Updated on 09/17/2011 1:43PM

Waupaca has become a turf terror

Lou Hodges, Jr.
Waupaca ($9.60) hangs on by a neck over Gentlemen J.J. in the $75,000 Woodchopper Handicap at Fair Grounds on Saturday.

NEW ORLEANS - Fair Grounds played the generous holiday host to trainer Donnie Von Hemel. Von Hemel came to town with a pair of grass horses he had been breezing on the Remington Park grass course, and left with a pair of stakes trophies.

Friday, Bedanken set a stakes record winning the Furl Sail Handicap, and on Saturday, Waupaca ran a brave race on the lead to win the $75,000 . Waupaca ($9.60) covered 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.33.

Bedanken was a rising star this time last year, but it was only four months ago that Waupaca started coming around. Dropped into conditioned claiming races over the summer, Waupaca was moved to turf races and blossomed, winning three times on the Louisiana Downs grass course.

"It took a while to get him where he wanted to be," Von Hemel said. "We figured out a few problems and got him on the right surface. Shame on us for taking so long to do it."

Waupaca came out of the gate smoothly under Robby Albarado, and after brief early pressure from Gin and Sin, he controlled a moderate pace, 48.89 seconds for a half-mile.

"Donnie told me he was sharp, and not to let him get away from me," Albarado said.

He didn't, and after briefly losing the lead to Gin and Sin and G.W's Skippie about an eighth of a mile from the finish, Waupaca came on again to outlast Gentlemen J.J.

* Earlier on the card, Merry Mary ($7) easily won the fillies division of the Louisiana Futurity. Fourth early, Merry Mary moved up steadily under Corey Lanerie and scored by three lengths over Rose of Sophia, winner of the Louisiana Champions Day Lassie.