Updated on 09/16/2011 8:50AM

Leslie's Love, Sellers win Leggio Memorial


NEW ORLEANS - Leslie's Love won her first stakes race, holding off Lady of Peace by a neck Saturday at Fair Grounds in the $60,000 Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial Handicap.

A former claiming horse, Leslie's Love gave jockey Shane Sellers his first stakes win of a comeback that started in November, and longtime Fair Grounds trainer Connie Tassistro his first local stakes victory since 1996.

Leslie's Love was timed in 1:04.61 for 5 1/2 furlongs over firm turf, and paid $12.60 to win.

Tassistro and owner Donald Foret claimed Leslie's Love for $25,000 here in February 2001, and since then she has run in nine claiming races. But Leslie's Love has found a niche as a turf sprinter, and when the favorites Saturday, French Riviera and My Girl Lisa, both ran flat, it opened the Leggio for an upset.

Sellers came out of retirement last month in Kentucky and hadn't won a Fair Grounds stakes since he rode Mighty in the 2000 Louisiana Derby. Saturday, he gave his mount a perfect trip stalking the pace. They edged Lady of Peace, a route horse trying to win a sprint.

"It feels great," Sellers said. "I'm just happy to win everyday races right now. Six months ago I didn't think I'd ever ride again. Around the turn, I put [Leslie's Love] in a position to win, and she gave what she had."

Meanwhile, French Riviera flopped in her turf debut. Favored at 4-5 because she had won the Grade 3 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland in her last start, French Riviera showed the way down the backstretch but came up empty in the stretch.

"I had her where I wanted her," said jockey Kirk Leblanc, who didn't make excuses for the loss. "She handled the surface fine."

Lady of Peace, who had won 5 of 7 starts over this grass course, trailed the field around the far turn before rallying.