Jace’s Road with Florent Geroux aboard wins the $100,000 Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds. (Hodges Photography/Amanda Hodges Weir)
“Road to the Derby Kickoff Day”
Fair Grounds Press Release
NEW ORLEANS, La. – Trainers have a lot of customary language to go to when describing their horses on a regular basis. One line that is thrown around a lot is – “the horse will tell us when he’s ready.”
Jace’s Road was that horse on Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for trainer Brad Cox, who was also victorious with the colt Corona Bolt in the $100,000 Sugar Bowl and the filly Dazzling Blue in the $100,000 Letellier, both juvenile dirt sprints.
Jace’s Road broke alertly and marched his way to a convincing 5 1/2 length win in the $100,000 Gun Runner Stakes for 2-year-old colts.
“Believe it or not this wasn’t really the goal after his last race at Churchill,” Cox said. “We kinda gave him some time off after that and then we came down here with him and he really put together a couple of nice works which told us he was ready to go.”
That last race was a disappointing eighth place finish in the G3 Street Sense over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs.
“I could tell in the paddock that day he just wasn’t quite himself,” Cox said of his last start. “He’s always trained well and only had that setback in late October. We needed something in this race; we have several colts who are trying to march toward the (Kentucky) Derby.”
West Point Thoroughbreds and Albaugh Family Stables’s son of Quality Road earned 10 points to go with the three he earned finishing third in the Iroquois (G3), putting him in 4th on the qualifying leaderboard with 13.
Jace’s Road benefitted from a sharp break inside his main rival Determinedly, who stumbled at the start as the 4-5 favorite. Jockey Florent Geroux cruised on the lead through moderate fractions of :24.46 and :48.18 for the half mile. Geroux had plenty left in the tank to complete 1 1/6-miles on a fast main track in 1:44.85.
“He broke super sharp,” said Geroux. “On paper it didn’t seem there was much speed so I thought if my horse won the break then I would take it from there.”
Andrew and Rania Warren’s Raise Cain, dismissed by the bettors at 23-1 odds, was able to make a sustained run down the stretch to get second by a head over Determinedly who fought back early to put pressure on Jace’s Road but tired in the homestretch. They earned 4 and 3 Kentucky Derby points respectively. Also earning points were Hayes Strike (2, boosting his total to 7) and Andthewinneris (1).
“It looked like the 3 (Determinedly) had dead aim on us at the top of the stretch,” Cox said. “But I was proud of the way our horse responded and he is going to get plenty out of this race moving forward.”
Jace’s Road, a $510,000 son of Quality Road out of the Silver Deputy mare Out Post, now has two wins from four starts and $126,800 in earnings.
Jace’s Road, the 2-1 second choice, returned $5.40, $3.20, and $2.20. Behind Raise Cain, Determinedly, Hayes Strike, and Andthewinneris, it was Old Alliance and Mazing Mark who completed the order of finish.
Epicenter, the inaugural winner of the Gun Runner last year, went on to finish second in the Kentucky Derby. He later won the Travers (G1) and is one of the favorites for 3-year-old Championship honors. Rich Strike, who finished a non-threatening fifth in this race last year, would later upset the Kentucky Derby at odds of 80-1.