New Orleans, LA (November 23, 2021) – Joseph Raymund Peluso would be proud to see such a big party of quality horses in the stalls for the first annual running of the race written in his memory: The Joseph R. Peluso Memorial Stakes ($75,000) for fillies and mares, 3 years old and up going 1 mile 1/16 over turf on Thanksgiving Day.
Born and raised in New Orleans, LA, “Joe Ray” was known for his commitment and dedication to the Louisiana Horse Racing Industry. Fair Grounds Racing Secretary, Scott Jones said, “Joe Ray earned a lot of respect as a 35-year racing official. He was a big softy that everyone loved.” Joe Ray passed away peacefully in his sleep on January 26, 2021.
Eleven horses are slated to load up, and if things go their way, they all have a fair shot to win. Though Michael Stidham’s Goldophin-owned filly, Alms, might disagree. As a two-year-old she won the G3 Matron and the G3 Jimmy Durante; then as a three-year-old she went off as the favorite in the G2 Appalachian only to be caught on the lead and finish third by a head. So why did morning line oddsmaker and clocker, Mike Diliberto, throw a 5-1 price around her neck? After taking a year and a half off, her dull first outing matched her lowest speed figure.
“Initially off the long layoff we were looking to get a race into her, knowing that five and a half furlongs is not her optimal distance,” Stidham said. “We didn’t anticipate the soft turf over at Keeneland that day, which we didn’t think she was gonna love and she really didn’t, but at least we did get the start in her.”
Perennial Fair Grounds riding title-contender, Mitchell Murrill, takes the mount, as
Brain Hernandez Jr. is finishing off the meet at Churchill Downs. If Alms can return to her three-year old form, she could romp. But there are many “if”s in this race.
Brad Cox sends out two contenders sure to take money at the windows. 7-2 morning line favorite Dominga will break from post 9 with Colby Hernandez Jr. up for the first time. This stakes-winner is consistent and her best could win this, but you could say that about every one of these turf routers.
There’s little doubt Cox’s other horse, More Than Unusual (8-1 ML), will break clean and sharp from the 3rd gate, as she always does. Winning from post 1 last time out, she proved her previous outside draws were detrimental to her winning chances. But she’ll need to offer more in the stretch to last against her toughest competition yet.
If 9-2 morning line second-favorite, Curly Ruth, can continue the sharp form she gained once transferring to Eddie Kenneally’s barn, then this late-kicker breaking from post 5 with Declan Carroll up will definitely be in the photo.
If Bret Calhoun’s closer, Valentines Day (12-1 ML), can save ground breaking from the 1 and find a lane to build rhythm, she can get over her bout of seconditis … If Key Biscayne (12-1 ML) coming out of post 2 can take advantage of the pocket trip that will likely form around her, conserve her energy early to tip out and make a bid coming home … If third time is the charm for Argentine import, Bellagamba (Post 4,10-1 ML) …
Two successful Arlington Park jockey-trainer combinations will be gated to Alms’ outside with the early speed. Fresh off his Aloha West score in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Wayne Catalano teams up with jockey Jareth Loveberry to send out stakes-winner, Winter Sunset (20-1 ML) from post 7. Scoring at 38% when teaming up in 2020-21, Steve Manley and front-running specialist E.T. Baird hope filly Breeze Rider (6-1 ML) can continue her dominance at this distance–out of five starts, she has won four.
Rounding out the field, Karl Broberg sends out Island Hideaway (10-1 ML) with Reylu Gutierrez on board, who looks to be Broberg’s go-to jock based on his opening weekend mounts. This winner last-out can win again if her Remington Park form transfers. And breaking from the outside in post 11, Joe Sharp ends the sprint experiment with five-year-old Catch a Bid (10-1 ML)–an angle he wins with at a 20% clip. Deshawn Parker will ride this Real Solution stakes-winning, classy mare.
Overlay city? Give thanks to the late Joe Ray Peluso for hosting this feast for the bettors.
The 8th race on the day, post time is 3:44 pm CT. The first post on Thanksgiving is at noon CT for a 9 race card.