11/23/2012 6:57PM

Fair Grounds: Unlatch makes it three in a row with Woodchopper victory

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Lou Hodges Jr.
Unlatch (inside) holds off Aldous Snow to take the Woodchopper.

NEW ORLEANS - For much of his life, the 3-year-old gelding Unlatch couldn't do anything right. Lately, he can do no wrong.

Unlatch ($8.40) won his third straight race while successfully jumping from allowance to stakes competition in the $75,000 Woodchopper Stakes on Friday at Fair Grounds. He made the lead at the top of the stretch with a sharp move under Jamie Theriot, and held off Aldous Snow by a neck despite seeming to lose his focus in the late stages.

The promising horse on a win streak is an animal transformed during the last half-year. Gelded before he ever reached the racetrack, Unlatch still was a wild horse as recently as this past summer. He zigged and zagged all over the track during routine training, and it took months of patient work to bring Unlatch around.

"Where he came from four or five months ago is amazing," said Al Stall Jr., who trains Unlatch for owner-breeder Adele Dilschneider.

Unlatch raced erratically when he finished second at Ellis Park in his Aug. 18 career debut, but he won his second start by 2 1/2 lengths and beat first-level allowance foes at Keeneland before capturing the Woodchopper. Theriot, who was winning his third race on Friday's card, settled Unlatch in a stalking position as Hero of Order, tracked by Coalport, set a moderate half-mile split of 48.58 seconds. The leaders gave out at the top of the stretch, and when Theriot asked Unlatch to go, he got an instant response. Unlatched opened a two-length lead in midstretch, and Theriot said that the unfamiliar experience of leading well before the finish led Unlatch to ease up in the final furlong.

"I thought I might have moved him a bit early," said Theriot, who was riding Unlatch for the first time. "He's got a quick turn of foot."

Aldous Snow came home steadily for second, rebounding from a subpar performance on a boggy track at Hawthorne. Ikon Ike, outpaced at the top of the stretch, rallied for third. Winning time for one mile on firm turf was 1:37.96.

Unlatch, a son of Horse Chestnut, will stay in training over the winter, Stall said, and is likely to make his next start against older horses in a Fair Grounds turf stakes. The $125,000 Colonel Bradley on Jan. 19 would be one logical goal.