02/23/2013 4:25PM

Fair Grounds: Snuggs and Kisses turns back Daisy Devine in off-the-turf Bayou Handicap

Lou Hodges Jr.
Snuggs and Kisses (right) holds off Daisy Devine (center) while receiving a 12-pound weight concession.

NEW ORLEANS – Heavily favored Daisy Devine, racing on dirt for the first time since October 2011, could not overcome a massive weight concession and a stubborn foe as Snuggs and Kisses upset the $72,750 Bayou Handicap on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Snuggs and Kisses made the early lead from post 1 under Rosie Napravnik, cutting out moderate fractions as Daisy Devine pressed to her outside. At the quarter pole, with Daisy Devine still well in hand, James Graham looked over his right shoulder for competition closing on the outside. There was none, but it was the horse down at the rail that refused to yield. Daisy Devine pushed and pushed but Snuggs and Kisses stayed stubbornly on and prevailed by a head.

“It’s the worst feeling in the world coming to the quarter pole and seeing that the horse you’re neck and neck with has so much more than you,” said winning trainer Tom Amoss. “I thought there was no way we were going to win.”

Daisy Devine carried 126 pounds in the Bayou, which was rained off turf and onto dirt, 12 more than Snuggs and Kisses.

“The weight was what did it,” said jockey James Graham. “I still thought she was going to get there at the very end.”

Snuggs and Kisses, a 6-year-old Soto mare owned by L. Barrett Bernard, won a minor stakes at Turf Paradise last summer. Amoss began training her in May, and Snuggs and Kisses three times ran for a claiming tag last year. Amoss said Bernard suggested giving Snuggs and Kisses the winter off, but Amoss said there might be good opportunities for the mare this winter in Louisiana. Prior to her win in the Bayou, Snugggs and Kisses easily won an allowance race at Delta Downs. Had Saturday’s race stayed on turf, Amoss said Snugs and Kisses would have stayed in the barn.

The third betting choice in the race, Snuggs and Kisses paid $11.20 to win and was timed in 1:45.38 for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track. Ausus rallied to finish third, three-quarters of a length behind Daisy Devine, who, despite the loss, went over the $1 million career-earnings mark.

The race was marred by the breakdown of Our Lady in Red yards before the finish.