed.
Owned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds, Magic Joan will be making her stakes debut for Cox in the Pago Hop. The daughter of English Channel and full-sister to multiple stakes winner Blueskiesnrainbows made her career debut a winning one over the Belmont Park turf course on Oct. 25 before a runner-up effort over the Aqueduct lawn behind Speighgal on Nov. 18.
“She’s doing well,” Cox said. “She came down from New York about three weeks ago and has had the opportunity to breeze over this track twice. She worked well both times. They (e Five Racing Thoroughbreds) have had a great year overall with two horses (Rushing Fall and Good Magic) that should be champions at the Eclipse Awards.”
LNJ Foxwoods’ Sensitive, a half-sibling to Grade I winner Sam’s Sister, has not started since a runner-up effort against allowance company over the Keeneland lawn on Oct. 18 behind stakes-placed Browse. However, Cox has scratched the daughter of Divine Park twice since her last start.
“She’s been somewhat of a bad luck filly as far as getting a race to go for her is concerned,” Cox said. “She was scratched from the (Grade II) Mrs. Revere (at Churchill Downs on Nov. 24) and she scratched from a two-other-than at Churchill because it got taken off the turf. We didn’t like our post going into the Mrs. Revere so we scratched her out of there to point for this race. We’re looking for some black type in here. She’s a really nice filly and we think a lot of her.”
Sensitive has made two starts against stakes company, both of which were off-the-board efforts. Last October when under the care of conditioner Michael Dickinson, she was a well-beaten ninth in Belmont Park’s Chelsey Flower Stakes. In her second start for Cox, she shipped to Arlington Park for the Gr. III Pucker Up where she was seventh beaten 4½ lengths behind fellow Pago Hop aspirant Fault.
“We were a little disappointed with the effort,” Cox said of her run in the Pucker Up. “We don’t know why she ran so lightly that day. We thought that she would win, but she’s up for a big effort on Saturday.”
In the Woodchopper Stakes, Cox sends out a pair of 3-year-olds that are both undefeated over the Fair Grounds turf.
Head of Plains Partners LLC and Cheyenne Stables LLC’s Cowboy Culture broke his maiden first time out as a 2-year-old last fall over Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course. He then shipped down to the Fair Grounds where he scored a pair of victories over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course in a turf allowance event, followed by a stakes triumph in the Keith Gee Memorial Stakes where he defeated eventual Gr. II Louisiana Derby winner Girvin.
Breaking from post eight under Corey Lanerie, the son of Quality Road added two more stakes victories to his resume this year in the Gr. III Arlington Classic on May 27 which he won by 5¾ lengths. He came back following a three-month rest to win the Centaur Stakes at Indiana Grand Race Course on Sept. 6. Last time out, Cowboy Culture was a disappointing ninth in Santa Anita’s Gr. II Twilight Derby on Oct. 28.
“He’s a horse that’s consistent,” Cox said. “We gave him a little break this summer and he came back with a nice win at Indiana. Then, we took him out to California and he ran an unbelievably flat race. We were super excited about him that day, but that’s the second time that we’ve put him on a plane and both times we didn’t get a good effort out of him at all. I don’t know if it was competition, the flight or what the deal was but he definitely seems to be a better horse when he runs out of his own stall.”
Flurry Racing Stables LLC’s Mr. Misunderstood is not only undefeated over the Fair Grounds lawn, but also is a spotless 7-for-7 when running on the turf. Named after a song and album by country singer Eric Church, the son of Archarcharch will break from the five-hole under Florent Geroux and has won on four different grass surfaces in his career. He also will be attempting his fifth straight win in the Woodchopper Stakes. Since coming off a layoff from a well-beaten seventh in Hawthorne’s Gr. III Illinois Derby in April, Mr. Misunderstood scored a pair of stakes wins over the Louisiana Downs turf course in the Super Derby Prelude Stakes on Aug. 5 followed by a win in the Super Derby on Sept. 9. He then shipped to Cox’s home base at Churchill Downs where he won the Jefferson Cup on Sept. 30 and followed that win with a victory in the Gr. III Commonwealth Turf on Nov. 11, his lone graded stakes win to date.
“He likes it down here, he likes the Fair Grounds,” Cox said. “He’s trained well since his last race and has done so late summer and all fall. He should hold his form and we’re excited about him.”
Following the efforts of Cox’s quartet on Saturday, there is a chance that some of them will get some extended time off before making their 4-year-old debuts.
“We’ll see how things play out (on Saturday),” Cox said. “A couple of them may get a break following the race and get a freshener for a spring and summer campaign, but we’ll just let them tell us how they perform next week how we’ll continue on with them. We’re excited about all of them.”
STIDHAM ENTERS HALLIE BELLE, CEDARTOWN FOR SATURDAY’S STAKES; ONE WILL SCRATCH
Trainer Michael Stidham has entered a horse in each of Saturday’s stakes races, however only one will start depending on the weather.
Godolphin Racing LLC’s Hallie Belle is entered in the $75,000 Pago Hop Stakes and will scratch if the race is taken off the turf while stable mate and fellow Godolphin color bearer Cedartown, entered in the $75,000 Woodchopper Stakes, will only run if the race is moved to the main track. The National Weather Service calls for a 40% chance of precipitation for the New Orleans area on Saturday, Dec. 30.
“We would only run if it came off the turf,” Stidham said of Cedartown. “We’re watching the weather there. Hallie Belle will run only on turf so only one of them is going to run depending on the weather. We’ll just watch and see.”
Should the weather hold up for Saturday’s program, Hailee Belle will break from post three in the Pago Hop where she will make her stakes debut. Last time out, the 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro scored an allowance win over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course on Nov. 24. Prior to that effort she broke her maiden over the Keeneland turf by six lengths under Robby Albarado, who is named the rider for Saturday’s race.
“She’s shown a lot of ability from the beginning and we’ve been real patient with her,” Stidham said. “She’s kind of stepping up a couple of notches going from an a-other-than to this race but we like her enough to give her an opportunity. It’s a last chance to run against straight three-year-olds at the end of the year here so we’re going to take a shot.”
TORRES BEGINS NEW CAREER AS JOCKEY’S AGENT; WILL REPRESENT CAMACHO
When former jockey Francisco Torres decided to retire after 32 years in the saddle, he said that he planned on still being as busy as ever. Sure enough, Torres has proven himself to be a man of his word as he spent his Christmas Eve morning on the Fair Grounds backside with jockey Samy Camacho, Jr., who he will represent for the remainder of the Winter Meet.
“He said that he’s ready to go twelve rounds, fifteen if you need him to!” Torres joked.
A native of Venezuela, Camacho will be riding at the Fair Grounds for the first time this meet and has spent a good portion of the year riding on the New York circuit before moving his tack to Kentucky in October.
“I’m so excited to be working with Francisco,” Camacho said. “This is my first time riding in Louisiana, so we’ve been working hard spending every day at the track just continuing to look for better opportunities and hope that it shows in the afternoon.”
Torres has already had Camacho working horses for trainers Joe Sharp and Mike Maker.
“I’m real excited to have him here,” Torres said. “He’s a good young rider who’s up and coming. I wouldn’t have him here if I didn’t believe in him. It’s like a product, if you don’t believe in your product then why are you trying to sell it? So I believe in this product. I’m gung ho excited about it. You’ve got to start at the top and hope that it all pans out.”