Updated on 09/17/2011 12:09PM

Snowdrops captures first stakes win in Pago Hop

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Lou Hodges Jr.
Snowdrops, Gerard Melancon aboard, wins the $75,000 Pago Hop Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course.

NEW ORLEANS - Snowdrops looked like a filly good enough to win a stakes race. But she hadn't, and that is why trainer Christophe Clement sent her from his Payson Park base in south Florida to run in the $75,000 Pago Hop Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds. Snowdrops responded with the best performance of her career, making the lead at the top of the stretch and finishing strongly to hold off the heavily favored Baie by a half-length.

Snowdrops, the second choice, paid $9.80, running the about one-mile distance on firm turf in 1:37.21, a good time for this racetrack. The top two fillies finished well clear of the rest, with Tincan Too edging Tiva's Little Sis for third.

In both of her starts since being exported from France, Baie had run in Grade 1 races, but any class edge she might have held in the Pago Hop was mitigated by the race's distance. At a mile, the Pago Hop was on the short side for Baie, whose best races had come at 1 1/8 and 1 1/4 miles. And as Bonay and Adopted Daughter sped off to battle through a fast early pace, Baie settled in at the back of the pack, while Snowdrops, who had broken sharply, was much closer.

The pace was far too quick for the speed horses to last, and they began losing energy at the quarter pole. That is where jockey Gerard Melancon swung Snowdrops into action, and she quickly burst forward on the outside to take the lead.

Moving at the head of the long Fair Grounds stretch is dangerous, and a horse must sustain its run to hold off deep closers, but Snowdrops had enough. Baie was cutting into the lead in midstretch, but she suddenly changed leads at about the sixteenth-pole and appeared to lose momentum. That was enough for Snowdrops to hold on in what appeared to be a strong race for the class level.