OPELOUSAS — When trainer Patrick Devereux, Jr. saw Le Gris break from the starting gate at Evangeline Downs Race Track Saturday night, he knew what to expect from the two-year-old gelding.
With jockey Richard Aramia aboard, Le Gris immediately bolted ahead of the 12-horse colt and gelding division of the $125,000 annual D.S. “Shine” Young Futurity at Evangeline Downs and finished the five-and-a half furlongs nearly unchallenged.
Le Gris, owned by Coteau Farms, LLC., covered the race distance in a minute and four seconds for his second victory in three starts since May 13.
Aramia’s quick pace on Le Gris contrasted the win of Sold Sender, who won the $128,425 fillies division of the Futurity by starting eighth in a nine-horse field and then finishing strong over the last 75 yards.
For veteran jockey Gerard Melancon, the victory on Solid Sender was the seventh career Shine Young victory since the Futurity series began in 1966.
Devereux, who trains for Le Gris owners Keith and Ginger Myers, said Aramia knew what to do with the horse once the gates opened.
“(Le Gris) is just a superior gate horse,” Devereux said. “That’s because he’s smart. When I saw him come out the gate, (Le Gris) was just looking around and wondering where all the other (horses) were.”
In the July 4 Futurity Trials, Le Gris finished third behind winner Mecandales and Big Gator, who had a pair of Churchill Downs starts in May and June.
On Saturday night’s muddy track, Le Gris briefly fell behind in second after the explosive start.
As the field reached the 3/16 pole, Eramia said the horse recovered and moved ahead down the stretch.
“She opened up then and became very serious. This horse, he does everything right,” Eramia said.
Solid Sender, the 5-2 pre-race favorite, at first moved inside and settled in behind early leader Whata Friend, ridden by Colby Hernandez.
Things weren’t looking much better for Solid Sender by the 3/8 pole, as she fell back to eighth as Whata Friend stayed well ahead of the others.
Melancon made his move after the final turn. Solid Sender swung wide and moved up to fourth as the horses straightened near the grandstand.
Solid Sender kept the pressure on in the late stretch and overtook second place Jias Pal and Lady National, before attacking Whata Friend’s lead to win by half a length.
“That is one hell of a horse,” Melancon said after climbing down from Solid Sender.
Solid Sender’s victory was the second of her two-race career. Melancon also rode the horse to a win on July 13, also at Evangeline Downs.
Trainer Sam Breaux of New Iberia said he purchased Solid Sender last year at a Copper Crowne thoroughbred sale in Opelousas for Scott and Company, which owns the horse.
“(Solid Sender) is Louisiana bred, and what I liked about her was her size and that her mother was a precocious racer,” Breaux said.
Breaux said the win was significant since the race included Whata Friend and Jias Pal, who were undefeated in their only two starts.
In addition to being a race that has been run consecutively at both the Opelousas and Carencro ED tracks over the past 47 years, the Shine Young Futurity has experienced several name changes.
The race was originally named the Cajun Futurity and later that changed to the Southwest Futurity before being named for D.S. “Shine” Young, one of the legendary horsemen in the Acadiana area.
Gerard Melancon and son Jansen Melancon began Saturday night as two of the track’s top jockeys during the current thoroughbred season.
Melancon, nicknamed “G Money” for his many career victories, is currently fourth among the track’s jockeys with 49 victories in 256 starts.
Jansen Melancon has 27 wins in his 273 rides.
The track has two additional major stakes races scheduled between Aug. 10 and Sept.7 when the current season ends.
ED hosts the eight furlong $125,000 Evangeline mile on Aug. 10 and the Sept. 7 John Franks Memorial Sales Stakes for two-year-olds. The races, divided into fillies and colts divisions, will feature purses of $50,000 for each race.