Fair Grounds Hosts $1 Million 'Champions Day'

(from track report)
Louisiana's finest will square off Saturday to vie for divisional supremacy in the 13th annual Louisiana Champions Day at Fair Grounds. The restricted event for Louisiana-bred Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses offers $1 million in purses up for grabs in the ten-race card.

The $150,000 Classic, which serves as the ninth and featured race of seven races for Thoroughbreds, drew a contentious field of eight with the Steve Asmussen-trained Spritely Walker installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite.

The 3-year-old son of Skywalker was purchased privately by Heiligbrodt Racing Stable at Fair Grounds last winter as a maiden and has blossomed into a top state-bred performer. He recently won the Louisiana Breeders' Derby at Louisiana Downs in impressive fashion, and then followed that performance up with a game second place finish in the Gold Cup at Delta Downs in his first attempt against older horses. Jockey Corey Lanerie takes over the services on Spritely Walker, who breaks from post three.

Prized Amberpro will once again be one of the shortest-priced favorites on the Champions Day card as she looks to repeat in the $100,000 Ladies. The 6-year-old mare loves the Fair Grounds oval, with five wins and two seconds in her nine races over the track. She enters the race off a decisive win in the Magnolia at Delta Downs for trainer John Gelner. Prized Amberpro drew the No. 6 post and will be ridden by C.J. Woodley.

This year's version of the $100,000 Turf features a showdown between two Fair Grounds veterans that are all too familiar with each other. Coach Rags and Mr. Sulu, both past winners of the race, will battle it out for the third straight year in the Turf.

Trained by Gary Palmisano, Coach Rags comes into the race off of an impressive victory in an allowance prep over the Stall-Wilson turf course and is the 9-5 morning line favorite in a field of seven. E.J. Perrodin will ride him. Mr. Sulu, who was just caught last year in his attempt to repeat, is the second choice on the morning line at 5-2 under rider Robby Albarado for trainer Josie Carroll.

Zarb's Luck is back to defend his title in the $100,000 Sprint for trainer Eddie Johnston. The 6-year-old chestnut gelding will be reunited with Albarado for the first time since last year's Sprint. Zarb's Luck, the 5-2 morning line favorite, will have to overcome a rail post position, along with a full field of 13 challengers, to repeat.

In the $100,000 Lassie, several speedsters will be vying for the early lead, which could play into the hands of Merry Mary, who makes her first start for trainer Corale Richards. Merry Mary was a troubled third behind Cool Cool Cool and Cabildo Bag in the Laurel Lane at Louisiana Downs and was most recently a good third versus open company in her turf debut. Kirk LeBlanc will be reunited with the daughter of Leestown in the Lassie, who was made a luke-warm favorite on the morning line at 7-2.

The $100,000 Juvenile features Nitro Chip, who will be looking for his third consecutive stakes win since being claimed by trainer Sam Breaux for $20,000 in August. Nitro Chip, the 5-2 morning line favorite, aired by six lengths in the Stardust and most recently scored a front-running victory in the Calcasieu at Delta Downs. LeBlanc, who has ridden him in each of his races, has the return call on Nitro Chip, who will break from the 11th post position.

First post Saturday is 12:30 p.m.