01/16/2016 7:45PM

Chocolate Ride overcomes early trouble to win Bradley

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Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography
Chocolate Ride wins the Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap by three-quarters of a length Saturday at Fair Grounds.

NEW ORLEANS – It wasn't easy, jockey Florent Geroux said of Chocolate Ride's front-running victory Saturday in the Grade 3 Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Chocolate Ride broke a step slow, Geroux said. The turf course, which was rated good, had been softened by recent rain, he said. And Chocolate Ride was pressed in the early running.

But at Fair Grounds, his favorite course, Chocolate Ride usually finds a way to win. Determination carried him Saturday.

“We couldn't be happier for him,” trainer Brad Cox said. “He ran his butt off.”

Pressed by Sky Flight early, Chocolate Ride ran the first quarter-mile in 22.63 seconds, the half in 48.53, and six furlongs in 1:12.40. He put Sky Flight away and opened daylight in the stretch before holding off the late-running Roman Approval to win the $125,000 race by three-quarters of a length.

Blarp finished third, another half-length back in a field of nine older horses, 4 and up.

Chocolate Ride completed about 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.21 and paid $3.60 to win.

“He had to work for it today,” Geroux said. “I'm happy for the connections and the horse. I'm hoping he wins a Grade 1 this year. I think it's possible.”

A 6-year-old gelding owned by John Wentworth and Stephan Brochu, Chocolate Ride scored his third graded win. He won the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap and Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap last season, when he was leading turf horse at Fair Grounds.

Sidelined with hock issues after finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs, Chocolate Ride resurfaced at Fair Grounds, where he won an optional claimer Nov. 27 in a tune-up for the Bradley. Overall at Fair Grounds, Chocolate Ride is 5 for 6.

“He tries,” Cox said. “He's been training excellent. We expected a big effort. He gave it to us.”

When Chocolate Ride will run next hasn't been decided, Cox said. The $300,000 Muniz on March 28 is the most significant Fair Grounds turf race. The final prep for that is the Fair Grounds Handicap on Feb. 20.

Among the Grade 1 races “on the radar” for Chocolate Ride, Cox said, are the Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland and the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.