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NEW ORLEANS, LA – It took every inch of the about 1 1/16 miles of the $75,000 Black Gold, but Steve Landers Racing’s Royal Prince nailed an ultra-game Dyn O Mite by a nose in the turf stakes for 3-year-olds Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Royal Prince (8.70-1) and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. settled in third while tracking Dyn O Mite, who stalked a loose Lookin for Loki through a tepid half-mile in 49.30. Positions remained unchanged to early stretch, when Lookin for Loki relented and Dyn O Mite took the lead, with Royal Prince bearing down on him. The top-2 raced stride-for-stride through the deep stretch, with neither giving an inch, until Royal Prince desperately surged late to secure his first stakes win, coverinig the distance in 1:45.05 over a firm Stall-Wilson Turf Course. A pace compromised Palazzi, co-favored at 2.60-1, rallied from last to be third, while the actual 2.60-1 favorite Excess Magic was sixth.
Hernandez, who pledged 10% of his earnings on the day to New Vocations Louisiana Division in Covington, La. facility, had Royal Prince in the right spot the entire way around, though his charge had to earn it.
“We got the dream trip, sit in the picket, and save all the ground,” Hernandez said. “Turning for home he got out and he was able to get his head down. He showed a lot of grit today. He got in front of that horse and he never let him back by him.”
Royal Prince, a 3-year-old son of Cairo Prince, won for the second time in five starts for trainer Brad Cox, who wasn’t on-hand, as he saddled reigning 2-Year-Old Champion Essential Quality to win his 3-year-old debut in the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Royal Prince improved off a third-place finish to Excess Magic in a local optional-claimer January 3 and showed why he was favored in his only other stakes start, when a close seventh in Del Mar’s Cecile B. DeMille in November. Cox also trains fourth-place Black Gold finisher Fulsome and T D Dance, who checked in fifth.
Dyn O Mite did everything but win and showed his neck third behind Palazzi and Excess Magic in the January 21 Texas Turf Mile at Sam Houston was no fluke. The well-traveled son of Goldencents broke his maiden at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California in October and won and off-the-turf optional-claimer here in December for trainer Keith Desormeaux. Jockey James Graham was forced to make first run on the tiring Lookin for Loki, and felt that could have made the difference in the end.
“I may have gotten there a tad bit soon,” Graham said. “I thought he would quicken but Brian quickened to and he was on the best horse. I had a lovely trip. He tried to fight back late but it was too late.”
Pine Knoll Farm’s homebred Jus Lively may have been perceived as a dirt specialist, but he showed he’s got some chops on turf too when he closed strongly and held off Treys Midnight Moon by a half-length in Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace.
Jus Lively, the 4-1 second-choice, settled in seventh under Adam Beschizza as Maga Man cut out slow fractions of 24.08 and 49.41 and set a measured pace over a firm Stall-Wilson Turf Course. The winner began a wide advance towards the leaders off the far turn and was followed by Treys Midnight Moon as Maga Man gamely dug in and was still clear in midstretch. The top pair looked to be on even terms in deep stretch but Jus Lively repelled the bid to pull clear over Treys Midnight Moon, who was three quarters of a lengths ahead of Maga Man. Jus Lively completed the about 1-mile distance in 1:38.87. The heavy 1.10-1 favorite Ninety One Assault never got a clear run and finished fourth.
Beschizza, who pledged 10% of his earnings on the day to New Vocations Louisiana Division in Covington, La. facility, was impressed with the tenacity of Jus Lively in the stretch.
“He dug real deep today and he’s just a solid animal that loves racing,” Beschizza said. “I had an absolute faultless trip and once we got inside the sixteenth (pole) the horse headed him and he really showed some guts today.”
Jus Lively, a 5-year-old son of Paddy O’Prado, had been stakes-placed three times over the past two years for trainer Steve Asmussen, though every one was on dirt, which made the win in the Dixie Poker Ace result a bit more surprising. Though he did break his maiden over the local turf in January 2019, Jus Lively was a well-beaten eighth to Ninety One Assault in last year’s Dixie Poker Ace, his only other go on turf. He didn’t run for the rest of the year and then resurfaced at Delta Downs in November, running second in the B-Connected. He followed up with a third in the local Louisiana Champions Day Classic, and entered Saturday’s assignment off a nose second in an off-the-turf optional-claimer here February 6.
Jus Lively is now 6-for-12 lifetime and won his first stakes in the Dixie Poker Ace. Asmussen’s longtime assistance Scott Blasi gave credit owners Dr. Jay and Ellen Addison for helping Jus Lively deliver, with a very patient approach.
“We thought his grass race last year was a just a throwout and wanted to run him back in this race,” Blasi said. “He’s got a ton of breeding for the grass. Dr. Jay and Ms. Ellen take such good care of this horse. They gave him time off in the summer, and brought him back for this meet. I’m just so happy to see it pay off for them.”
Paul Braverman and owner-trainer Tom Morley were the first to pledge 10% of Saturday’s purse earnings to New Vocations’ Louisiana division. Their defending champion Ninety One Assault, a state-bred star who had won 7-for-10 over the Stall-Wilson, never found a seam inside and couldn’t deliver his usual stretch run under Shaun Bridgmohan. The 8-year-old son of Artie Schiller entered off a title defense in the local Louisiana Champions Day Turf December 12, but never got a chance to stretch his legs in an unlucky trip.
“They slowed it down up front and he jumped in the bridle down inside and I had no other choice but to go forward with him,” Bridgmohan said. “I could never go right to get out. I was just bottled up from the poles and they were stacked up right in front of me. There was just nowhere to get out.”
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