Charlie Smith’s String King
gave his owner his first career victory as a trainer in Fair Grounds’ $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf three weeks ago, but does the owner-trainer who also bred the 4-year-old gelding think a second String
King win is likely this weekend in New Orleans? In other words, can String King ace
Saturday’s $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace Stakes?
31st renewal of the Dixie Poker Ace – restricted to accredited
Louisiana-breds and renamed a few years ago in honor of the winner of
first three editions of the Louisiana Champions Day Turf – is scheduled
to be contested at about one mile over Fair Grounds’
Stall-Wilson turf course as the featured race this weekend. The Champions Day Turf run three weeks ago was run at about 1 1/16-miles.
“He’s training great – in fact he’s training super,” said Smith, speaking over the phone from his Haughton,
home base Thursday of String King, who breezed a half mile in 51.80 at
Fair Grounds on Christmas Eve in his only recorded move since his nose
victory in the Turf Dec. 10. “I couldn’t
be happier with how he’s coming up to the race Saturday, and I’m not
concerned at all about the shorter distance he’s running Saturday.
only thing that bothers me about Saturday’s race is the weights,” said
Smith, immediately switching to a caveat worthy of consideration.
“He’s going to be the youngest horse in there (foaled April 1, 2008),
but he’s being asked to carry the most weight (124 pounds).
Wildrally, who finished third, two noses behind us last
time, is dropping four pounds, and we’re picking up nine. That’s a
13-pound swing in the weights. Wildrally is a good horse. He won the
Dixie Poker Ace last
the weights Saturday that have me worried,” said Smith. “The distance
Saturday does not. You know the old saying, ‘Weight will stop a
Smith, 65, a
native, bought his first horse as a Thoroughbred owner back in 1973. He
suffered through some heartbreaking initial setbacks as a breeder, but
stuck with his game plan and is now in
a position to reap further rewards. However, the hard years have also
inspired the necessary economic prescience of Smith’s dream, as
evidenced by his travel plans for the upcoming weekend.
still in Haughton, so I plan to leave at about six o’clock Saturday
morning to come over to Fair Grounds,” Smith said. “The hotel where
we stayed three weeks ago was $30 a night that time, but when I called
that hotel back to see if I could reserve a room for this trip they
wanted more than $200 a night for the same room. I guess that’s because
of that (BCS) Bowl game Monday. So I think we’ll
be looking for a room in Covington.”
DIXIE POKER ACE STILL BEING DEALT THE GOOD LIFE AT 25
Sebastien Farm silks were sported when Dixie Poker Ace
won the first three runnings of Fair Grounds’ $100,000 Louisiana Champions
Day Turf in the early ‘90s,
but it is Lora Pitre, owner/manager of
Peach Lane Farms in
Opelousas, Louisiana, who has made sure the gallant gelding has enjoyed a
successful retirement since his profit-producing years came to an end.
has taken care of Dixie Poker Ace for the last 16 years of his life,
and is still able to report good news about the gelding’s life since
he came under her care about six months after he stopped racing.
getting old, and he’s starting to show his age,” said Pitre of Dixie
Poker Ace, who has Saturday’s Fair Grounds featured stakes race named
in his honor. “He’s been getting a little grayer around the muzzle
lately, and he’s lost some teeth, but he still gets around pretty good.
Sometimes, when we go to catch him in his paddock, he’s still able to
run away if that’s what he feels like doing that
important thing is, he’s still a happy horse,” said Pitre. “He eats
everything he’s given and he’s still enjoying his life. As long as
that’s the case, we’re going to try to keep him around as long as we
Pitre has about 100 horses on her farm, including a handful of
stallions, a number of boarders and a host of broodmares, that equine
total includes a baker’s dozen of retirees in addition to Dixie Poker
“Those guys deserve a place to live, too,” said Pitre. “I don’t make any money on them.”