Richard and Bertram Klein’s homebred Believe in Bertie rewarded the faith of the Fair Grounds bettors with a tour de force in Saturday’s $104,400 Pago Hop S.
Scampering to the lead passing the stands for the first time, the 8-5 favorite opened up on the field while traveling very keenly in the hands of Shaun Bridgmohan. But Believe in Bertie’s aggressiveness didn’t make the slightest difference to her energy level: she romped by 8 1/2 lengths in a course-record 1:34.22 for about one mile on the firm turf, shaving a bit off the 1:34.51 mark held by Paroled since March 2015.
“She’s got such a high cruising speed, so I just wanted to stay out of her way and be a good passenger,” Bridgmohan said. “She was doing it so easily. I never even had to pull the stick on her.”
“She went out fast and kept going fast,” trainer Brad Cox observed. “She came home :11 and change and looked great.
“She’s the kind who likes to get into a rhythm and carry her speed and she’s super-talented; as talented as any horse in the barn.”
A Louisiana-bred daughter of Langfuhr, Believe in Bertie defeated state-breds in the Louisiana Legends Soiree back in July at Evangeline Downs, but her conquest of open stakes company here puts her on a new level.
Also on the New Year’s Eve card, Hillerich Racing and trainer Bernie Flint’s homebred One Mean Man turned in a characteristically game display in the $74,250 Woodchopper. The reigning American Derby (G3), Mystic Lake Derby, and Jefferson Cup hero fought his way to a head verdict over Tiznoble, with Cordon another head away in third. Queen’s Plate winner Sir Dudley Digges made late headway for fifth.
“He’s one of my favorite horses to ride,” jockey Robby Albarado said of One Mean Man, who clocked 1:35.98 for the same grassy mile as the Pago Hop.
“He’s very predictable in his works and was working well. In the races, when he’s in that position battling head-and-head, he doesn’t like to lose. He’s a fighter. He looks like a quarter horse and you never would think that he would be a two-turn horse, but he is. Bernie does a great job with him, especially considering he had a long year and ran some tough races.”
“He’s a good horse who has been good to me,” Flint noted. “He doesn’t win by much, but he sure puts it on them at the end. He had a nice rest before this race and he’s back.”
In the $50,000 Pan Zareta for distaff sprinters on the main track, 4-5 favorite Kathballu coasted home by a good-looking 3 1/2 lengths.
“She’s a very nice filly and she put me in the right spot right away,” winning rider Florent Geroux said. “Turning for home, she was grabbing the bit and wanting to do more so I just let her go.”
Trained by Ken McPeek, the Five D Thoroughbreds homebred covered six furlongs on the fast track in 1:10.72 to earn her second straight stakes tally, after an eight-length demolition job in the Orleans S. at Delta Downs.
By the time the $100,800 fillies’ division of the Louisiana Futurity was run two races later, the track was sealed and downgraded to good. The 6-1 Mr. Al’s Gal certainly loved the showery conditions, running the field off their feet by 12 3/4 lengths and finishing six furlongs 1:10.64 – marginally faster than the Pan Zareta and far quicker than the boys.
“She broke really sharp and we tried to relax,” jockey Richard Eramia said. “I didn’t know I was going that quick until after the race, because she didn’t feel like she was going that quick, and at the eighth-pole she took off again. She’s a nice filly and will have some good races later.”
Jack Snipe’s had to work a lot harder to take home the $100,000 colts’ and geldings’ division. The 8-5 favorite battled to keep his neck in front in a final time of 1:11.68.
“It was an awesome trip,” winning rider Donnie Meche said. “He’s such a great horse to ride, he does anything you want. We got in the gate and he was just waiting for it to open, so he broke well and that made the trip easy. He saw (Run Away Ralph) on the outside (in the stretch) and was never going to let that horse by.”