Champions Day Classic
Star Guitar aims for millionaire status in Champions Day Classic
Twelve-time Louisiana-bred stakes hero STAR GUITAR (Quiet American) will try to push his career earnings past the $1 million mark when he mounts a title defense in Saturday's $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic S., the centerpiece of a lucrative state-bred gala at Fair Grounds. The 13-race program, which kicks off with an early first post of 12:10 p.m. (CST), features a total of 11 stakes races (including the first three for Quarter Horses).
Star Guitar has been a three-time star on Champions Day, having garnered the 2007 Juvenile and the 2008 Sprint before dominating the 1 1/8-mile Classic by 7 3/4 lengths last year. He would make history by winning a Champions Day race for the fourth consecutive year.
The Al Stall Jr. charge used the Delta Gold Cup S. as his springboard to success in 2009, but when taking the same route through Delta this time on November 5, he suffered a shock defeat. Hammered into 1-2 favoritism, Star Guitar raced off the pace throughout and couldn't get any closer than fourth, beaten six lengths by the impressive winner SNUG (Swamp). That was only Star Guitar's second career loss to fellow Louisiana-breds, and the first since his comeback from injury in a 2008 allowance.
On Monday, Star Guitar went an easy half-mile in :49 1/5 on the fast track, just after the break, with trainer Stall looking on intently from his backstretch perch.
"That was just about what I was looking for," Stall said to those standing nearby. "He went fine. The important work was last week (when Star Guitar went a bullet five-eighths in 1:00 2/5 on November 29). He should be ready."
The co-highweight along with Snug at 124 pounds, Star Guitar will get a rider switch to Robby Albarado on Saturday. Albarado is two-for-two aboard Star Guitar, teaming up successfully in the 2008 Champions Day Sprint as well as the 2009 Louisiana Premier Night Championship S. The classy five-year-old with a career bankroll of $975,958 will break from the rail.
Snug had been no match for Star Guitar previously, and as a result was dispatched as a 28-1 longshot in the Delta Gold Cup. The James Hudson trainee took control of the race at the three-quarter mark and surged beyond recall to spring the upset. Gerard Melancon will attempt to pull off a similar trip at Fair Grounds, where Snug is winless from seven career tries. The stalker has drawn just outside of Star Guitar in post 2.
Louisiana Showcase Mile S. victor PRODUCTIVE ENVOY (Run Production) hopes to bounce back from an uncharacteristic eighth in the Gold Cup in his first start versus older horses. Fellow sophomore SADIE'S SOLDIER (Lost Soldier), a well-beaten third in the Showcase Mile, exits a pair of allowance scores over his elders.
Three runners in the eight-horse field are cross-entered to other races on the card -- Gold Cup runner-up KISSIMMEE KYLE (Gold Tribute) is cross-entered to the Champions Day Turf S., as is TWILIGHT ROSS (Twilight Agenda), while IDE LIKE A DOUBLE (Ide), best of the rest behind Star Guitar in last year's Classic, is cross-entered to the Sprint.
Star Guitar isn't the only Champions Day contestant bidding for history, for SUPERIOR STORM (Stormy Atlantic) is also in position to win an unprecedented fourth race on Champions Day. That milestone would be achieved if she can complete a three-peat in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies S. at 1 1/16 miles.
Superior Storm, whose first Champions Day victory came in the 2007 Lassie, was most recently a narrow winner of the November 5 Magnolia S. at Delta Downs.
"She's always given her best effort every time I've led her over," trainer Richard Jackson said Monday morning, "but I really think she prefers a fast track over a sloppy one. Luckily, she was able to overcome the track conditions last year and still got the job done.
"I thought she worked well yesterday (Sunday)," Jackson said of the five-furlong move recorded in 1:02 2/5. "I thought her last race at Delta was a good one, and I feel like she's coming up to this race just as good as she's ever been."
The respective runner-up and third in the Magnolia, the three-year-olds HARLIE'S DREAMS (Pleasant Tap) and LADYZARBRIDGE (Zarbyev), will try again Saturday. Other contenders include HISSE (Buddha), third in the 2009 Ladies, and LITTLE POLKA DOT (Orientate), who crushed state-bred allowance foes in her debut for Tom Amoss.
The venerable seven-year-old DESERT WHEAT (Wheaton) aims for his third victory in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf S., while making a remarkable fifth straight appearance in the about 1 1/16-mile test. Hero of the 2006 edition as a three-year-old, the Bill Mott charge finished third in 2007, second in 2008, and reclaimed his crown with a four-length romp in 2009. In his most recent start, Desert Wheat bid for a three-peat in the local Mr. Sulu S., but his chances were compromised when it was rained off the turf, and he settled for third behind HALLWAY (Graeme Hall) and CHIEF JAY (Ile St. Louis [Chi]).
Desert Wheat's most dangerous opponent could be SNAKEBITE KIT (Sky Classic). Just beginning his career this season as a four-year-old, the Eddie Johnston pupil won his first four starts, placed in his first two stakes tries, and broke through with a conquest of Snug and Kissimmee Kyle in the Louisiana Showcase Turf S. Snakebite Kit threw in his only poor effort in the Delta Gold Cup back on the dirt, but he's hardly alone in failing to do himself justice that day. He promises to do better reverting to the Fair Grounds grass, where he is undefeated, and he also gets a rider switch to Anna Napravnik.
The unbeaten TORO BRAVO (Holy Bull) will try to extend his record to a perfect four-for-four in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile S., while returning from a layoff for Glenn Delahoussaye. The gray was last seen landing the July 3 D. S. "Shine" Young Memorial Futurity at Evangeline Downs, defeating FORT HOOD (Lone Star Sky), who just upset SU CASA G CASA (During) in the November 20 Louisiana Legacy S. at Delta.
Toro Bravo is part of an entry with CLASSY RULER (Ruler's Court), a smashing debut winner who couldn't follow up in an allowance last out behind OLLIE BABY (High Cascade). Ollie Baby came back to bolt on the turn in the Louisiana Legacy, and adds blinkers Saturday.
TONTO TOO (My Friend Max) warrants respect as a front-running debut maiden winner at Keeneland for Jeff Thornbury. BUDDY'S MAN (K One King) steps up off a convincing debut score at Delta, and STEELY RAN (Leestown) comes off a maiden win at this track and six-furlong distance.
The companion $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie S. for fillies has lured TENSAS PUNCH (War Front), CAT'S PRODUCTION (Run Production) and LAWYER TIFFANY (Pure Prize), the respective top three from the November 20 Louisiana Jewel S. at Delta; two-time turf stakes heroine TIGER GIRL (Hold That Tiger), a subpar eighth in the Jewel; TAKE ME HOME TOO (Came Home), unraced since her smart victory in the July 31 Laurel Lane S. at Louisiana Downs; and DO DAT BLUES (Lydgate), a resounding 6 1/4-length queen of the fillies' division of the Louisiana Stallion S. last out on September 25 at Louisiana Downs. REYINA (Mr. John), runner-up to Do Dat Blues, has since returned to capture an allowance.
The $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint S. features the once-beaten three-year-old MY STAR RUNNER (Run Production), who boasts a four-race winning streak following his coup in the November 20 Sam's Town S. at Delta.
Defending Sprint champion FLASHY WISE CAT (Catastrophe) is back, but hasn't visited the winner's circle in five subsequent tries. Twice he has played second fiddle to FOREIGN PRODUCTION (Run Production) in the Louisiana Cup Sprint S. at Louisiana Downs and the Louisiana Showcase Sprint S. at Evangeline Downs, and he was a retreating fifth to Ide Like a Double in the July 17 Oak Hall S. at Evangeline in his latest.
The speedy Foreign Production has dropped his last pair, caught by TORTUGA STRAITS (Gold Tribute) in the September 25 Temperence Hill S. at Louisiana Downs and most recently a tiring fourth in the Thanksgiving H. at this track and trip.
GOOD HUMAN BEAN (Langfuhr), a half-sister to past state-bred stakes performers Brother Bean, Miss Bean Wah and Mean Butterbean, makes her stakes debut in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint S. Hailing from the same connections as Star Guitar, the sophomore thrashed optional claiming foes by 7 1/4 lengths last time at Louisiana Downs. Among her opponents in the six-furlong dash are last year's Ladies Sprint runner-up CAJUN CONFERENCE (Gold Tribute), who has been training sharply in advance of her first start in 11 months; SKIPPING TOWN (Leestown), third in the 2009 Ladies Sprint and most recently a close fourth to Superior Storm in the Magnolia; last year's Lassie romper SPEEDACIOUS (Yankee Gentleman), who outdueled Good Human Bean earlier this campaign but has been off form of late; DEBRIS (Trippi), heroine of the Louisiana Cup Oaks two back; and recent track-and-trip allowance winner CHERRY FOREVER (Mutakddim).
Kicking off the Thoroughbred stakes action is the $50,000 Louisiana Champions Day Starter H. going 1 1/16 miles.
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