Updated on 09/15/2011 1:33PM

Fair Grounds: Valhol sharp off layoff


NEW ORLEANS - He has one less splint bone than before, and a bout of pneumonia sapped his strength earlier this year, but Valhol remains no worse for wear. Making his first start since a third-place finish March 4 in the New Orleans Handicap, Valhol won the $75,000 Tenacious Handicap by a length at Fair Grounds.

Neither his physical condition, a slow early pace, nor a rough run through the stretch slowed Valhol, who passed the pacesetting Dixieland Diamond inside the last furlong and was drawing away at the finish of the 1 1/16-mile Tenacious. Valhol, ridden by Willie Martinez, paid $5.40 to win as the second choice in a field reduced to five by Trion Georgia's scratch.

The 5-year-old Valhol, who has raced only 14 times, broke a splint bone while training shortly after the New Orleans Handicap, and the bone eventually had to be removed. Recovered from that injury, Valhol was breezing steadily and nearing a return to racing when he was stricken with pneumonia.

But Dallas Keen, who trains Valhol for owner Jim Jackson, had Valhol fit and ready to run off an eight-month layoff. "I was thrilled to death to see him come back today," Jackson said.

Dixieland Diamond set a moderate early pace, running a quarter-mile in 24.13 seconds, with Valhol tracking a couple lengths behind. Valhol moved into contention on the far turn, bumped with E Z Glory several times while racing inside of him early in the stretch, and once clear of that horse wore down Dixieland Diamond. Dixieland Diamond held second by two lengths over Rebridled, who beat the 4-5 favorite, E Z Glory, by a head for the show.