Big Chopper (right) gets a nose in front to win the Edward J. Johnston Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds. (Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges, Jr.)
Fair Grounds News Release
NEW ORLEANS, La. – Fans were treated to a thrilling 43rd edition of the $75,000 Edward J. Johnston Memorial as Big Chopper held off a fast-charging Who Took the Money for a nose victory. The versatile colt won the Louisiana Champions Day Sprint on dirt earlier in the meet.
Trained by Scott Gelner and ridden by Corey Lanerie, Big Chopper completed about one mile 1:42.18 over the “firm” Stall Wilson Turf Course with the rail remaining 34 feet out.
“There are not many like that that can change their style and run well at any distance,” Lanerie said. “Going into the race I really thought I would be the pace. But he broke within himself today and he relaxed. If he would have gotten any bit rank on the backside, someone would have run him down.”
The stretch battle began around the far turn when Big Chopper split front-running foes Maga Man and Mangelsen, who tallied early quarter-mile fractions of :25.78 and :52.05. Lanerie began to ask Big Chopper for his best run as Budro Talking came flying into the mix and Who took the Money gathered his run down the center of the course. Big Chopper gamely fought to stay in front of Budro Talking and as the wire neared, Who Took the Money surged forward in the photo’s flash, which showed only a nose difference between Big Chopper in first and the 1-2 favorite Who Took the Money in second. It was another nose back to Budro Talking in third.
“He got overlooked again today,” Gleaner said. “Every time I’ve run him here, people always say turf, and I’ve never had a chance to run him many times on the turf. Today he showed up and got it done. He can sprint or go long, dirt, or turf. He represents himself well. I didn’t know Eddie (Johnston) that well, but I knew him, and I was glad just to be in this race and honored to win it in his name.”
At 15-1 Big Chopper rewarded his backers with payouts of$33.60, $8.00, and $5.00.
After a mid-pack stalking trip, Smarty Alex finished fourth followed in order by Wicker Rose, Maga Man, Mangelsen, and Highland Creek.
Big Chopper improved his overall mark to 17-5-4-1 with earnings of $260,333. The 4-year-old son of Shackleford out of the Unusual Heat mare Miss Well Molded was bred in Louisiana by Kendel Standlee.
Deshawn Parker, jockey on Who Took the Money (finished second): “Everything was perfect, he runs his race all the time. That’s just how he runs, so you win them and then you lose them, but he ran hard and made his run.”