Jace’s Road victorious in the Gun Runner (Hodges Photography)
Fair Grounds Press Release
NEW ORLEANS— 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.
In the Untapable, Pretty Mischievous settled nicely in the pocket then split foes to take over and win the $100,000 event by 3 1/4 lengths and earn 10 points towards qualifying for the Longines Kentucky Oaks.
Pretty Mischievous, a Godolphin homebred, clocked 1 mile 70 yards over a fast track in 1:41.98 under Brian Hernandez Jr., who rode the winner for trainer Brendan Walsh. The Walsh barn won two other races on the Road to the Derby Kickoff Day card – the Joseph “Spanky” Broussard Memorial with Moon Swag and a maiden special weight rout with their promising 2-year-old colt Banishing, also a Godolphin homebred.
“She won sprinting early but (we) always thought that she would stretch out,” assistant trainer on the grounds Paul Madden said. “She ran very well at Churchill (in the G2 Golden Rod) against a really good filly (Hoosier Philly). Brendan (Walsh) wasn’t sure about running in here, but she had a really good workout two weeks back and he said it’s time to run. She has a great pedigree. It’s a good win for Godolphin, a good day for the team, and I’m glad to be part of it.”
The odds-on favorite Vahva stumbled out of the gate and was relegated to last, more than six lengths behind the pacesetting longshot All About Me, who rushed out and took the lead over the field of nine through early fractions of :24.26 and :48.31 while taking pressure from Hayunevano. Pretty Mischievous settled in nicely along the rail and made a bold move to split the two leaders at the 1/2 mile pole. Hayunevano kept on with Pretty Mischievous through the turn but it was a sweeping move by The Alys Look that posed the biggest threat to the eventual winner, ranging up on the outside but failing to make a serious bid for the lead as Pretty Mischievous opened up and continued to add distance between them. Vahva battled with Hayunevano and edged that one for a distant third.
“She was the best filly today,” Brian Hernandez Jr. said. “Going around the turn we were tucked in, but when she saw daylight she dragged me between horses. She basically did it all on her own and I just had to be a good passenger.”
The impressive victory was worth $60,000 and improved Pretty Mischievous’ overall record to 3-0-1 with earnings of $241,310 in 4 starts. Combined with the 3 points she earned coming in third in the Golden Rod (G3), Pretty Mischievous is in third place with 13 qualifying points.
Pretty Mischievous, the 8-5 second choice, returned $5.40, $3.20, and $2.20. Behind The Alys Look (4 Oaks points), Vahva (3 points), and Hayunevano (2 points), it was Hang the Moon (1 point), Just like Magic, Cotton Candy Annie, Two Minute Drill, and All About Me who completed the order of finish.