Catching My Eye: Ova Charged and Doncho on Mardi Gras Day at Fair Grounds

February 15th, 2024

Who to celebrate first? The Louisiana-bred who ran one of the fastest speed figures of the meet, beating open company in a stake? Or the three-year-old who is as talented, if not more, than any other three-year-old we’ve seen at the track? 

Well, it’s Louisiana, and I love an underdog most of all. I’ll begin with the daughter by Star Guitar.

Ova Charged

In the $100,000 Mardi Gras Stakes, among the field of nine fillies and mares, one of them didn’t fit, one of them didn’t belong, one of them was not like the others, but one of them absolutely romped. The Louisiana-bred named Ova Charged, that’s who. Rarely does a statebred from these parts step forward and beat the blue bloods, partly because the simple fact that the purse structure incentivizes them to run against their Pelican State compadres -- why run for $100k against Kentucky breds when the same purse is offered in the La-bred stakes?  When there is a good one, it’s hard not to wonder if they can beat the best, and that question had been hung on Brittlyn Stable’s Ova Charged.

Way back in 2021, in the second race of her career, Ova Charged won an allowance at Monmouth. She followed that up by finishing second in the Victory Ride (G3). Since then, outside of statebred fillies and mares, Ova Charged had stepped out to face statebred males but faltered; and last spring, she tried open company females at Keeneland, but couldn't get it done. Those races were on dirt, and the barn tells me she was struggling with a minor issue, which she has gotten over. 

Going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf, the Mardi Gras Stakes would be the dirt sprinter's truest class test. It would also task her with a surface she’s only been over once before, whereas her rivals were well-versed. Oeuvre from Chris Block, Poppy Flower from Bill Mott; Joe Sharp, Michael Stidham, Michelle Lovell, each had a turf sprinter entered. And what happened when the gates opened? Ova Charged went straight for their throats. 

Trained by Shane Wilson and with Jose Guerrero in the saddle (both our current meet-leaders), the six-year-old mare hit the ground running. Joined by an all-out longshot to her outside, Ova Charged dueled through the opening quarter. And then? Pure, unadulterated speed happened, that’s what. At the 1/8th pole, she led by 7 lengths. In the end, it was 5 1/4 lengths, as the honest Oeuvre held off Redifined through the final furlong. 

Ova Charged earned a 102 Brisnet Speed figure, four points better than her last race, which was a repeat of a previous top. She has now won 11 of her 14 lifetime starts, including the 2022 Page Cortez Stakes, her only other attempt on the turf. 

Shane Wilson said they will likely target a repeat in the Page Cortez, against fellow La-bred fillies and mares. After? They hope to travel with her, enter against open company, and possibly stretch her out. That’s right, the state’s best female sprinter might just be the state’s best female router. Wherever she ranks, Ova Charged ran brilliantly in the Mardi Gras.


He did it again. Doncho, that is. The new kid in town. After blowing our minds when running straight to the winner’s circle in his two-year-old debut on Dec. 30, the Mo Town sophomore basically pushed repeat on that six-furlong effort, only this time against winners. And this time, he kept going after the wire. 

Lining up against two from Steve Asmussen, including Shogun Be Fast; Bear River, a Triple Crown nominee from Keith Desormeaux; and the stakes-placed Agoo from Whit Beckman, Doncho looked to have his hands full. But the market knew better than to let him go at 21-1 as they did in December. Against these six he was made even money, which looked like a gift when the dust settled. 

With Jaime Torres up, Doncho overcame a thundering bump out of the gates to hustle up and stalk outside the Joel Rosario-guided leader, Shogun Be Fast. Pressuring the bettors’ second choice in the turn, Doncho out-quickened the leader on his own and with ease to secure pole position at the top of the stretch. With the hounds in full chase, Torres asked, and in a few strides, Doncho was clear by multiple lengths. Across the wire, the winning margin was 4 1/2. To call what Doncho did after that a gallop out would be inaccurate--the dark bay tank simply kept running in full stride, showing no signs of being tired. Torres shook the reins a furlong after the wire, and a quarter mile later, Doncho finally stopped--halfway down the backstretch. In other words: this fella will likely be tasked with going longer next out. You’d be a fool not to watch him do it.