Catching My Eye: Stakes Action and Foley’s Big Week at Fair Grounds

March 5th, 2024

Scheduled for the turf but moved to a muddy main track, two of the three stakes at Fair Grounds on Saturday were won impressively. Add Champlin to the week’s action, and we’ve got something to write home about. With only three weeks to go in the meet, here’s who caught my eye Feb. 29 - March 3 at Fair Grounds.

The $100,000 Black Gold Stakes

In an all-out slugfest down the homestretch, Camaro Z outfought Count Dracula to win the Black Gold at Fair Grounds on Saturday. Camaro Z delivered and overcame multiple blows while battling his outside rival to prevail by a neck. The three-year-old showed his willingness to shoot through a small opening and his competitive heart to earn his first stakes victory. 

The 7-5 favorite Bear River set the pace, while Count Dracula stalked to the leader’s outside and Camaro Z rated in third along the rail. Though he failed to match the leaders strides in the far turn, Camaro Z revved up coming into the stretch, muscling off the rail with a bump to engage Count Dracula. The gloves were taken off and each rival laid their hearts on the mat with Camaro Z winning the feisty duel to the wire. The son of Liam’s Map beat out five three-year-old peers, earning an 86 Brisnet Speed figure over a sealed muddy main track. 

Camaro Z’s pilot was Corey Lanerie. C-Lan won three races on the day and now sits in second place for the jockey’s title--one win behind Loveberry. If he can pass him before the wire, it would be Lanerie’s first at Fair Grounds, which would be a well-deserved addition to the Louisiana native’s resume.

Trained by Greg Foley, Camaro Z joins the list of impressive three-year-olds in the barn. So far at Fair Grounds, Foley has unveiled 15 sophomores who have won seven races from 22 starts (32% with a $3.03 ROI). Add to that four-year-old Champlin’s two wins and the La-bred Passing Judgement’s maiden score, and on the meet, the conditioner has 10 wins at a 21% clip. 

Speaking of Champlin

I don’t know if it’s because of Flavor Flav’s recent “National Anthem” at the Bucks game or simply the fact that “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” had such a deep impression on me as a 10-year-old, but every time I say 'Champlin' in my head, I follow it up with “I'm lampin, I'm lampin, I'm cold cold lampin.” Either way, there’s no doubt Champlin is chilling after another jaw-dropping display last Thursday. 

Champlin earned a 94 Brisnet Speed figure in his debut stunner. With no published works since then, he had the look of a horse with run on his mind in the paddock—Foley knows how to keep his sprinters race ready. Facing allowance ranks, including two four-time winners in Zippin Gigi and Calibrachoa Kid, as well Camp Daddy who touts three scores, this was a good test to follow up his huge first-out win. 

Facing four foes who have done their best running on the lead, Champlin outgunned all of them to the lead. “Mighty” Mitchell Murrill sat chilly and loaded aboard the gray son of Ransom the Moon, and as several rivals began to threaten at the top of the stretch, he did little to urge Champlin forward, who drew off much the best and continued his run past the wire. Winning by three lengths, he earned a 96 Brisnet Speed figure. 

The $100,000 Edward J. Johnston Memorial

Making his third “Catching My Eye” appearance this meet, Jack Hammer continued unlocking his talent and potential to dominate the Eddie Johnston, beating eight older state-bred males by 8 1/2 lengths on Saturday at Fair Grounds. Never being menaced by the second-place finisher and 4-5 favorite Behemah Star, the four-year-old gelding now has freshman, sophomore, and older stakes wins on his resume. 

Trained by Bret Calhoun, Allied Racing Stable’s son of Jimmy Creed out of Lipstick Junky saw Reylu Gutierrez climb back aboard. Calicoco was hustled hard to beat Jack Hammer to the lead out of the gates. Content to track in second, Jack Hammer left Calicoco alone. After settling in sixth, Behemah Star began to run in the far turn but by then Jack Hammer had blitzed to the front and opened up an insurmountable lead. 

Improving 10 points, Jack Hammer earned a 100 Brisnet Speed figure. Check out his Brisnet pace line: 86 early 1, 96 early 2, and 100 late pace figure--he didn’t simply run them off their feet. Watching the gallop out, he continued to add to his margin of victory going further.