Steve Asmussen, David Flores tandem doubles up

Normally considered the center of attention wherever he goes this time of year, Santa Claus turned that honor over to trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey David Flores on Saturday at the Fair Grounds.

Both Asmussen and Flores celebrated back-to-back victories by taking home the trophies in the Tenacious Handicap with Prayer for Relief and the Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap with Daddy Nose Best.

Prayer for Belief, a Kentucky-bred by Jump Start and owned by Zayat Stables, was an impressive winner.

Breaking from the gate, Prayer for Relief settled for fourth position and was well placed on the inside rail as Flores took light restraint, slowly allowing him to inch closer to early leader, Ground Transport. Prayer for Relief took the lead midway down the backstretch.

When asked once at the head of the stretch, the horse straightened for the drive and under the whip, drew away from the field, winning by six lengths, crossing the wire in 1:43.78 on the dirt track rated “fast.”

Prayer for Relief paid $9.00, $5.60 and $4.00.

First of all, he is a very lovely horse to ride,” Flores said.“He put me in a spot where I wanted to be. It’s never too early when you have the horse to make that kind of run.

“He had plenty of run left at the finish line, too.”

Prayer for Relief had won the Corn Husker Stake and the $175,000 Governor Cup, both in August, putting him in company like Will Take Charge and Game On Dude.

Although coming off his last race Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs, where he finished ninth in the Grade 1 Clark H. Stake, Prayer for Relief countered that loss with ease, proving his status as a multiple-grade thoroughbred winner.

“He ran his race today,” Asmussen said. “His last two are not up to par for him, whether it be the course or weather or how things just unfolded. (I’m)just very glad to see him back in the winner’s circle where he belongs.”

The stake win takes Prayer For Relief’s lifetime earnings to $1,580,913.

Asmussen said he is aiming his trainee toward a spot in the New Orleans Handicap.

Daddy Nose Best overcame a crowded start to win the Buddy D.

“I wasn’t planning on going out there with the bunch,” Flores said. “I just wanted a clean break.

“I was able to stay in a good path and save some grounds, so I could make a run. When you have the best horse, it’s the best way.”

Also Saturday, former Kentucky governor Berenton Jones and trainer Larry Jones enjoyed a successful day, winning the $60,000 Letellier Memorial Stakes with his 2-year-old Divine Beauty and the Sugar Bowl Stakes for Louisiana bred 2-year-olds with Albano.

Class Included with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard won the Blushing K.D. Handicap and Tom Amoss-trained Sum of the Parts took the Bonapaw Stakes with Rosie Napravnik aboard.