12/27/2014 7:59PM

Amoss takes both off-the-turf stakes

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Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges Jr.
Rise Up, under Brian Hernandez, scores a front-running victory in the Woodchopper for 3-year-olds.

Trainer Tom Amoss swept the pair of $60,000 stakes races for 3-year-olds Saturday at Fair Grounds when Rise Up won the Woodchopper and Kiss to Remember took the Pago Hop.

The two races were rained off turf and onto dirt, and Amoss plays the off-turf game at Fair Grounds as well as anyone. It’s possible neither winner would have started had the stakes remained on grass, and both horses benefitted from the short stretch run employed when the one-mile races were switched to dirt.

Rise Up ($6) took care of business on the front end, setting a fast pace (23.26 seconds for his first quarter-mile, 46.33 for the half) under Brian Hernandez Jr.

“When he broke as sharp as he did, I just tried to be a good passenger,” said Hernandez. “He was going quick, but he was doing it comfortably.”

Rise Up put away with other speed, and had only to hold clear the late run of Highball. Making his first start on dirt, Highball rallied strongly along the fence, but the short homestretch left him insufficient time to threaten the winner, with Highball home a half-length in front of third-place Pumpkin Rumble but nearly four lengths behind Rise Up.

Rise Up, a Rockport Harbor 3-year-old owned by Paul van Doren, won for the sixth time in 13 starts. He won the Delta Jackpot a little more than one year ago, and his last four victories – at Delta, Charles Town, and in the Woodchopper – came in races with a short homestretch run.

Kiss to Remember ($3.80) actually ran faster than her stablemate, clocking 1:40.29 for the mile despite tracking pace-setting Divine Beauty through early fractions (24.46, 48.90) far slower than those Rise Up set in the Woodchopper. Kiss to Remember, ridden by James Graham, collared Divine Beauty at the top of the stretch and pushed past determinedly, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Cali Star, who rallied past third-place Divine Beauty late.

Kiss to Remember was claimed for $50,000 out of her second career start by Amoss and owner Maggi Moss, and her fourth win from 12 starts pushed her career earnings past $300,000. Kiss to Remember had finished second five times in a row before breaking through Saturday.

“I think she has some distance limitations, and I think a mile is it,” Amoss said. “I would not be surprised to see her go back to sprinting after this.”