Updated on 09/15/2011 1:30PM

'Snow' in deep in open stakes


NEW ORLEANS - For many years, Herman Taylor harvested rice and soybeans on his farm in Arneaudville, La. But this season's crop includes Walk in the Snow, a modestly bred gelding who just might be the fastest Louisiana-bred 2-year-old in training.

That notion will be put to the test Saturday at Fair Grounds, when Walk in the Snow meets nine rivals in the $60,000 Sugar Bowl, a 5 1/2-furlong stakes for open 2-year-olds.

Walk in the Snow, who has already beaten open allowance company, faces the sternest test of his career, with several promising maiden winners entered in the Sugar Bowl. They include Alycheq, a 9 1/4-length winner at Keeneland, Far Away Bell, a 3 1/4-length winner at Churchill in his only career start, and Laser Zone, an easy winner of a Hawthorne maiden race earlier this month.

Also entered is Lunar Bounty, the most accomplished horse in the race and a Grade 2 winner this spring at Churchill. Lunar Bounty, however, has not won since July.

But these more glamorous horses may not have anything on Walk in the Snow if the gelding continues to run the way he did at Louisiana Downs.

Walk in the Snow won three times there this summer and fall, including a nine-length score in an open allowance race and a five-length win in his last race, the Pelican Stakes for Louisiana-breds.

It is an exciting time for the 54-year-old Taylor, who rates Walk in the Snow as the best horse he's had during his 20 years as a trainer. "I'm enjoying it," Taylor said this week from his farm in south Louisiana. "I love racing."

Taylor made his living as a farmer for much of his adult life, but began dabbling in racehorses two decades ago. A hobby has grown into a full-time occupation, and Taylor now has 30 horses stabled at his farm, which has a five-eighths of a mile training track.

The farm is where Walk in the Snow got his earliest lessons with Taylor, who broke the horse after purchasing him as a yearling. Taylor declined to reveal exactly how much he paid for Walk in the Snow. "It wasn't very much, though," he said.

In fact, Taylor bought Walk in the Snow as part of a package deal that included another yearling and a 2-year-old. If Taylor liked Walk in the Snow when he purchased him, he fell in love with the gelding when he started training. "When he turned 2," said Taylor, "I said, that one's going to be a runner. He's built like an athlete."

Walk in the Snow won his third career start, then broke through in his next race with the nine-length allowance win that stamped him as an unusually talented Louisiana-bred.

But just as Taylor had him right, Walk in the Snow got sick and had to take time off. When he went back in training late this summer at Louisiana Downs, "I was having trouble with him," Taylor said. "He wasn't used to being around so many horses around the racetrack. He'd get real aggressive in the morning."

And when Taylor brought him back from the layoff on Oct. 13, Walk in the Snow, a 4-5 favorite, lost the Stardust Stakes. "I brought him back to the farm then," Taylor said. Walk in the Snow quickly settled down, and the improvement showed on the track, when the gelding won the Pelican in a gallop, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 97.

Taylor said the main goal now is the $100,000 Louisiana Champion's Day Juvenile on Dec. 8. There's no guarantee, of course, that the talented horse won't change hands before the big race, even if he is Taylor's pride and joy. "Believe me, a couple people have called wanting to buy this horse," Taylor said, then laughed. I think I'll hold onto him for right now."