Can Desert Wheat top the crop again in Friday’s
third running of the $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes on the second day of
Thoroughbred racing at Fair Grounds this winter?
Owned by Wachtel Stable, Brous Stable and J. D. Lee, Desert
Wheat is conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who guided the
horse to victory in the inaugural running of the Mr. Sulu in 2008, and then
brought him back to repeat that score in the 2009 renewal.
Ironically, the Mr. Sulu Stakes, restricted to accredited
Louisiana-breds, is named in honor of one of only two Thoroughbreds to win
three times on Fair Grounds’ Louisiana Champions Day. Should Desert Wheat win
Friday, he would remain as the only horse to win the stakes race scheduled at
about 1 1/16-miles over the Stall-Wilson turf course during the event’s brief
Desert Wheat is assigned 118 pounds in the Mr. Sulu, most
of which will be made up by veteran Louisiana-born reinsman Corey Lanerie
Friday in his quest for a “threepeat” in the Mr. Sulu. The 7-year-old,
installed as the 9-5 choice in the morning line, comes into the race off a
third-place effort in third-level allowance company over Keeneland’s grass
course on Oct. 13. Before that he had been absent from competition since
finishing second in optional claiming company last February at Fair Grounds.
However, earlier last winter at Fair Grounds, Desert Wheat
finished second by a nose in the $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace in January after
winning the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf in December on Louisiana
Champions Day at Fair Grounds. Those two outings came immediately after his win
in last year’s Mr. Sulu.
Capable of providing strong competition for Desert Wheat in
the Mr. Sulu is Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s Snug, who must shoulder the
top impost of 122 pounds. The 5-year-old gelding will be ridden by Gerard
Melancon and is trained by Jim Hudson. Snug is coupled in the
wagering with Heiligbrodt’s Hallway, who has Jamie Theriot named
in the irons, gets in with 118 pounds and is conditioned by Eclipse Award-winning
trainer Steve Asmussen, who is also Fair Grounds’ defending trainer
Snug was most recently dominant in winning the Gold Cup at
Delta Downs by 4 3/4-lengths on Nov. 5, and previously he finished fifth but
was only beaten a length and a half in Louisiana Downs’ $50,000 John Franks
Memorial despite a troubled trip on Aug. 28.
Hallway is returning from a pair of disappointing outings
at Woodbine last summer but is remembered for defeating Desert Wheat in last
season’s Dixie Poker Ace here.
From the rail out, with jockeys and morning line odds
included, the Mr. Sulu field is: Royal and Flashy, James Graham (12-1);
Smoothcideup, Richard Eramia (10-1); Wildrally, Carlos Gonzalez
(5-1); Desert Wheat, Corey Lanerie (9-5); Snug, Gerard Melancon (5-2); Sprightly
Star, Chip Bourque (8-1); Hallway, Jamie Theriot (5-2); Hey Mack,
Chester Bonnet (30-1); Classy Deelites, Miguel Mena (12-1); and Chief
Jay, Kerwin Clark (12-1).