Jareth Loveberry aboard Oeuvre holds off Charlie T to win the 8th running of the Nelson Menard Memorial. (Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges, Jr.)
Kevin Kilroy/Fair Grounds
NEW ORLEANS, La. – Pan Zareta winner filly Oeuvre broke alertly and relaxed professionally behind a pair of Louisiana-bred longshots before taking command in the stretch and winning Saturday’s 4th running of the $100,000 Nelson J. Menard Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots by two lengths over a field of eight older females.
Campaigned by trainer Chris Block for owner Richard Perkins, Oeuvre covered 5 1/2 furlongs over a firm course with the rails 34 feet out in 1:06.26 under jockey Jareth Loveberry.
“It’s been an honor to ride this filly,” Lovebery said. “She can break the front and relax. She can sit right off of it, which is what she did today. Very comfortable. And she does it on her own.”
Oeuvre, now with three stakes victories under her belt, was considered for the one-mile $100,000 Pago Hop on New Year’s Eve but connections decided to keep this Illinois-bred at her proven distance.
“A lot of the breeders in the state have proven that Illinois-breds travel well,” Block said. “We’ve thought about stretching her out and were actually looking at the Pago Hop (run on Dec 31). Mr. Perkins (owner Richard) and I decided that we’d stay sprinting with her for now.”
Oeuvre broke outside the two early speedsters from post 7 and tracked from third as Charlie T led the field through splits of 22.67 seconds and 47.90. Co-favored with Oeuvre at 2-1, Astute, the recent addition to the Brad Cox barn, who was making her first run in over 19 months, got shuffled back soon after the break. Aboukir Bay also settled far back, conceding as many as 12 lengths at the 3/8 pole. As Charlie T proved bold holding the lead at the top of the stretch, Loveberry asked and Oeuvre took over, and it was never in doubt she would be the winner. Charlie T held on for second as comebackers Astute and Aboukir Bay rallied for third and fourth respectively.
“Jareth (jockey Loveberry) is right,” Block said. “She relaxes really nice. She was kind of an aggressive filly back in the spring. Now she relaxes, which gives her an added dimension. Maybe we can stretch her out at some point. It’s kind of hard to do that with how good she’s been as a sprinter. She’ll run on anything you ask her to. We have the whole season ahead of us. We just have to use the right judgment and pick the right spots. I’m happy to have her here at the Fair Grounds.”
The $60,000 first prize jumped Oeuvre’s earnings to $413,126 from a record of 9-3-2 in 15 starts.
Sent off as the 2-1 co-favorite, Oeuvre paid $6.80, $4.00, and $3.20. Behind the top four, Eve’s Delight, New Boss, Touch of Class, and Violenza completed the order of finish. An oversubscribed field of 13, the four alternate entries were scratched (Tizplenty, Charlie’s Penny, Perfect Happiness, Minute Waltz, and Hazy Command).
Oeuvre is a daughter of Shackleford out of the Kitten’s Joy mare Love This Kitten and was bred in Illinois by owner Richard Perkins.
The racing week continues with live racing on Sunday and Monday at Fair Grounds, both with eight-race cards. The first post is 1:15 p.m. CT.