Making his first visit to the Fair Grounds since he won the Louisiana Derby nearly a year ago, Peace Rules got the job done again Sunday in the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap.
However, it was far from easy. The 4-year-old Jules colt had to survive a stretch-long duel with Saint Liam, a stewards' inquiry and a claim of foul by Edgar Prado, the jockey on the runner-up, before his seventh victory in 15 starts was official. The margin of victory was a head.
Able to make the lead under jockey Jerry Bailey, which is his preferred style of running, Peace Rules, the 7-2 third choice, was headed by Saint Liam in the stretch, but came back to win after the two had exchanged bumps in the stretch. The stewards looked at the stretch run, but ruled that both Peace Rules and Saint Liam were equally responsible.
There also was an incident on the first turn where things tightened up considerably and the horses bothered most were Funny Cide, Sir Cherokee and Ten Most Wanted, who also had been hindered considerably by an incident in the same spot in his last start in the Breeders' Cup Classic more than four months earlier.
Funny Cide, who has only one victory in six starts since he won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness last spring, finished third, nearly three lengths behind Saint Liam, then came Seattle Fitz, Ten Most Wanted, Sir Cherokee, Spanish Empire and Comic Truth.
Very Vegas, a 16-1 shot, led every step of the way to win the $111,350 La Habra Stakes on Sunday at Santa Anita.
Giving jockey Mick Ruis, who will turn 17 next month, his first stakes win at Santa Anita, the 3-year-old Storm Boot filly held off favored Aspen Gal by a neck in 1:13.99 for the about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf.
Owned by Jeff Nielsen's Everest Stables and now trained by Marcelo Polanco after being with Terry Knight until about two weeks ago, Very Vegas now has won five of nine. The victory was her second in a row in a stakes. She had gone wire-to-wire in the $75,000 Arizona Oaks on Feb. 7 at Turf Paradise.
"I was just lucky to ride in this race,'' said Ruis, who is from El Cajon. "I talked to Marcelo and I was fortunate that he kept me on this filly. She's a nice filly and has a lot of talent.''
The win by Very Vegas was just one of many upsets on the card, so there is a pick six carry-over of $1,413,136 for Wednesday.
The carry-over is not a record for Santa Anita. The largest was a five-day carry-over that reached a North American record $1,830,146 in 1991.