Saturday, December 27, 2014

STAKES RECAPS: Woodchopper & Pago Hop Stakes

1751 Gentilly Blvd.,   New Orleans, LA 70119




Contact: Michael Adolphson, Staff Writer, 504.948.1255,


Trainer Tom Amoss swept both $60,000 one-mile off-the-turf stakes for sophomores on a warm and rain-soaked afternoon at Fair Grounds Race Course, giving the meet-leading conditioner his third wins in both the Woodchopper for open 3-year-olds and the Pago Hop for fillies.  Saturday’s victories were also the third and fourth stakes wins of the meet for the 10-time leading trainer and New Orleans native following Delaunay’s victory in the Thanksgiving Handicap on Nov. 27 and Grand Contender’s off-the-turf win in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial on Dec. 19.

In the Woodchopper, Paul Van Doren’s Rise Up won the fifth stakes and sixth race in his 13-race career after breaking sharply from the gate under Brian Hernandez, Jr. and leading the field of nine colts or gelding to a comfortable 3¾-length wire-to-wire victory.   After breaking from the three-hole, the son of Rockport Harbor was never threatened as he rattled off solid fractions of :23.26, :46.33 and 1:11.98 en route to a final time of 1:40.35 for the sloppy mile.  Sent off as 2-1 favorite, Rise Up won for the first time since April and returned $6, $3.60 and $3, earning $36,000 to boost his career bankroll to $919,595.

“All the credit goes to Tom and his crew,” Hernandez said.  “This was the first time I ever sat on the horse.  When he broke as sharply as he did, I just had to be a good passenger.  He was going quickly, but he was doing it easily.  With good horses like that you’re better off letting them be quick and comfortable than trying to slow them down.”


For Amoss, it was a special victory.  “So many times you have a good young horse you are trying to get to the Kentucky Derby like we were with Rise Up,” he said.  “You just do too much and it’s too tough on them.  I gave him the time off and he’s come back to be a good horse.  I do want to also say that Mrs. Van Doren recently passed away and it was like she was riding with us.  I know she’s watching down on us and Paul is watching back in Kentucky and his (University of Kentucky) Wildcats just beat (the University of) Louisville (Cardinals), so he’s having a great day, too.”

            Gary and Mary West’s morning line favorite and post time 3-1 second choice Highball rallied to finish second under James Graham for trainer Wayne Catalano, paying $3.60 and $3.20.  Al and Bill Ulwelling’s Pumpkin Rumble made a belated bid to finish third under Florent Geroux for conditioner Gary Scherer, paying $3.40 to show.

“He ran hard and tried,” Graham said.  “We didn’t get any help up front.  He handled the (sloppy main) course fine, but it’s not his best surface.  He was good enough to get second.”


Geroux believed there was more to be seen from his charge. “It was a good run and he always fights very hard,” he said.  “If it was a little farther, I could have been a winner.  He was getting his stride late.  It always takes him a little while and the last eighth of a mile is always his best.”

Got Shades, D’cajun Cat, Poker Player, Alamo Heights, Whyruawesome and Aztec Brave completed the Woodchopper order of finish.

In the Pago Hop, the Amoss-trained and Maggi Moss-owned Kiss to Remember rewarded her supporters as she stalked the pace under James Graham and forged to a popular 1¼-length victory for the meet-leading trainer, owner and jockey.  The win, which followed five consecutive second-place finishes – was the first since June 22 for the daughter of Big Brown who was claimed last December by Amoss when breaking her maiden locally. 

After breaking well from the six-hole, Kiss to Remember stalked 2-1 second choice Divine Beauty, who rattled off fractions of :24.46, :48.90 and 1:14.09 before the winner seized the lead en route to a time of 1:40.29 – .06 faster than the boys two races prior.  Sent off at 9-10 odds, Kiss to Remember won for the fourth time in 12 starts and returned $3.80, $2.60 and $2.20 while earning $36,000 to boost her career bankroll to $323,196. 

“It took her a little while to get a hold of the track, but when she did, she did it right,” Graham said.  “Thanks to the connections and everybody involved – I really appreciate it.”


“Unfortunately Maggi couldn’t be here, but I know she would want to tell everybody that this is her favorite racetrack and she wishes she could be here,” Amoss said.  “(Kiss to Remember) has been very good to us.  A lot of that is (both) development and luck and who knows if it’s going to turn out that way, but it did.  Maggi spotted the horse like I did and as far as today’s race goes, we had a strategy and it worked out for us.  This filly has some distance limitations and a mile is probably it.  Those were some good horses who beat her when she was second.  I would not be surprised to see her return to sprinting after this.”


Ben Walden, Jr. and Larry Taylor’s Cali Star rallied to be a game second under journeyman Francisco Torres for trainer Alice Cohn, paying $6.60 and $3.60.  Brereton Jones’ Divine Beauty retreated to third, beaten three lengths under Kerwin Clark for trainer Larry Jones, paying $2.60 to show.


Torres was especially excited about his filly’s effort.  “She ran huge,” he said.  “She broke well and a couple horses out-footed her.  I was a little worried about the mud, but she actually took to it really well.  I put her on the fence and she came through.  I was kind of hoping the race would have been a little farther – we could have won the race.”


Synapse, More Than Less, Too Cool, Prayed For and Stock Yard Hen completed the Pago Hop order of finish. 


About Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the nation’s third-oldest racetrack, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN); it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and 11 off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. The 143rd Thoroughbred Racing Season – highlighted by the 102nd running of the Louisiana Derby – will run from November 2014 through March 2015. More information can be found online at




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