06/23/2009 11:00PM

Two show turf flair for Hodges


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Turf racing for 2-year-olds has taken a higher priority in recent seasons at Louisiana Downs, with the ultimate goal a pair of six-figure stakes events on the Super Derby undercard in September - the $100,000 Happy Ticket Stakes for fillies and the $150,000 Sunday Silence. In addition, the Donnie Wilhite and Sunny's Halo will offer $50,000 each for aspiring juvenile turf performers on Aug. 15 as will the Princess and Minstrel on July 18.

It is with great interest then, when the youngsters take to the infield for the first time, which was the case in last Sunday's first race. A field of eight fillies lined up to go five furlongs in the season's first maiden affair on the grass, and without a turf start among them, the betting public was a bit unsure of what to do. Chanel Number Mine and Red Hot Buddha shared the role of tepid favorite at 2.90-1, with four others sent off at 8-1 or less. Red Hot Buddha was one of two uncoupled starters for trainer James Hodges, along with Blading Gold Ring.

Overcoming adversity after being squeezed back along the rail into the turn, Blading Gold Ring, who was making her first career start, unleashed a furious rally down the straight to collar front-running Red Hot Buddha. It was another four lengths back to the third-place finisher, Smart Strike Diva.

The all-Hodges exacta has given the veteran trainer a head start in the chase for turf gold.

"We got the winner about 90 days ago, and she has been professional right from the start," Hodges said. "She is well schooled around the gate, and that traffic trouble the other day didn't seem to bother her."

Blading Gold Ring is by the Cherokee Run stallion During out of Dina Gold, who is by Seeking the Gold. Her pedigree does not immediately stand out for a career on the grass, and Hodges was candid about the reason why she made her debut on that particular surface.

"To be honest with you, it was the only race for her we could get to fill," he said. "Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do."

Hodges, who has won at a 17-percent clip with his turf runners the last couple of seasons and historically has done well on the grass here, said the five-furlong Princess Stakes is next for Blading Gold Ring.

"I think she can outrun what I have seen here so far this meeting," he said. "We'll see how she does going short again and then think about stretching her out. She is certainly bred to handle the added distance."