Star Guitar Shines on Champions Day

Star Guitar and Jockey Curt Bourque Delta Downs Premier Night
Photo: Steve Queen

Brittlyn Stable’s Star Guitar broke new ground in Louisiana Thoroughbred history at Fair Grounds on Saturday when he repeated his win of a year ago in the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, becoming the first horse to win four Louisiana Champions Day stakes races on an afternoon that was the 20th anniversary of Champions Day.


However, in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies run earlier in the afternoon, Ladyzarbridge, owned by Charles Zacney and Eddie Johnston and trained by Johnston, went to the front and never looked back under lady jockey Rosie Napravnik to upset Jac Mac Stable’s Superior Storm in her bid for her fourth Champions Day victory.


As the odds-on choice in the richest race of the afternoon, Star Guitar – dominant in his four-length tally – paid mutuels of $2.40, $2.10 and $2.10, accomplished the nine furlongs Saturday in 1:51.12, and went over the  $1 million mark in lifetime earnings ($1,065,958) with his 15th victory in 21 career starts.


“This feels great,” said trainer Al Stall Jr. in the winner’s circle amidst the large group surrounding owners Evelyn and Maurice Benoit and winning jockey Robby Albarado after Star Guitar’s win. “This is his (Star’s) home track where he can stretch his legs a little bit.”


Stall, incidentally, is also wrapping up an amazing second half of the breakthrough year in his career, topped by Blame’s win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic after Apart’s victory in the Super Derby six weeks before that.


In addition two his two Classic wins, Star Guitar won the 2008 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint and the 2007 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile.


Meanwhile, Ladyzarbridge’s victory over Superior Storm in the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies was a surprise to many, but not her jockey or her trainer.


“We get along with each other very well,” said jockey Napravnik in even tones while speaking of Ladyzarbridge in the winner’s circle after her filly’s upset front-running tally by 2 1/4-lengths for a $23 win payoff. “I was happy to get out there and see we didn’t have too much pressure.”


Co-owner and trainer Johnston concurred: “She (Ladyzarbridge) thrives on this racetrack. She loves training on it. I expected her to run good today but I didn’t know she’d run that good against a great filly (in Superior Storm).”


Jockey Albarado, aboard runner-up Superior Storm, offered no excuses in defeat, other than the soft pace Ladyzarbridge was able to enjoy.


“I had a great trip, just couldn’t get to the horse in front,” Albarado said. “Soft quarter, equally soft second quarter. (Superior Storm) just couldn’t get to the winner.”


Two races later in afternoon, trainer Johnston and jockey Napravnik combined their talents again, winning the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf by 1 3/4-lengths with Steve Hartman’s favored Snakebite Kit for a $5.60 payoff, accomplishing the about 1 1/16-mile distance over a firm Stall-Wilson turf course in 1:44.13.


Wachtel Stable, Brous Stable and J. D. Lee’s 7-year-old Desert Wheat, defending champion in the Turf and the second choice in the wagering, never launched a serious bid and finished fifth.


Also saddling two winners on the Champions Day program was trainer Tony Richey.


In the $50,000 Starter, which opened the Thoroughbred stakes portion of Saturday’s program, James Hanna’s favored Grey Papillon ($5.40) won by an ever-widening 16 3/4 lengths. Grey Papillon is trained by Richey, was ridden by Richard Eramia, and covered the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:44.80.


In the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie, Richey returned to the winner’s circle to pose with Danny Ray Butler’s Reyina, ridden by Jamie Theriot, who paid $38.60 to win as the longest price of the afternoon while getting the six furlongs in 1:12.23.


In the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile, favored Su Casa G Casa, owned by Thomas Galvin, trained by Bret Calhoun and ridden by Carlos Gonzalez, was kept to pressure but proved no disappointment to those who backed him, winning the dash by 2 3/4-lengths for a $5.20 straight price while touring the six furlongs in 111.86.


In the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint, Lee Young Farm’s Flashy Wise Cat, trained by Troy Young and ridden by Kerwin Clark, repeated his victory from last year’s Champions Day Sprint while getting the three-quarters in 1:10.58 and paying $11 to win.


In the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint, Southern Equine Stables’ Cajun Conference, trained by Eric Heitzmann and ridden by Miguel Mena, got up in the late stages for a 2 1/4-length win and a $20.80 win payoff while going six furlongs in 1:12.45.


The day began with three Grade 2 stakes for Louisiana-bred Quarter Horses, with Zoobilee ($13.60) winning the Quarter Horse Derby as the opener, Fast Dashin Dude ($9.60) taking the Quarter Horse Juvenile in the second half of the Daily Double, while Zupers Quick Dash ($6) captured the Quarter Horse Classic.




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