Catching My Eye: Fair Grounds Top Performers Week of Jan. 4 - Jan. 7

January 11th, 2024

Top honors this week go to Maycocks Bay. The Godolphin homebred trained by Mike Stidham put his name on the map in a big way beating home two quality colts trained by Brad Cox and Keith Desormeaux in Blown Cover and Hawkes Creek. Both of those are early nominees for the Louisiana Derby. Maycocks Bay is not. Yet. 

LA-bred extraordinaire, Ova Charged also put on a show winning the Bob F. Wright.

Who’d she beat? How about the millionaire Free Like a Girl, who entered on a roll and has proven herself all over the country against stakes fillies born beyond the Louisiana state line?

It took guts, determination, and class to overcome his trip, but Bron and Brow returned to Fair Grounds winner’s circle, scoring his second Palmisano. The figure did not flatter, but there was more to that race than the running line could tell you.

Maycocks Bay

Maycocks Bay took it to the field early and poured it on late, winning race 5 on Sunday by over 10 lengths for trainer Mike Stidham. Taken off the turf and run at 1 mile 70 yards, the field scratched down to six. Still, three besides Maycocks Bay had dirt form. The Speightstown colt had a Brisnet pace line of 80, 85, 102 (early 1, early 2, and late pace), and he earned a career-best 94 Brisnet Speed figure. 

Ben Curtis was up for the gate-to-wire win, which is a jockey/trainer combo you should not take lightly. Over the past two weeks, they are four for six with a $18.40 ROI on a $2 win bet. 

Before the race, Stidham had told me they’ve always liked this colt, and the plan was to get him on the grass. His dam Hallie Belle won the Pago Hop for Stidham in 2017, a turf route for three-year-old fillies (which Stidham just won again with Tufani). After earning a 90 Brisnet Speed figure when breaking his maiden this fall, Maycocks Bay was entered in a stake, where he got in tight and was shuffled back. 

I expect to see him again in the Fair Grounds winner’s circle this meet. Whether or not we’ll see him in a Kentucky Derby prep or in the Black Gold (a three-year-old turf route) is the pressing question. 

Ova Charged

Going faster than the Palmisano-winner Bron and Brow, Brittlyn Stable’s Ova Charged crushed the $100,000 Bob F. Wright Memorial field on Saturday. Typically employing stalking speed and making her move for the front in the turn, the six-year-old daughter of Star Guitar broke sharp, relaxed on command, then soon said enough is enough, and cruised to victory by nearly seven lengths. Never being menaced by any of her six foes and leading at every call, Ova Charged stopped the clock in 1:09.75, which is .80 seconds faster than the aforementioned male stakes winner earlier on the card. Incredible.

But she has always been incredible. Trained and piloted by the current meet-leaders Shane Wilson and Jose Guerrero, Ova Charged ran a 98 Brisnet Speed figure for the third time in her career. She’s never lost to state-bred fillies. Other than a second-place finish in the Victory Ride (G3) at Belmont, a loss last summer at Keeneland, and a local defeat at the hands of state-bred males last spring, Ova Charged has reigned supreme. But can she beat open company outside of “The Boot?”

Well, it’s been a while, but she has once before. After breaking her maiden by 11 lengths at Delta Downs in 2021, Ova defeated open company in an allowance at Monmouth. Wilson reported he is considering the $100,000 Mardi Gras Stakes on Feb. 13 for Ova Charged’s next start. It would be her third try against open company, and she would likely face Saturday’s Menard winner, the always-game Oeuvre.

Bron and Brow

Bron and Brow was much the best in the $100,00 Gary P. Palmisano Memorial, winning it for the second time for trainer Mark Casse (though David Carroll deserves a mention, as so many assistant trainers in our sport do). However, in the homestretch, his backers were white-knuckling their programs. 

Aboard the Robideaux winner Autumns Strong Man, Brian Hernandez Jr. set the trap in the far turn, leaving the rail open for Bron and Brow, and Rey Gutierrez took the bait. With Mike J directly in front of them as the two set down their runs, BJ had Rey pinned in. Doing his best “Irad aboard Forte in the Jim Dandy” impersonation, Rey set Bron and Brow to muscling his way into the clearing. From there, it wasn’t close.

Repeating with a 91 Brisnet Speed figure in his second start off the layoff and with a less-troubled trip, Bron and Brow earned a figure more fitting to how sharp he was coming into the race. Having touted himself in his work prior when in company with stablemate Strong Quality (KY-bred stakes caliber), no way would I oppose him the rest of the winter, assuming Bron and Brow stays sharp in the mornings.