Witt Ante, winner of the 2004 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, looks for a repeat in the $150,000 centerpiece of the first major event of the Fair Ground meet Saturday at Harrah's Louisiana Downs.
The 15th annual Louisiana Champions Day features $1 million in purses and nearly 100 horses.
Only two are seeking to repeat – Witt Ante, who won last year's Champions Day Classic, and Mr. Sulu, who captured the Champions Day Turf.
Witt Ante drew the rail for the 1 1/8-mile Classic and is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in a field of seven. Trainer Larry Robideaux has prepped the 5-year-old son of Upping the Ante with three turf races at Louisiana Downs, resulting in a win and two second-place finishes.
Badtotheboneandrew, who finished less than a length behind Witt Ante in a turf allowance on opening weekend of the Fair Grounds meet, is the 3-1 second choice. The 3-year-old won the Louisiana Breeders Derby in September. Gerard Melancon gets the call from trainer Harry Hahn.
Mr. Sulu will have to contend with 9-5 morning-line favorite Spruce's Price.
Trained by Gerald Romero, Spruce's Prince won the aforementioned turf prep on Nov. 20 for his third consecutive win. He is 6-for-12 lifetime on the Franks turf course. The meet's leading rider, Roman Chapa, is once again aboard the son of Spruce's Bouquet, who will break from post No. 5.
Mr. Sulu, who will be making his first start over the Louisiana Downs turf, has won only once in 2005 – the Dixie Poker Ace Handicap in March at Fair Grounds. The 7-year-old son of Rail will have six-time Fair Grounds leading rider Robby Albarado in the irons for trainer Josie Carroll.
The Ladies could be the day's deepest race. A field of 10 was entered, with Stanley Seelig's The Beter Man Can drawing post No. 3 as the 5-2 early favorite.
The Beter Man Can returned from a seven-month layoff with an impressive 7 1/4-length win in allowance company on opening day of the Fair Grounds meet. Her only two lifetime starts at Saturday's distance of 1 1/16 miles have produced out-of-the-money finishes, but they came in graded stakes company.
E.J. Perrodin will get a leg up from trainer Patrick Mouton aboard The Beter Man Can.
Destiny Calls, who finished second in the Ladies last year to eventual grade I winner Happy Ticket, prepped with a one-mile workout when she failed to draw into the opening-day allowance. Her $499,150 in lifetime earnings is nearly twice as much as any other horse in the field. Albarado will ride Destiny Calls, who drew just to The Beter Man Can's inside.
The Ladies field also includes Merry Mary, winner of the Red Camelia Handicap on closing day of last year's Fair Grounds meet. Legs O'Neal won an allowance/optional claiming event against open company on opening day. Equestrian Girls defeated The Beter Man Can in the 2004 Champions Day Lassie.
The Champions Day Sprint features Zarb's Dahar, who is unbeaten in his last 10 starts at Harrah's Louisiana Downs, including a convincing win two weeks ago in the Thanksgiving Breeders' Cup Handicap. Zarb's Dahar will spot the field between eight and 10 pounds but drew the rail in the field of eight.
Gerard Melancon gets the return call from trainer James "Sweet" Hodges aboard Zarb's Dahar.
Other contenders in the Sprint are Zarb's Luck, who won the Sprint in 2002 and 2003, and Meteor Impact, the 2002 Juvenile winner who was fourth in last year's Classic.
Like Zarb's Dahar and Witt Ante, the morning-line favorite drew the rail in the Lassie. Tortuga Flats, the early 5-2 choice, is 3-for-4 lifetime, winning the Laurel Lane in her last start on the same surface and six-furlong distance as Saturday's race. Trainer Ralph Irwin has again given the call to Luis Quinonez.
Leesa Lee and Gracie's Gem, who finished second and third, respectively, in the Laurel Lane, are also entered in the Lassie.
Carson Bay is the 3-1 morning-line selection in the Juvenile, coming off an impressive win in a state-bred allowance at Louisiana Downs on Nov. 25. He attracts the services of Albarado. Voodoo Gold is 4-for-7 but has not hit the board in a pair of starts in Bossier City.
The final race of the day, the Starter Handicap, attracted a field of 10, with Ponopaan the slight 3-1 early favorite. Ponopaan, who has won three of his last five starts, makes his first start for trainer Cole Norman after being claimed last week for $20,000.
The day begins with three Quarter Horse events, all worth $100,000.