Chocolate Ride spearheads stakes triple for Cox with Fair Grounds ‘Cap repeat

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February 21st, 2016

Defending champion Chocolate Ride once again proved uncatchable on the front end in Saturday’s $125,000 Fair Grounds H. (G3). That topped a terrific day for trainer Brad Cox, who won a total of three turf stakes.

Cash Control kicked off his Fair Grounds stakes double in the $60,000 Daisy Devine, and her half-sister and fellow Richard and Bertram Klein homebred, unbeaten Cash Back, landed the Melody of Colors S. at Gulfstream Park. And Cox might not be done yet, for he has Twirling Cinnamon coming up in tonight’s WEBN at Turfway Park. (Twirling Cinnamon was scratched, or else Cox might have gone 4-for-4 in Saturday stakes.)

Chocolate Ride also contributed to a banner day for jockey Florent Geroux, who rode four winners at Fair Grounds, topped by Gun Runner in the Risen Star (G2). Both Chocolate Ride and Gun Runner are by Candy Ride.

Wentworth Brochu’s Chocolate Ride has been literally unbeatable on Fair Grounds’ Stall-Wilson turf over the past year. With his early speed and strong late kick, the 6-year-old gives closers fits. He did so in last year’s Fair Grounds ‘Cap and Mervin H. Muniz Jr. H. (G2), the January 16 Colonel E.R. Bradley (G3), and once again on Saturday, thanks to a gift pace scenario.

Gliding to the fore through an opening quarter in :24.31 on the firm course, the 6-5 favorite had the run of the race for the duration. The deliberate pace – :49.72 and 1:13.91 – and lack of any pressure made it easy on Chocolate Ride, and he was never going to let it slip through his grasp. Injecting pace at the decisive point, he got the mile in 1:37.48 and rattled off a final furlong in :11.83 to finish 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.31.

Roman Approval therefore gets a star next to his name for a hard-charging second, as the only closer to make an impact. Last much of the way, he had to alter course to find room and flashed home. Roman Approval reduced a five-length deficit to just three-quarters of a length. Third-placer Departing had every chance, having stalked the winner in second, and was simply outfinished.

Chocolate Ride’s resume now reads 16-7-2-2, $521,191. Claimed from the owner/trainer tandem of John Oxley and Mark Casse for $40,000 at Churchill Downs in November 2014, he’s won six of his last seven, all at Fair Grounds. His lone blemish in this span came when eighth in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) back at Churchill on Kentucky Derby Day.

The third horse to repeat in the Fair Grounds ‘Cap, following three-peaters Yukon Robbery (1993-95) and Mystery Giver (2002-04), Chocolate Ride looms large for another title defense in the March 26 Mervin Muniz.

Bred by Brian Kahn in Kentucky and sold for $260,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, Chocolate Ride is a half-brother to Hollywood Starlet (G1) winner Killer Graces. They are out of the Old Trieste mare Heatherdoesntbluff.

Earlier in the Daisy Devine for turf distaffers, Cash Control (green cap and silks) outdueled a stubborn Mizz Money to prevail by a hard-fought head. The winner’s stablemate, Street of Gold, rounded out the monetarily themed trifecta. And if you take fourth-placer Notte d’Oro’s name as reflecting physical gold, it was an all-monetary superfecta.

Cash Control was boosting Cox’s healthy strike rate for horses going from dirt to turf – 27%, according to the BRIS past performances. The improving daughter of Pioneerofthenile won three in a row across both surfaces last fall, capped by a front-running verdict in the December 19 Tiffany Lass on the Fair Grounds main track. Her skein was snapped last out when fourth in the January 17 Pippin at Oaklawn, but she was back in business here to advance her record to 12-7-1-1, $245,700.

Pace factor Mizz Money capitalized on her rail draw to secure the early lead through comfortable splits of :24.12, :49.49 and 1:14.13. Cash Control shadowed her every step of the way, so when Mizz Money quickened turning for home, she was on the spot and matched the front runner’s turn of foot. The closers never had a chance as the top two battled it out to the line in a sub-:6 final sixteenth. Although Cash Control was wearing her down, Mizz Money fought like a lion and tried to come again. Yet Cash Control was equally resolute for Shaun Bridgmohan, and reached the wire first in a final time of 1:43.12 for 1 1/16 miles.

Street of Gold was a strong third, considering that she had to rally from last into the fastest part of the race – and under top weight of 123 pounds, six more than Cash Control and Mizz Money. Notte d’Oro, the slight 2-1 favorite, also ran better than it might appear. In light of her wide trip throughout off a four-month layoff, an even fourth was creditable enough.

Cash Control is out of Grade 3 heroine Hidden Assets, a Mt. Livermore mare who now has five stakes winners to her credit. Multiple stakes winners Country Day, Good Deed and Due Date all placed at the graded level as well. Country Day ranks as the most notable so far, as the runner-up in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G2) and a promising freshman sire of 2016. Her first four stakes scorers all won at least one Fair Grounds stakes, while her latest, 3-year-old filly Cash Back, opened her career with two straight wins in New Orleans before plundering Gulfstream Saturday.

Chocolate Ride photo courtesy Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography.

Cash Control edging Mizz Money (right) courtesy of Alexander Barkoff/Hodges Photography.