Trainer Ronny Werner was based for years at Fair Grounds during the winter. This season, he's stabled in Florida, but he found success in New Orleans anyway when the shipper Pancake, Werner's first Fair Grounds starter this season, led most of the way and barely held off Lope in the inaugural running of the $50,000 Joseph "Spanky" Broussard Stakes on Friday.
Pancake broke from post 11 under Manny Esquivel and briefly was stacked wide around the clubhouse turn, but Esquivel eased her to the front, backed up the pace to set slow splits of 25.42 seconds, 50.06, and 1:15.05, and had just enough left to hold clear a late inside run from Lope, who came up a nose short. Pancake ($16.40) ran about 7 1/2 furlongs on "good" turf in 1:33.09.
An Arindel Farm homebred by Corinthian and out of the El Gran Senor mare Gran Senorita, the 3-year-old Pancake has raced in nothing but turf routes since launching her career in September. She won her debut and then captured a $100,000 Florida-bred race but had lost her last two starts and faded to eighth after contesting a moderate pace in the $100,000 Ginger Brew on Jan. 2 at Gulfstream Park. Friday's race was a step down in class, and in the Broussard, Pancake was able to press her tactical advantage.
"They told me to let her break on her own and relax, never rush her," Esquivel said. "I didn't rush her at all, and I ended up on the lead, slowed us down, and that's what got us home."
Lope, positioned in midpack for much of the race, launched a bid in the final three-sixteenths of a mile and came up the fence to just miss catching the winner. Princess Erindelle followed Lope and finished solidly for third, with Inconclusive coming home decently on the far outside for a close fourth at a distance probably short of her best.
The disappointment was Lou, who was oddly bet down to even-money on the strength of a convincing but relatively slow turf-route allowance win Dec. 6 at Fair Grounds. Lou tracked the pace that day but was devoid of speed Friday and played no part in the outcome.