Catching My Eye: Front-running monster Pink Polkadots and three others from Fair Grounds Feb. 1 - 4
We have seen several impressive up-and-coming turf routers so far this meet. St. Armands Key and Ocean Victory come to mind quickly, but two others as well—Pink Polkadots and Le Gris. Both of these raced this past week, backing up their wins with another impressive run at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Winning wire-to-wire on New Year’s Eve at 14-1, it was easy to doubt that Pink Polkadots had the goods to repeat on Thursday. Trained by Joe Sharp, the Candy Ride filly lined up with seven other sophomores in the first-level allowance going the same 1 1/16 miles distance over the Stall-Wilson turf course which she handled so well in her open-length debut triumph. Would they let her speed away again?
The other fillies didn’t have a choice. Pink Polkadots is simply a front-running monster. She goes easy, gobbling up the ground, and though she speeds away, she retains a late kick. Tearing into a :23.40 opening fraction and putting over six or more lengths between her and her foes across the backstretch, the bay out of the Dynaformer mare Tafaneen continued to roll out front through the far turn. As her rivals moved forward to have their say turning for home, Torres danced the reins and she set down her run, keeping a six-length stiff arm out at all times and finalizing the margin at 3 1/2 at the wire.
Brisnet scored her an 83 Speed figure, five points less than her debut win, but Torres wrapped her up with 70 yards to go. Since she’s never gone eyeball-to-eyeball, we don’t yet know about her heart, but right now she has the looks of a turf star. Her commanding speed and deep well of run will be the source of nightmares for all the fillies she’ll face this year.
In race 9 on Saturday, the feature first-level allowance written for three-year-olds which was taken off the turf, a field of six entered the gates after scratches, but only one proved his surface versatility across the sealed sloppy track, and that was Le Gris.
Trained by Al Stall Jr., the gray City of Light colt showed his natural speed at Saratoga on debut and then at Churchill, but was unable to win either after dashing to the lead in both on fast dirt tracks. Early in the Fair Grounds meet le Gris made an impressive sweeping wide move in his attempt to run down St. Armands Key but could only get second. Next out, he produced a similar rally and was able to get the win over Ocean Victory. Shortening up a 1/16th on Saturday, the sophomore overcame a bump out of the gates, settling into a tracking trip while saving ground. Moving up on the leaders ahead of the far turn, he found a tight seam to his liking and nonchalantly galloped through, soon taking command. Under Jareth Loveberry, Le Gris was never really asked as he dashed away to win by six.
Demonstrating yet another tactical option, Le Gris stepped forward from his maiden-winning 79 Brisnet Speed figure to earn an 89. Speeding through the early fractions quicker than any previous race, in terms of his Brisnet pace figures, all signs point to this being a progressive 3-year-old who has more to show us.
#4 Jack Hammer leads them all the way in R6 at Fair Grounds, giving Rey Gutierrez another win on today's card! 📞 @joesantos_33— TwinSpires Racing 🏇 (@TwinSpires) February 4, 2024
Bret Calhoun trains the 4-year-old gelding by @spendthriftfarm's Jimmy Creed!
🎥 #TwinSpiresReplay pic.twitter.com/50McDiJeZC
In an optional claiming state-bred allowance on Sunday, the six entries loading into the gates boasted 36 wins between them. Entering with a 4-for-6 lifetime record, Allied Racing’s homebred Jack Hammer was stretching out after two sprints and about to make it 5-for-7.
Trained by Bret Calhoun and only knowing one afternoon pilot in Rey Gutierrez, the half-sibling to stakes-victress Winning Romance went straight to the front and set an easy opening fraction. Yes, he was loose and lonely, but the four-year-old by Jimmy Creed quickened nicely through the next half-mile. A factor going in his favor: Jack Hammer’s stablemate Highland Creek broke well and was positioned in second two lengths or further back until the 1/16th pole, basically serving as a strategic buffer between the winner and late kickers who swooped in for placing in the final stages.
So, file this one under perfect setup, but also demonstrating the type of commanding speed that makes mincemeat out of many state-bred fields. Jack Hammer earned a 90 Brisnet Speed figure, a new top. The last time he stepped forward like this was a similar situation: stretching out after two sprints. In his next race, he got fried chasing a hot pace in the Louisiana Stallion of the Year Stakes. It all depends on who he lines up against next, but I don’t see that happening wherever we find Jack Hammer next. No doubt the Star Guitar Stakes on closing day is on connections’ minds.
Breaking sharply, it looked like Rockets Sister would have an easy trip stalking the 10-1 front runner in race 5 on Sunday. Soon enough she began to receive pressure from her outside. Quickening to the leader’s throatlatch, she shifted her focus towards being the aggressor, instead of the aggressed. From there she bid and blew by the leader, surging to a four-length lead, which was narrowed by the late charge of the 8-5 favorite De ‘Ans Eighty.
Making her first start as a five-year-old and her first for Shane Wilson’s barn, the Iowa-bred by Jafmil looks to have strong form for her campaign. Out of the Pulpit dam Pulpinit, check out Rockets Sister’s siblings stats sprinting: 170 - 35 - 34 - 17. Seven foals, all but one by Jafmil. All of them runners.