03/02/2013 8:29PM

Fair Grounds: Up With the Birds, Gator Zone win over soggy turf

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Hodges Photography / Lynn Roberts
Gator Zone (left), with Shaun Bridgmohan riding, wins the Allen Lacombe Stakes.

Up With the Birds and Gator Zone, both ridden to victory by Shaun Bridgmohan, won 3-year-old-restricted turf races on a soggy Fair Grounds turf course Saturday.

The Fair Grounds course record for 7 1/2-furlong races is 1:29.20. Up With the Birds’ winning time for the $75,000 Black Gold Stakes was 1:35.84, while Gator Zone captured the $75,000 Allen Lacombe Stakes in 1:36.78.

“Anytime you run them on a course like this for the first time, you wonder how they’ll handle it,” said trainer Steve Margolis, who sent Gator Zone out to win the Lacombe in her two-turn debut.

Gator Zone tracked pacesetting To My Valentine through glacial splits, the half-mile passing in 52.60 seconds, six furlongs in 1:19.20. Favored Magical Moon, who was rank for about the first half-mile, tried to get involved with an inside rally at the top of the stretch, but she quickly flattened out, as did an outside run from third-place Overheard. The Lacombe came down to the two leaders, with Gator Zone surging to the front at the eighth pole and holding clear To My Valentine, who stayed on gamely. Gator Zone, a Klein family homebred by Sharp Humor, paid $10.40 winning for the second time in four starts.

The Black Gold, however, could turn out to be the more productive race in coming months. Up With the Birds was making his first start since Nov. 10, when he won the $250,000 Coronation Stakes for Ontario-breds. Last in the early going, he commenced a sustained wide rally about three furlongs out, collaring Animal Style in the final half-furlong to win by a head in his turf debut.

“He’s bred to handle the grass,” said Malcolm Pierce, who trains Up With the Birds for owner-breeder Sam-Son Farms. “It’s quite soft out there today, but he handled it fine.”

Up With the Birds paid $5.20 to win as the favorite. Cairo Six finished third.

Pierce said Up With the Birds was likely to make his next start over Polytrack at Keeneland in April. His major seasonal goal, Pierce said, is the Queen’s Plate in July at Woodbine.