Odds-on choice Star Guitar became racing's newest millionaire with an easy repeat victory in the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic at Fair Grounds Dec. 11 (VIDEO).
The best Louisiana-bred in training, Brittlyn Stable's 5-year-old Quiet American horse also became the first to prevail four times on Louisiana Champions Day. Al Stall Jr. trains Star Guitar, who also won the Champions Day Juvenile in 2007 and the Champions Day Sprint in 2008.
Star Guitar won for the seventh time in nine starts at Fair Grounds and improved his overall mark to 15 victories in 21 tries. The winning purse of $90,000 boosted his earnings to $1,065,958. Star Guitar won last year's Louisiana Champions Day Classic by 7 3/4 lengths.
“He’s found his little niche. He’s a very valuable horse," said Stall. "This is his time of year on this track. We kind of build our year around this race, really, so we just do the same thing."
“He’s just a great horse, been a sound horse for us the whole time. He tried hard and he’s just full of class. He has this bunch over a barrel."
With new rider Robby Albarado aboard, Star Guitar angled off the rail to race in third on the outside of pacesetting Snug before taking the lead coming off the final turn of the 1 1/8-mile event. Under some urging, Star Guitar edged away from Snug through the lane to win by four lengths lengths in a time of 1:51.12 over a fast track.
“I was just a passenger," Albarado said. "Al did a great job of getting him ready today. He loves Fair Grounds. He was in a great position down the backside, within himself, and we were galloping along there. At the three-eighths pole I asked him for a little more and he was there. It unfolded just like I thought it would.”
Snug, who carved sensible fractions of :24.15, :48.83, and 1:13.82 for jockey Gerard Melancon, was a clear second by 7 1/4 lengths. Eighth At Citypark, the longest shot on the board at 56-1 in the field of six, finished third by 6 1/2 lengths with Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard.
Star Guitar was coming off one of the few dull efforts in his career, finishing fourth, nearly five lengths behind Snug in the Delta Downs Gold Cup Nov. 5. He drew the far outside post in a field of 10 that day.
Bettors ignored that result in sending off Star Guitar at 1-5. He paid $2.40, $2.10, and $2.10. Snug, the second choice returned $2.40 and $2.10 to complete a formful $5.40 exacta. Eighth At Citypark paid $4.20 to show. Productive Envoy, Sadie's Soldier, and Twilight Ross followed.
Two horses, Kissimmee Kyle (second in the Champions Day Turf a race earlier) and Ide Like a Double (unplaced in the Champions Day Sprint), were scratched.
Evelyn Benoit's homebred Star Guitar is out of Minit Towinit, by Malagra. The bay was Louisiana's Horse of the Year in 2009.
The other repeat winner on the Champions Day program came in the $100,000 Sprint when Flashy Wise Cat ($11) closed powerfully between rivals in the stretch to register a 3 1/4-length victory over 8-5 choice My Star Runner (VIDEO).
Kerwin Clark rode Flashy Wise Cat for the first time for trainer Troy Young and his parents' Lee Young Farm. Flashy Wise Cat won last year's Champions Day Sprint in similar late-running fashion by 4 1/2 lengths as the 11-10 favorite. A 5-year-old horse by Catastrophe--Satin Shoes, by Six Speed, the winner was bred by William C. Thomas.
Flashy Wise Cat ran six furlongs in 1:10.58 for his third win in five tries at Fair Grounds and his sixth overall victory from 15 starts. Foreign Production finished third.
Earlier on the program, Rosie Napravnik guided Ladyzarbridge ($23) to a front-running 2 1/4-length victory over Superior Storm in the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies (VIDEO). Like Star Guitar, Superior Storm was seeking her fourth lifetime win in the series. Superior Storm was the narrow 17-10 second choice to Little Polka Dot, who finished third at 8-5.
Edward Johnston trains and co-owns the winning 3-year-old daughter of Zarbyev--Ballsbridge, by Balsksi with Charles Zacney. Foxwood Plantation bred Ladyzarbridge, who covered the 1 1/16-mile test in 1:45.81.
Napravnik was also aboard favored Snakebite Kit ($5.60) for Johnston in a gate-to-wire 1 3/4-length triumph in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf (VIDEO). Kissimmee Kyle was second, 4 1/2 lengths clear of Hallway.
Snakebite Kit, trained by Johnston for owner/breeder Steve Hartman, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm ground in 1:44.13 for his sixth win in nine starts. The 4-year-old gelding by Sky Classic--Michelle's Crown, by Glitterman, is four-for-four over the Fair Grounds turf.
The $100,000 Champions Day Lassie for 2-year-old fillies was also won on the front end by 18-1 upsetter Reyina ($38.60), who nosed 78-1 Sweet Ruston to combine for a $1,866 exacta (VIDEO). Tensas Punch finished third, with 6-5 choice Take Me Home Too running eighth.
Jamie Theriot rode Reyina, who took the lead from the rail soon after the break to a game victory in 1:12.23 for six furlongs. Tony Richey trains the winner for Danny Ray Butler.
Reyina, a bay filly by Mr. John--Feminine Heart, by A.P. Indy, was bred by T.F. VanMeter.
Bret Calhoun trains Su Casa G Casa, a colt by During --Seda Fina, by Known Fact, for Tom Galvin. Dennis Ray Bryant and Mike Brossett bred the dark bay. Su Casa G Casa posted his third win in five lifetime starts.
In the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint, Southern Equine Stables’ homebred Cajun Conference ($20.80), trained by Eric Heitzmann and ridden by Miguel Mena, got up in the late stages for a 2 1/4-length win and a $20.80 win payoff while going six furlongs in 1:12.45 (VIDEO).
Good Human Bean, the 3-2 favorite in the field of 14, was second by a nose over Cherry Forever.
The winner is a 4-year-old daughter of Gold Tribute--Video Conference, by Phone Trick.