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HRN Original Blog:
Toasting with Andrew Champagne

'Train Keeps Chugging Along

Pontchatrain Buena Vista 615 X 400
Photo: Benoit Photos

 

Chalk up another victory for a “horse for the course.”

Pontchatrain, who had won three races in a row since shipping to Santa Anita, ran that streak to four Monday, capturing the Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap on the President's Day card at the Great Race Place.

Coming in, the Tom Proctor trainee had shown ample talent. However, of her five wins before the Buena Vista, three came going down Santa Anita's turf sprint course, and her lone off-the-board finish came going two turns last summer at Del Mar.

In the Buena Vista, the daughter of War Front showed that two turns was not an issue. She stalked just off a moderate pace before rallying three-wide going into the stretch under jockey Gary Stevens, and she hit the wire clear by a length in a time of 1:33.33 for the one-mile distance. Her trademark finishing kick was on full display, as the 4-year-old mare ran the last quarter-mile in a swift :23.27.

Among the fillies and mares Pontchatran defeated Monday was Egg Drop, who came into the Buena Vista off of three straight graded stakes wins but had to settle for second. Meanwhile, fellow graded stakes heroine Tapicat checked in third in her first start since capturing the Voodoo Dancer on New Year's Day at Gulfstream Park.

This was the second straight renewal of the Buena Vista won by a turf sprinter stretching out. Mizdirection captured 2013's running in a campaign that included her second consecutive triumph in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Where Pontchatrain goes from here is anyone's guess, but she has been one of the top mares on the grounds since October, and her future looks extremely bright.

 

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Meet Andrew Champagne

 

A native of upstate New York and a graduate of Ithaca College, Andrew Champagne fell in love with horse racing at a very early age on summer trips to Saratoga. His turf writing credits include time spent as a sportswriter, weekly columnist, and handicapper at The Saratogian, a summer working for The Saratoga Special, and "field research" at OTB facilities in Saratoga Springs and his hometown of Kingston. He also spent two years in the athletic communications office at Siena College, and interned with NBC Olympics at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.


Andrew moved to Pasadena, Calif., in October of 2013, and now serves as an Associate Producer in HRTV's Digital Media department and Horse Racing Nation's Southern California writer. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewChampagne, and email him at andrewdchampagne@gmail.com.