The now-retired Star Guitar, of course, became the top Louisiana-bred money winner of all time last April 1 with a win in the $90,000 Costa Rising Stakes on Louisiana Derby Day. Populist Politics finished second behind him once again that day, beaten a head for the victory.
"Hopefully, next weekend, Populist Politics will get the opportunity to show he's the heir apparent," trainer Tom Amoss said Thursday morning during training hours.
"He's doing well now. He's gotten much better since he developed that little breathing issue last summer when we had to ease him in that race (the August 4 West Virginia Governors Cup) at Mountaineer. He never really had great airways before, but hopefully we've gotten that resolved now.
"He had a good work last Sunday (a half-mile in :48) and he ran a good race at Delta in his last start. He finished second that day (in the Gold Cup on October 27), but Delta is a real small track with tight turns. The track here at Fair Grounds has big, wide turns and he likes that a lot better. James Graham will ride him in the Classic."Amoss, a native New Orleanian who is a nine-time trainer champion at Fair Grounds, has gotten off to a fantastic start this season, winning with five of his seven starters for a 71 percent win ratio over the four-day opening weekend program. One of those wins was recorded by Jerry Namy's Flashy Campaign last Sunday, a two-year-old filly who made the first start of her career a winning one.
"We're very optimistic about her," Amoss said, "and we were very encouraged by that race, especially since it appeared she might be even better going a distance of ground."
However, obviously Amoss's most satisfying win this season came in the 87th running of the $100,000 Thanksgiving Handicap with Maggi Moss's Delaunay on Thanksgiving.
Somewhat surprisingly, given Amoss's long history of success at Fair Grounds, he had never saddled the winner of its traditional opening day centerpiece before.
"I've been coming to Fair Grounds on Thanksgiving Day since I was a little kid," Amoss said. "My earliest memories of Thanksgiving involve coming out here to the old clubhouse to celebrate the day with my family. I would always order either the corned beef or the lamb chops for dinner.
"I used to think I was a real good handicapper, but in reality I actually used to talk a lot of people off horses that ended up winning. One time I remember talking my father off a horse that ended up paying $70. After that I learned to keep my mouth shut."