Louisiana Champions Day Recap

Louisiana Champions Day Recap
Photo: Bob Mayberger/Eclipse Sportswire


Brittlyn Stable’s Sunbean, a contestant in last spring’s Grade II Louisiana Derby as well as other graded stakes, returned to Louisiana-bred company and winning ways again by nosing out Charles Craig Smith’s String King in Saturday’s 23rd running of the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.  This Classic, played out under rainy skies and in sloppy going, annually serves as the main event on the New Orleans oval’s traditional annual series dedicated to horses bred in the Pelican State but this edition proved one of the most exciting renewals in its history.

Sunbean, ridden by Richard Eramia and trained by Ron Faucheux, traded head bobs with the James Graham-ridden and Charlie Smith-conditioned String King in the late stages of the stretch run before narrowly prevailing at the wire in a finish too close to call by the naked eye.  One of only two sophomores in the race facing older rivals, Sunbean paid $4.60 $3, and $2.60, touring the sloppy nine-furlongs in 1:53.39 and increased his career earnings to $378,900 with his sixth career win in 11 lifetime starts.

“We were together down the stretch,” said Eramia.  “I had a perfect trip. I knew the #1 horse (Glen Warren and Andrew Leggio Jr.’s Skip the Pinot) was going to go to the lead and the other (String King) would be close.  Everyone was going to be close no matter how you spin the race but we got it.”

String King’s owner-trainer-breeder Smith was magnanimous in defeat.

“You can’t be upset with an effort like that,” Smith said of his gallant gelding who paid $4.40 and $3.80 in the Classic after winning the 2012 and 2011 $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day -

Turfs. “He spotted us a little weight. We’ll have another day.  You can’t fault the horse.  He ran a hard race.  I just hate to come out on the short end of the stick.”

Skip the Pinot, who set the early fractions of 23.92 and 49.30 under clever handling by Mark Guidry, weakened to the third position in the late stages, finishing 1 ¼ lengths behind the top two.  He returned $3.


In Saturday’s main supporting feature, Glen Warren’s odds-on choice Hud’s Rebellion, trained by Andy Leggio Jr. and ridden by Rosie Napravnik, outdueled Harry Benoit’s Sadie’s Soldier in the final sixteenth of a mile to be best by 1 ½ lengths in the 22nd renewal of the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf over a Stall-Wilson turf course rated good.   

Hud’s Rebellion had been cross-entered in the Classic earlier in the week before Leggio opted for the Turf.

“We got lucky,” Leggio said of his mid-week decision scratching Hud’s Rebellion out of Classic.  “It (the Turf) kind of played out the way I thought it would.  I’m pretty satisfied with the way everything went.”

Winning owner and breeder Warren was pleased and added, “One nice thing about this horse is that he can run on dirt or turf and it really didn’t matter to us today what surface we ran on.”

Winning rider Napravnik was also happy with Hud’s Rebellion.

“He just loped along behind the pace keeping horses inside of us and then he made a big run” said Napravnik.  “He is doing really well.  This is a horse with a lot of class.”

Hud’s Rebellion returned mutuels of $3.40. $2.20 and $2.10, toured the distance in 1:48.34 and increased his career earnings to $236,356 with his sixth win in 15 lifetime starts.

Sadie’s Soldier held down the place position in the Turf, finishing a neck in front of My Three Sons Stable’s Sweet Baby Gaines.


In the first Thoroughbred race of the afternoon – the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie restricted to Louisiana-bred 2-year-old fillies – Circle H Farms’ Lexi’s Love, trained by Alan Klanfer and ridden brilliantly by Diego Saenz, got up in the last strides to best Roy Investments’ odds-on favorite All Woman by a head while increasing her earnings to $100,650 with her third win in five starts. She accomplished the six furlongs in 1:13.69.

In the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies, Charles Zacney and E. J. Johnston’s Ladyzarbridge defended her championship from last season and won it for the third time in the last four years.

Taking command at the break, Ladyzarbridge made the pace with splits of 25.04 and 50.08 under Rosie Napravnik and held off the late challenge of Cantrell Family Partnership’s Tensas Harbor by a neck, returning $12.20, $8 and $5.  Conditioned by co-owner Eddie Johnston, Ladyzarbridge accomplished the 1 1/16-miles over the good track in 1:46.73 and increased her career earnings to $431,114 with her eighth win in 28 lifetime starts.  Valene Farms’ Ante Up Annie got the third spot, finishing five lengths behind Tensas Harbor.

“When the #3 horse (Silent Legacy) didn’t go for the lead, I was caught by surprise,” said Napravnik, “but my filly loves running on the lead, she loves this race track and she really loves this race.”

In the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint, Ronny Werner et al.’s Guadalupe High, allowed to settle behind the leaders, challenged outside those when set down for the drive under clever handling by Gerard Melancon and held off Coteau Grove Farms’ Afternoon Tango.

The winner, trained by Ronnie Werner, paid $11.20, toured the six furlongs over the good track in 1:12.24 and increased her career earnings to $325,348 with her seventh win in 13 career starts.  Nicholas Abate and Darlene Peterson’s Mischievous Mama finished third, two lengths behind Afternoon Tango.

Dale Ladner Sittin At the Bar, heavily favored in the Ladies Sprint, didn’t hit the board.  “She just didn’t fire today,” said trainer Brett Brinkman. “The heaviness of the track may have been a concern.”

In the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile, Ide Be Cool, owned and trained by Henry Ray Dunn, kept his undefeated streak alive with a front-running seven-length score under jockey Chris Rosier for his fourth win in four career starts while increasing his career earnings to $189,600 while touring the six furlongs in 1:11.10 after early splits of 22.09 and 46.70.  He paid $7.20.

Coteau Grove Farms’ previously-undefeated Coteau Rouge finished second in the Juvenile, 1 ¼ lengths in front of Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch’s Dixie Beat.

In the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint, Rowell Enterprises’ Heitai, relishing the sloppy going, took command at the break, made the pace in early fractions of 22.00 and 45.45 and galloped home seven lengths to the good of Midwest Thoroughbreds’ favored Southern Dude with a final time of 1:11.64.

Overlooked in the wagering, Heitai, ridden by Diego Saenz and trained by Karl Broberg paid $32.60, increased his career earnings to $238,943 with his fourth win in 14 starts.

In the $50,000 Louisiana Champions Day Starter Handicap Stakes,  Hardy Racing Stables’ Raiseanothergator , ridden by Richard Eramia and trained by Keith Bourgeois, led throughout, getting the sloppy six furlongs in 1:45.28 and returning $6 for his 15 ½ length win.

Fair Grounds’ Louisiana Champions Day began with three graded stakes for Louisiana-bred American Quarter Horses, with T Boy C ($5) winning the Grade II Quarter Horse Derby in the opener.  The Game Cartel ($48.20) took the Grade II Quarter Horse Juvenile in the second half of the Daily Double before Bipty Dash ($14) won the Grade II Quarter Horse Classic as the third race of the day.


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