01/16/2016 8:00PM

Stageplay wins sophomore debut in Silverbulletday

Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography
Stageplay wins the Silverbulletday Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths Saturday at Fair Grounds.

NEW ORLEANS – Stageplay ended her 2-year-old season losing her first two-turn start but started her 3-year-old campaign winning her second one. And she looked good doing it. Dragging Florent Geroux to the lead at the three-sixteenths pole, Stageplay put the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes to bed at the stretch call and cruised home a 1 1/4-length winner over the pace-setting Midnight On Oconee.

“I almost made the lead a little too soon,” Geroux said. “I just tried to keep her busy. She’s a very smart filly, very intelligent – and she can run.”

Midnight On Oconee finished 4 3/4-lengths in front of the third-place Jet Black Magic, who was a half-length better than the second choice Lovable Lyss. A sharp two-time winner at the meet, Lovable Lyss pulled too hard, trainer Hugh Robertson said, while tracking Midnight On Oconee and had no response when Stageplay came up alongside her.

Stageplay won her maiden at Keeneland and the one-turn-mile Rags to Riches at Churchill before herself getting a tracking trip behind Carina Mia in the Grade 2 Golden Rod, her first route try. Stageplay had convincingly beaten Carina Mia in their common debut but was turned away by her in the Golden Rod, finishing second by 4 1/2 lengths on a sloppy track.

There were no horses of Carina Mia’s quality in the Silverbulletday, but Stageplay ran at least as well at Fair Grounds as she had at Churchill and did so after a 10-week layoff that included a rain-interrupted training schedule in December. Steve Asmussen, who trains Stageplay for owner-breeder Mike Rutherford, said under ideal conditions, Stageplay would have worked once more for the Silverbulletday and might have tired a bit late, though Geroux thought Stageplay, her work done, eased herself up.

“I think that shows why it’s important for her to have a couple two-turn races,” Asmussen said. “She’s a very intelligent filly. She’ll make the adjustments.”

Midnight On Oconee, fourth last out in the Trapeze Stakes at Remington, her two-turn debut, set solid splits of 24.18 seconds and 47.89 while tracked by Lovable Lyss and stayed on along the rail after Lovable Lyss backed out of the lead, actually gaining on Stageplay the last half-furlong.

“I was very pleased and loved the way she galloped out,” said trainer Larry Jones. “That first two-turn race appears to have helped her.”

Stageplay ran one mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:43.76 and paid $3.20 as the favorite. Behind Lovable Lyss came Northwest Tale, Annabelle, and More Than Most. Banner Waving was scratched.

By Curlin and out of the Valid Appeal mare Stage Stop, Stageplay won for the third time in four starts and will get another chance to notch her first graded stakes win in the Rachel Alexandra here next month. Midnight On Oconee also will be pointed for that race, Jones said.