· Valdivia Returns Victoriously
· Cox Opens Clear Lead in Trainer Standings
· Rise Up, Tour de Force Bullet on Work Tab
VALDIVIA RETURNS VICTORIOUSLY
Veteran jockey Jose Valdivia, Jr., could not have asked for a better return from injury on Thursday afternoon at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, winning with two of three mounts and finishing second in the nightcap. After taking favorites Lady Digger and Mars Curiousity gate-to-wire for trainers Merrill Scherer and Louie Roussell, III, respectively, in the second and sixth races, he then picked up the mount on Tom Morley-conditioned Birchwood Road in the ninth and final, nearly pulling off a shocker with the 34-1 shot.
“All the credit goes to my agent,” Valdivia said. “He really put me in a good position to have a great first day back.”
Valdivia was involved in a four-horse spill on Nov. 10 at Churchill Downs that resulted in a broken tibia, fibula and small spinal fracture. The married father of two and two-time Arlington meet champion jockey recovered at his Miami home with wife Renee during the winter and returned to New Orleans with agent Steve Leving.
“I did a lot of swimming to stay in shape once I healed and it didn’t hurt too much to do it,” Valdivia said. “That really helped get me back to where I am. I was initially told I wouldn’t likely get on a horse for at least six months, but my goal was to try to cut that in half if I took care of myself and yesterday was one day shy of three months.
“I also got a chance to do some television work down there and that was great,” he continued. “It was different in the beginning to interview trainers instead of asking them for mounts, but I really enjoyed seeing the game from a different point of view.”
COX OPENS CLEAR LEAD IN TRAINER STANDINGS
Trainer Brad Cox continues a huge season at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, as his high-percentage operation enters the second half of the season. Led locally by assistant Ricky Giannini with 40 horses on the grounds and another 40 at Evangeline Training Center, the Louisville, Kentucky native has been striking at 28% all season and has a three-win lead over 11-time champion trainer Tom Amoss 25-22 through Thursday’s card.
The gap is a little more significant in earnings, as Cox has earned $740,650, while hitting the board 63% of the time. Amoss, in second in earnings, as well, comes in at $582,070.
Trainer Al Stall remains on pace for a huge season, as well, as he checks in fourth in wins (16) and third in earnings ($555,976), while striking at 25%.
Veteran conditioner Merrill Scherer is having a sneaky-good meet, with 10 wins from 29 starts (34%), $217,362 in purses-earned (14th) and hitting the board with a leading 72% of his horses.
RISE UP, TOUR DE FORCE BULLET ON WORK TAB
Graded stakes-winning miler Rise Up caught the bullet for a half-mile on Friday morning at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, getting such in 47.60 for Paul Van Doren and trainer Tom Amoss.
Charles Fipke’s talented stakes and allowance filly Pleasant Tales worked a half-mile in 49.40 for trainer Dallas Stewart. Stakes-level 4-year-old Seeking the Soul and fellow Fipke-owned, Stewart-trained Perfect Soul offspring Golden Soul each worked half-miles in 49.40.
Multiple stakes winner Steel Cut worked a smart half-mile in 48.40 for owner-trainer Wes Hawley. The Oklahoma-bred star was fourth in the Grade III $400,000 Houston Ladies last out.
Improving stakes winner Honorable Duty worked five furlongs in 1:01 flat for Brendan Walsh and DARRS, Inc. The $75,000 Tenacious Stakes winner last out is aiming toward the Grade III $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap on Feb. 25.
Talented turf sprinter and stakes winner Latent Revenge was swift in his morning drill for trainer Greg Foley and owner Lloyd Madison, working a half-mile in 48 flat.
Well-bred Casse trainees Tour de Force and Souper Tapit worked five furlongs on Friday morning, with the former getting the bullet in 1:00 flat and the latter in 1:00.60. A $1.35 million purchase, Tour de Force is aiming to a return to dirt after breaking his maiden last out in a two-turn turf maiden. Live Oak Plantation homebred chestnut colt Souper Tapit is unraced and debuts Feb. 18.