Updated on 09/16/2011 9:50AM

Rock Slide takes Tenacious


NEW ORLEANS - Rock Slide and Discreet Hero turned the corner into Fair Grounds long home stretch together in Sunday's Tenacious Handicap, and they stayed just that way all the way to the finish. Rock Slide's nose got there first, and the first stakes victory of his career was duly earned.

Rock Slide, a son of A.P. Indy out of the blue hen mare Prospector's Delite, tried a stakes race here last season, but finished unplaced in the Louisiana Handicap and came out of the race with an injury. That's been the trajectory of his whole career. A beautiful bay 4-year-old, Rock Slide always has shown talent, but physical problems of various stripes have compromised him. The most recent of them, a quarter crack, cost Rock Slide a stakes opportunity in Kentucky, but trainer Neil Howard felt good about a strong allowance race last month at Churchill Downs and the way Rock Slide had trained at Fair Grounds.

He had to feel even better when jockey Robby Albarado put Rock Slide on the lead Sunday through a tepid first quarter in 24.83 seconds. Rock Slide coasted easily down the backstretch, all of the pace-pressing horses content to sit back and wait. Finally, after racing three quarters of a mile in 1:13.18, Rock Slide felt heat from Discreet Hero, and as the pair came off the turn, jockey Willie Martinez turned it up a notch. Quickening visibly, the pair kicked clear of the rest of the field and ran together for the length of the stretch, Rock Slide to the inside, Discreet Hero on his flank. But Rock Slide refused to yield, holding his narrow margin all the way to the finish.

His winning time, 1:42.98 for one and one-sixteenth miles, was very fast for a race with a slow early pace. Discreet Hero finished more than six lengths in front of Connected, who lost all chance because of the race shape. Valhol was third, and Fifty Stars, trying to come back from a series of injuries, finished last.

Rock Slide, owned by a group headed by Will Farish, paid $3.60 to win as the favorite. Howard said he will be pointed to the New Orleans Handicap.