On paper, Steve Asmussen's horses for the four sprint stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds all looked good, but it's the chasm between paper and cold reality that usually gets in the way. Not this time. Asmussen and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan swept all four stakes on the Saturday card, and won two more races for good measure.
Bridgmohan's six wins equaled a Fair Grounds record for a jockey on one race card. The 1993 fire that destroyed the track burned many records, and the mark for most wins by a trainer on one day at Fair Grounds is the matter of some dispute; published track media information lists the total as four, but many locals recall a trainer winning at least five, and perhaps as many as six races on a card.
Suffice it to say that Asmussen and Bridgmohan might've gotten worn out making their way into and out of the winner's circle. Their stakes run culminated with Stormin Baghdad's win in the $100,000 Bonapaw. In the three races prior, Tres Dream won the Esplanade, Blitzing the Letellier, and Sok Sok the Sugar Bowl. Blitzing and Sok Sok, both 2-year-olds, scored blowout wins.
Stormin Baghdad, the Thanksgiving Handicap winner on opening day, benefited from a heady performance by Bridgmohan. Stormin Baghdad broke sharply from an inside post, but wasn't quick enough to open a clear lead, as Orphan Brigade, All Wired Up, and even Natural Speed, pushed through fractions of 21.86 for the opening quarter-mile, and 45.21 to the half.
But rather than fight with the other leaders, Bridgmohan coaxed Stormin Baghad slightly off the pace. While still holding his ground along the fence, and making sure an inside lane stayed clear, Bridgmohan waited until just before the eighth pole to make his move. Stormin Baghdad responded, surging clear and holding off the late run of Natural Speed, whom Amsussen also trains.
A 3-year-old owned by the Midnight Cry Stable, Stormin Baghdad was timed in 1:04.03 for 5 1/2 furlongs, and paid $6.80 as the mild favorite. Going Wild ran late for third. The Bonapaw was moved from turf to dirt because of wet course conditions.
Sok Sok might've been Asmussen's sharpest winner of the day, as he took the Sugar Bowl by 8 3/4 lengths, while running six furlongs in a strong 1:09.44.
Sok Sok, who races for Savorthetime Stables, won his second stakes race, and affirmed the appearance that he's a stronger horse at sprint distances. Sok Sok had finished fourth in the one-mile Iroquois Stakes at Churchill in his most recent race.
Sok Sok ($3.60) pressed longshot Harlan's Fortune's half-mile pace of 45.46 seconds before taking over the lead while barely being asked, and running alone through most of the stretch. Liberty Bull finished second, almost three lengths in front of Ben and the Twin.
* Blitzing won the Letellier just as easily as Sok Sok won the Sugar Bowl, going straight to the front and scoring a 7 1/2-length win over Syriana's Song. La Wildcat raced erratically in the stretch, but finished third by seven lengths over 159-1 shot Roseaguska.
Blitzing, the property of Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and JMJ Racing Stable, was timed in 1:10.79, and paid $4.20 to win.
* Even with the two major speed horses scratched from the Esplanade, Tres Dream got plenty of pace at which to run, and easily won the Esplanade Stakes.
Last of eight with a half-mile left in the Esplanade, Tres Dream moved up easily while racing wide on the turn, took aim at pace-pressing Chatham, and sailed by to win by 2 3/4 lengths while going away.
Tres Dream, another horse owned by Savorthetime Stables, was timed in 1:04.62 for5 1/2 furlongs, and paid $6.80 to win. Valid Lil finished third, while favored Atlanta Highway was fourth.