NEW ORLEANS -- The Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap quickly turned into another lawn party for Chocolate Ride.
A few strides out of the gate, Chocolate Ride, under jockey Florent Geroux, grabbed the lead. Unchallenged most of the way, Chocolate Ride set a comfortable pace, and he had plenty left for the stretch run.
Holding off Roman Approval by three-quarters of a length, Chocolate Ride scored his third consecutive win on the Fair Grounds turf. He improved his record in the last two seasons on the local turf to six wins in seven starts. Four of those wins were graded. Departing finished third in a field of nine older horses.
In 2015, Chocolate Ride won both the Fair Grounds Handicap and Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap to earn notice as the top turf runner at Fair Grounds. Chocolate Ride will again be likely to be pointed toward the Muniz, scheduled for March 26.
"He loves this turf course," said Brad Cox, who trains Chocolate Ride for owners John Wentworth and Stephan Brochu. "The Muniz, that's the logical spot."
Chocolate Ride was coming off a victory in the Grade 3 Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap, but he had to run harder in the early stages of that race. "Last time, he broke a step slow," Geroux said. "It made me go faster than I wanted."
In the 1-1/8-mile Fair Grounds Handicap, Chocolate Ride ran the first quarter-mile in 24.31 seconds, the half in 49.72, six furlongs in 1:13.91 and a mile in 1:37.48. He completed the distance in 1:49.31.
"I saw the 49-and-3; I was pretty happy," Cox said, who won three stakes Saturday -- two at Fair Grounds and another at Gulfstream Park. "Roman Approval made it interesting late. It was a big effort, a great ride."