Ahh Chocolate satisfies graded craving in Falls City; Frivolous retired prior to title defense
Edited press releases
Stoneway Farm’s homebred three-year-old filly Ahh Chocolate rated patiently in second before taking command in the stretch and drew away to win the 100th running of the $200,000 Falls City H. presented by TwinSpires.com (G2) on Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs by 1 1/2 lengths over Theogony.
Ahh Chocolate, trained by Neil Howard and ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., ran 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:49.68 – the fastest Falls City renewal since Allamerican Bertie clocked 1:49.60 in 2002. It was the first graded stakes win of Ahh Chocolate’s career.
Ahh Chocolate, a runner-up in the Chilukki (G2) on November 1, and Theogony tracked pacesetter Gamblers Rose, who led the field of nine fillies and mares through early fractions of :24.12, :48.31 and 1:12.77. Hernandez moved Ahh Chocolate wide on the final turn, took the lead at the head of the lane and never looked back as the runner-up chased the winner.
Third in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) on the day before the Preakness (G1) at Pimlico, Ahh Chocolate was subsequently fourth in the Indiana Oaks (G2) and 10th in the Arlington Park’s Pucker Up (G3) on turf. Howard gave the filly a brief freshening and she returned in September with a trio of one-turn races, including a 4 1/2-length defeat but runner-up effort in the Chilukki.
Ahh Chocolate, who carried 115 pounds during the victory, is a Kentucky-bred three-year-old daughter of Candy Rode out of the Saint Liam mare Ahh. The victory was worth $119,040 to her owner/breeder Jim Stone and brought Ahh Chocolate’s career earnings to $119,040 from four wins, one second and one third in nine career starts.
Ahh Chocolate returned $14.20, $7 and $4.20 as the 6-1 third betting choice. Thegony, who carried 117 pounds under Julien Leparoux in her first race on dirt, returned $12 and $7 in finishing one length in front of Call Pat, who paid $4 to show under Joe Rocco Jr. while carrying 117 pounds.
Birdatthewire, the 2-1 favorite and 118-pound starting highweight, was another three lengths back in fourth and was followed by Pretty Fancy, No Fault of Mine, Salama, Gamblers Rose and Montana Native.
The race was marred by a fatal fracture to three-year-old filly Chide’s left front leg just before the field hit the top of the stretch. Her jockey Miguel Mena was unseated but was reported to be “OK” and returned to the jockey’s room.
Two of the top choices on the morning line -- Frivolous (tendon) and Tiz So Sweet (fever) -- were scratched Thursday afternoon. Needmore Flattery was scratched early Thursday morning.
Frivolous, the defending champion, was to have made her career finale in the Falls City. Trainer Vicki Oliver confirmed that the daughter of Empire Maker has been retired.
“We galloped her the morning of the race and when she came back her tendon looked a little sore so we decided that the best thing to do was to scratch her,” Oliver said. “She was training really well and she’s had a pretty tough campaign, but we’re going to send her home to be a mom.”
Frivolous also was entered and under consideration for Friday’s $500,000 Clark (G1) against males, but a defense of her Falls City title was to be her final race. She’ll soon join owner/breeder G. Watts Humphrey’s Kentucky broodmare band.
“It was pretty tough nicking her,” Oliver said. “Tapit and War Front are possibilities.”
Falls City quotes from Churchill Downs
Trainer Neil Howard on Ahh Chocolate: “She’s been a nice filly; you can ask (jockey) Brian (Hernandez Jr.). As far as he’s concerned, she may have not won every time but she’s always given us 100 percent and going off the premise of what Brian has been telling me all season long. We’ve always thought highly of her and are thinking that she’s going to be a lot better with age and as she gets older. We’ll target the Fair Grounds races in the winter, but we’re going to give her a little bit of a break right now.”
Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. on Ahh Chocolate: “She ran big. We got a great spot around the backside and from there we were on the best horse. She had a couple of tough races going two turns. She wasn’t the quickest filly going away from there and, like in the Black Eyed Susan, we stuck down in behind horses and they went slow in front of us and instead of us being able to get in stride, we were stuck getting in a tug and war with her. Today, I was able to get outside and she turned off out there but she got in a nice rhythm and finished it off for us. She always looked like she was going to get the two turns but Neil (Howard) did the right thing by going back to a one-turn mile last time. It sharpened her up for this race today.”
Trainer Dale Romans on Birdatthewire, fourth as the 2-1 favorite: “I think ‘Bird’ is working her way back where she needs to be. We’ll get her down to Gulfstream – I know she likes that racetrack and she’s had some good races down there. Finishing fourth in this race is nothing to be ashamed of. She’s doing very well.”
Photo courtesy of Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography.