02/20/2016 7:44PM

Venus Valentine pays $150.40 in Rachel Alexandra shocker

Alexander Barkoff/Hodges Photography
Venus Valentine, far back early, goes from last to first under Corey Lanerie to upset the Rachel Alexandra.

NEW ORLEANS – Down the long Fair Grounds backstretch and into a mild headwind Finley’sluckycharm and Loveable Lyss gave no quarter, blistering the first half-mile of the Grade 2, $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes in a taxing 46.33 seconds.

Meanwhile, Tom Amoss was looking for his horse.

“I was watching on TV and the only thing I kept saying to myself -- and I said it a lot – was, ‘Please get in the picture soon,’ ” Amoss said.

Amoss’s horse was Venus Valentine, and she was so far behind the pacesetters that Amoss never saw her on the screen until the field turned for home. But there she was. Corey Lanerie, the new Calvin Borel with the way he looks for the fence, hugged the rail as tight as he could, and as the pace took its toll, the front-runners wilting stride by stride, Amoss saw his horse loom larger and larger.

“At the half-mile pole I started chirping to her a little, and every time I asked her for a little something she’d lengthen her stride,” Lanerie said. “At that point, did I think I was going to win? No, but I thought I’d catch some tired horses and get some black type. I kept passing them and passing them and then I was in front.”

Yep, last to first, and home at a $154.40 win mutuel. Asked if that was the longest-priced stakes winner he had ever saddled, Amoss demurred. “It might be the highest-priced horse I’ve ever had,” Amoss said.

Venus Valentine clipped past Midnight On Oconee, who looked a sure winner a furlong out, and won by one length, running 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.24. Shaken finished third, followed by Royal Obsession, 3-5 favorite Stageplay, Loveably Lyss, Finley’sluckycharm, Lemon Drop Belle, and Forever Darling.

Stageplay was caught wide on both turns – probably on the worst part of the track -- had aim on the leader at the top of the stretch, but lost her momentum and fizzled late, finishing worse than second for the first time in her five-start career.

“She ran horrible today,” trainer Steve Asmsusen said. “Hopefully we can figure out why.”

Stageplay beat Midnight On Oconee last month in the Silverbulletday, but Midnight On Oconee was the filly close to the pace who stayed on best Saturday, getting second by a half-length.

“She wasn’t aggressive, very comfortable, and actually finished better today than last time,” jockey James Graham said. “She did what she had to do today; she just got nipped at the wire.”

Venus Valentine is a Rosemont Farm homebred by Congrats, and is the first foal to race out of the Stormin Fever mare Valentine Fever, a two-time stakes winner. She won her debut at Ellis Park last summer but had since been fourth and fifth in three races, and was trying a dirt route for the first time Saturday.

“We said we’d enter and look at the field and then decide whether to run, and the one thing that stood out about this field was there was a ton of speed in this race,” said Amoss. “We knew where our filly was going to be, which was way back, and we felt like maybe it’d set up for us, maybe we’ll get a piece. In my wildest dreams I can’t say I expected to beat this kind of horses today, but now I’m thinking bigger things.”