(from Fair Grounds)
One major upset and the matching of two career records for victories in the series headlined the 18th edition of Louisiana Champions Day Dec. 13 at Fair Grounds.
Ten of the 11 winners in the $1.1 million, all-stakes program dedicated to Louisiana-bred Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses were priced at less than 6-1, but the one exception was a big one: Break Up, who lit up the tote board by paying $138.40 to win in the $100,000 Champions Day Juvenile.
In the day’s richest race, the $150,000 Champions Day Classic, Valene Farms’ Autobeacat held off favored Star Production in a stretch duel to win by three-quarters of a lengths. With Donnie Meche up, Autobeacat covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:53.72.
Trainer Eric Heitzmann had cross-entered Autobeacat in two other Champions Day races on the program, but picked the Classic over the Turf and Starter. Autobeacat ($13.80) was the longest shot in the field of five.
Southern Invasion finished third in the Classic, three lengths behind the favorite.
“This horse likes to be covered up a little bit,” said Heitzmann. “Donnie did a very good job with him.”
Jockey Robby Albarado and trainer Tom Amoss, who have combined for 15 career Fair Grounds titles, each added another line to their list of local achievements.
Albarado won two races, the Lassie on Master Link and the Sprint on Star Guitar, for his 11th and 12th career Champions Day wins. That tied Calvin Borel for the most in the event’s history.
Amoss’ win in the Turf with Wildrally gave him seven career triumphs on Champions Day, matching Bobby Barnett and Donald Cormier for the top spot among trainers.
Break Up, who entered with only a maiden win in five lifetime starts, rallied in the late stages for a one-length win. Corey Lanerie rode the winner for trainer Brett Brinkman. Break Up covered the six furlongs in 1:12.02.
“I wanted to stay patient. I thought the pace would be fast,” said Lanerie. “At the 5/16ths pole, I was picking off a few horses. At the eighth pole, I thought I could win it.”
Cocktail Clarence got up for the second in the Juvenile, finishing a half-length to the good of odds-on favorite Foreign Production, who weakened in the final furlong.
In the Lassie, Albarado went gate-to-wire with Master Link ($12.40) to win by 2 1/2 lengths over favored Warrior Maid with a winning six-furlong winning time of 1:11.70. Lightlightlight finished third, a neck farther back.
Star Guitar – the Al Stall Jr. trainee who won last year’s Champions Day Juvenile – wore down Mr. Barracuda for a three-quarter length score in the Sprint. Meteor Impact finished another half-length back for third in the field of 14.
Star Guitar, who won for the fourth time in five lifetime starts, paid $5.40 while covering the six furlongs in 1:11.07.
Amoss’ win with Wildrally overshadowed a matchup of the last two winners in the Turf, Desert Wheat and Willist.
Wildrally ($15.20) covered the about 1 1/16-mile distance over a Stall-Wilson turf course rated soft in 1:48.76. Desert Wheat was a neck back for the place, while Diggy Fresh was third.
Wildrally, second to Willist in last year’s Turf, was ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. The 23-year-old Louisiana native rode his fourth stakes winner of the meet.
Jockey John Jacinto joined Albarado in winning a pair of races – the Ladies with Superior Storm and the Ladies Sprint with Coach Mike.
In the Ladies, Superior Storm ($4.60) was best by two lengths. She won for the sixth time in nine starts this year and completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.87.
Richard Jackson trains Superior Storm, who won the Lassie on this day a year ago, for Jack Dickerson’s Jac Mac Stable.
Sammie Sam was second, 9 1/2 lengths in front of Collectzcat.
Coach Mike ($5), owned by Ryder River Ridge Farm and trained by Tony Richey, wore down Sax Appeal in the late stages of the Ladies Sprint, getting the six furlongs in 1:10.66. Tortuga Flats was third.