12/03/2011 8:28PM

Fair Grounds: It Happened Again sharp off long layoff in Claiming Crown Jewel

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Lou Hodges Jr.
It Happened Again, racing for the first time since late June, wins the 1 1/8-mile Claiming Crown Jewel under jockey Shane Sellers.

NEW ORLEANS – Three seasons ago at Fair Grounds, it wasn’t happening for It Happened Again, who finished 10th in the 2009 Risen Star Stakes. By last fall, the gelding had fallen all the way into the $20,000 claiming ranks, at which point owner Maggi Moss requested Steve Asmussen claim the horse. Then things started happening. It Happened Again won the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap last season at Oaklawn Park, and, after a layoff of more than five months, returned to Fair Grounds to capture the $138,000 Claiming Crown Jewel.

Racing well off the hot early pace of Isthmus, It Happened Again cut the corner coming into the stretch while scraping paint under Shane Sellers, came out at the eighth pole, collared a stubborn Isthmus a half-furlong from the finish, and went on to a 1 1/4-length victory in the last of five Claiming Crown races here Saturday.

The victory was It Happened Again’s first at Fair Grounds, first at 1 1/8 miles, and first since his Razorback win last March 12.

“He put a fabulous three-quarters work in at Churchill,” said Asmussen, asked about It Happened Again’s readiness for his first race back from such a long break.

Isthmus, who looked like a pacesetter for entrymate Al Muhtasib, held on surprisingly well after setting fast splits of 23.97 seconds for the first quarter-mile, 47.33 to the half, and 1:11.82 for six furlongs. He finished 3 3/4 lengths in front of Al Muhtasib, who was followed by Harmonizer, Rein King, and Tutti Buona Gente. Winning time for 1 1/8 miles on a fast track was 1:51.66, and It Happened Again, winning for the eighth time in 27 starts, paid $7.40. The Jewel was open to horses that had started for a claiming price of $35,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2010.

Asmussen said It Happened Again, a 5-year-old Proud Citizen gelding, would be pointed to the Fifth Season Handicap on Jan. 13 at Oaklawn.

Compliance Officer scores in Emerald

The plan had been to give Compliance Officer a winter break after his 11th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. But Compliance Officer had other plans.

“We were planning on just turning him out after the Breeders’ Cup, but he just bounced of that so well,” said trainer Bruce Brown.

So, Plan B was the $93,000 Claiming Crown Emerald, and Compliance Officer did not disappoint. Moving confidently to the lead in upper stretch under Alex Solis, Compliance Officer cruised to an easy win, beating Baryshnikov by 2 3/4 lengths in the 1 1/16-mile turf race for horses that had started for a claiming price of $25,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2010.

Compliance Officer was claimed for $25,000 by Thomas La Marca on May 14 as a candidate for New York-bred turf stakes. After sweeping three such races, all with six-figure purses, Compliance Officer had a tough trip against world-class competition in the BC Mile, but seemed to be back to his best Saturday in New Orleans. He paid $3.60 to win as the heavy favorite and was timed in 1:44.51 on firm turf.

Brown, who won Fair Grounds debut, said Compliance Officer would be freshened up to point for another New York-bred turf stakes run in 2012.

Rattlin Gyspy rallies in Glass Slipper

Rattlin Gyspy rolled past tiring pacesetters and easily won the $71,250 Glass Slipper, a $16,000 starter-allowance stakes, by three lengths.

Ridden by Rosie Napravnik for Fairmount Park-based trainer John Wainwright, Rattlin Gyspy beat D’ cat’s Meow by three lengths, with Right to Rule another 2 3/4 lengths back in third. A quick early tempo, 45.41 seconds for the first half-mile, set up Rattlin Gyspy’s outside run, and after making the lead in midstretch, she ran by herself to the finish, stopping the timer in 1:11.45 for six furlongs.

A 4-year-old Quest filly, Rattlin Gyspy is owned by Steven Howell, Ron Pauley, and Stephen Reiker.

Pedrolino much the best in Iron Horse

Pedrolino absolutely destroyed his six rivals in the $46,500 Iron Horse, rolling to the lead turning for home and opening up for a 7 3/4- length victory in the route race for $7,500 starter-allowance runners.

Third last out in a $50,000 claiming race at Keeneland, Pedrolino became eligible for the Iron Horse when trainer Doug Matthews ran him in a $7,500 claimer Aug. 5 at Presque Isle Downs  in his first race back after a layoff and barn change. Fourth in the early going under Robby Albarado, Pedrolino came out on the far turn, easily overtaking the pacesetters and going on to victory. He ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.13 and paid $7 to win. John Wade owns the 5-year-old Pedrolino.

Atthebuzzer pulls off $95 shocker in Express

Apprentice jockey C.J. McMahon engineered the only major Claiming Crown upset of the day, guiding longshot Atthebuzzer to victory in the $47,000 Express. Atthebuzzer, a narrow Delta Downs starter-allowance winner in his most recent start, was 1 lengths better than Bombast, paying $95.40 to win. Plasma Beam finished third, followed by favored Sherlock. Jackie Thacker owns and t rains Atthebuzzer, a 5-year-old Even the Score gelding.