Speed reigned in both stakes on opening day at Fair Grounds, as Just Might wired the $150,000 Thanksgiving Classic and front-running Breeze Rider fought back in the $75,000 Joseph R. Peluso Memorial.
The versatile Just Might scored his seventh career stakes victory in style after getting a flyer out of the gate. Clear in the opening jumps with Colby Hernandez, the Michelle Lovell charge didn’t face a serious challenge in the six-furlong sprint. The timer malfunctioned, so no fractions or final time were published, pending review.
Just Might held sway by 2 1/2 lengths from the chasing Greeley and Ben, whose nine-race winning spree came to an honorable end. Pyron closed from last to miss second by a neck. Next came 17-10 favorite Necker Island, who had a checkered passage in fourth; Strike Power; Emerald Forest; and Went West.
A homebred racing for Griffon Farms and Lovell, Just Might returned $8.20 as the 3.10-1 second choice. The Justin Phillip gelding was rebounding from a grabbed quarter when sixth in the Phoenix (G2) at Keeneland. He’d previously won four straight, the June 5 Mighty Beau S. and Aug. 2 Da Hoss S. on turf as well as the Aug. 23 Chesapeake S. and Sept. 18 Louisville Thoroughbred Society S. on dirt.
Just Might’s first two stakes laurels also came at Fair Grounds, in back-to-back runnings of the Colonel Power S. (in 2020 on turf and the Feb. 13 renewal transferred to the main track). His scorecard now stands at 31-9-7-6, $783,914, including placings in last season’s TwinSpires Turf Sprint (G2) and Woodford (G2).
The Kentucky-bred five-year-old is out of Dynamite Babe, by the Dynaformer stallion Dynameaux. Although there’s not much black-type up front on his page, Just Might’s fifth dam is Canadian champion and influential matron Queen Louie.
Joseph R. Peluso Memorial
Mike Piazza Racing Stable’s Breeze Rider battled gamely to her first stakes win under pace maestro E.T. Baird.
The Steve Manley trainee carved out fractions of :24.05 and :49.20 on the firm turf, attended closely by Dominga. When Dominga headed her at the six-furlong mark in 1:13.37, Breeze Rider came again to regain the lead in the stretch. Then the stalking Alms loomed on the outside, but Breeze Rider dug in once more to keep her at bay by a neck. Negotiating 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.52, the 4.20-1 chance furnished $10.40.
Bellagamba finished with a rush to snatch third. Dominga retreated to fourth, followed by her Brad Cox stablemate, 3.10-1 favorite More Than Unusual. Curly Ruth, who had beaten Breeze Rider in a Keeneland allowance last out; Island Hideaway; Winter Sunset; Catch a Bid; Key Biscayne; and Valentines Day concluded the order under the wire.
Breeze Rider has compiled a 23-10-3-2 mark and $290,308 in earnings. The Paynter filly had finished fifth in the July 17 Modesty (G3) and Aug. 8 Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Mile at Ellis Park in her only prior stakes attempts. Mainly an allowance denizen, she dipped into the claiming ranks briefly, and Christopher Davis haltered her for $15,000 out of a Fair Grounds score on New Year’s Day.
Bred by Patrick Durtschi and Brittney Durtschi in Kentucky, Breeze Rider initially sold for $35,000 as a Keeneland November weanling and $52,000 as a September yearling. The bay slipped to $30,000 in her last tour of the auction ring as a juvenile at OBS June.
Breeze Rider’s dam, multiple stakes vixen Dancing Raven, is a Tomahawk half-sister to Canadian Horse of the Year Uncaptured. This is the further family of multiple Grade 1 winner Curalina.