12/19/2015 8:39PM

Eagle looks impressive winning Tenacious

Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography
Eagle, with Brian Hernandez Jr. riding, takes the Tenacious Stakes, running a mile and 70 yards in a quick 1:41.63.

NEW ORLEANS – Eagle finished sixth in a sprint race Sept. 12 at Churchill Downs, but that was his first start in eight months and was meant, as much as anything, to shake off rust. With that accomplished, Eagle won a two-turn second-level allowance race at Keeneland and a two-turn, third-level allowance race at Churchill, and after a smooth victory Saturday at Fair Grounds in the Tenacious Stakes, where he beat Freestyler by 1 1/4 lengths, Eagle looks like a colt ready for bigger and better things.

“I know your emotions always run high after a race, but there’s really not a thing not to like about this colt,” said Neil Howard, who trains Eagle for owner-breeder Will Farish. “Especially now that he’s come along maturity-wise. That’s been the biggest key.”

Eagle finished third in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes late in his 2-year-old year but ran seventh in the Lecomte Stakes here last January before going to the sidelines with an injury. When he left training he still was an immature colt, unfocused, but Eagle has grown up and learned to be a racehorse.

“I’m thrilled. He’s just one of those horses that needed to grow up. Mr. Farish indulged me, as he always does, and really let us take our time with him. That never hurts,” said Howard.

Nates Mineshaft, a shadow now of the horse who set the nine-furlong track record romping in the 2012 New Orleans Handicap, laid down honest fractions of 24.29 and 47.54 seconds (that first fraction into the wind, the second with a tailwind) as Brian Hernandez Jr. on Eagle skimmed the rail in fifth. It was Nates Mineshaft that Hernandez had decided to use as a target, and to avoid getting shuffled back, Hernandez nudged Eagle forward at the half-mile pole and took up a position just behind the leader. Hernandez had guessed pace-pressing Freemason would tire first, he did, and turning for home, he steered Eagle two paths off the fence and just outside Nates Mineshaft. The colt responded. He switched leads, accelerated, and spurted clear from Freestyler, who had followed along behind Eagle as he scooted up the rail.

On a track not producing especially fast times, Eagle ran very fast, getting his one mile and 70 yards in 1:41.63. Fair Grounds runs a lot of races at that distance, but this was the fastest of them since Prime Cut – another Howard and Farish horse – went 1:41.20 on March 26, 2011.

“He’s a very athletic horse,” said Hernandez, the only jockey Eagle has known in his nine races. “Anytime you need him he’s there for you.”

Eagle paid $4.80 to win as the favorite. Freestyler, who ran a big race second off the claim for trainer Joe Sharp, had more than five lengths on third-place Ride on Curlin.

Eagle could come back next month in the Louisiana Handicap or wait for the Mineshaft in February. Howard and Farish will sit down and discuss it, but either way, Eagle seems ready now.

Taylors Angiel wires Sugar Bowl

Taylors Angiel broke like a rocket from the rail and held off favored Twirling Cinnamon to win the $50,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes by a nose. A second-time starter, Taylors Angiel  had rallied from fourth to win his Delta debut over five furlongs by more than five lengths, but Saturday, Taylors Angiel beat everyone out of the gate, set a strong pace of 22.16 and 45.70, and was game in victory while hugging the fence under Roberto Morales.

Twirling Cinnamon raced midpack among horses, swung wide for the drive in midstretch, and appeared to be on his way to victory before being turned back by the winner. The top two were much the best, with Hunker Down nearly five lengths behind in third.

Taylors Angiel was the second winner on the card for Morales and Karl Broberg, who trains the 2-year-old gelding, a Texas-bred son of Private Vow , for owner-breeder David Davis. He ran six furlongs in 1:11.04 and paid $11.40 to win.