11/25/2011 6:32PM

Fair Grounds: Suntracer rallies to victory in Woodchopper

Lou Hodges Jr.
Suntracer (2) with Rosie Napravnik riding, wins the Woodchopper.

NEW ORLEANS -  Changes made to the Fair Grounds turf course during the track's offseason haven't changed racing on the Fair Grounds turf course this season.

All the flora was killed off over the summer and the course reseeded in an effort to strengthen the base of the grass, but the Fair Grounds turf appears to have retained its historically powerful closer-friendly character. Suntracer, last of eight with a quarter-mile to run in the Woodchopper Stakes here Friday, whistled past his rivals on the outside and won without jockey Rosie Napravnik ever wielding her whip.

The turf  "feels much better than it did last year," said Napravnik, whose four wins through 10 races Friday included two on grass. "The test will be tomorrow and if we get some rain."

Suntracer ($7.60) seems to have a particular fondness for the Fair Grounds grass. He won and finished a troubled second on the course last meet, and was much the best in the $75,000 Woodchopper, a one-mile race restricted to 3-year-olds.

Settled at the back of the pack as J Isle set splits of 24.55 seconds for the first quarter-mile and 49.18 for the opening half, Suntracer raced a few paths off the fence while creeping into a closer position around the far turn. Napravnik steered to the far outside once Suntracer had straightened  away, and, despite failing to change leads until the sixteenth pole, Suntracer cruised to the front and won by 2 3/4 lengths. Narrowly favored Adirondack Summer finished second, a neck in front of 51-1 Cactus Son, who was followed by J Isle, Friendly Banter, J.B.'s Thunder, Beachcombing, and Mr. Woodrow. Winning time on good turf was 1:38.72.

Suntracer, bred and owned by Team Block, is a son of Kitten's Joy out of Taxable Deduction. Trained for his first eight starts this year by Chris Block, he was turned over to Neil Pessin upon shipping to Fair Grounds. Second in the Arlington Classic, American Derby, and Hawthorne Derby to Willcox Inn, Suntracer won the Friday for the fourth time in his career. Pessin said that plans for Suntracer's upcoming schedule were uncertain.