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Breeders' Cup 2017

Star Guitar, String King Strut on LA Champions Day

String King and jockey James Graham (black cap) puts his nose in front of Kissimmee Kyle and Wildrally to win the 21st running of the Louisiana Day Turf at Fair Grounds.  Hodges Photography / Amanda Weir

The shooting Star Guitar keeps ascending – higher and higher for Brittlyn Stable as the quest to become the top Louisiana-bred money winner of all time continues.


The hero of the last two $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classics made it three straight in the showcase event on Saturday’s Louisiana Champions Day at Fair Grounds, while also extending his Champions Day victory skein to five following victories in the 2007 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile and 2008 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint.


Undefeated this year, the 6-year-old “Star” – an entire son of Quiet American – is also the winner of his last seven straight and shows no signs of slowing down following his 1 1/4-length win Saturday. The increasingly rich Louisiana-bred, already second among the state’s all-time Thoroughbred money earners, inched closer to Stewart Madison’s Happy Ticket at the top of the list and the wins just seem to keep on coming. Star Guitar has now earned $1,515,862, while Happy Ticket gets the top billing with $1,688,838.


What impresses trainer Al Stall Jr. the most about Star Guitar?


“The fact that he’s still here,” said Stall, who was saddling his second winner of 2011 Champions Day. “He’s never gotten sour after all these years and he just keeps on doing what he loves to do.”


Star Guitar paid $3.20, $2.10 and $2.10 as the fan favorite once again, covering the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:53.15 following the deliberate early fractions of 25.32 and 50.92 established by Walter New, David and Britton Richardson’s longshot Break Up, who hung on gamely until the late stages and finished third.


Klaravich Stable and William Lawrence’s Populist Politics rallied as expected in the late stages of the Classic to gain the runner-up spot, paying $2.10 and $2.10 while three-quarters of a length to the good of Break Up, who returned $3 in the show spot.


How did Star Guitar’s winning jockey Corey Lanerie feel when he remained in second position as Break Up led the way into the lane?


“For one moment at the top of the stretch when Break Up sprinted out for a few strides, I went ‘uh-oh,’” said Lanerie, “but then (Star Guitar’s) class came out. It’s his whole mentality, like he knows he’s the best out there, and then he just goes out and runs his race.”


Stamping himself as the budding Louisiana-bred “star of tomorrow” on Saturday was Brittlyn Stables’s Beanwah’smachine, who captured the 21st running of the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile to keep his undefeated record intact in the third start of his career. Trained by Al Stall Jr. and ridden by Shane Sellers, Beanwah’smachine tucked in behind the leaders early, swung to the outside under Sellers when set down for the drive and proved best by a half-length over Coteau Grove Farms’ Masculino. 


“I’ve been getting on this horse since Shreveport and I know him pretty well,” said Sellers. “I knew I wasn’t going to be on the lead, but I was able to ride the horse with confidence because I know what he can do and I know what Al can do with a horse. When you ride for Al, you ride with confidence.”


Beanwah’smachine toured the six furlongs in 1:11.66 and returned $3.60, $2.60 and $2.40, while Masculino returned $5.60 and $3.80 and Stephen Peterson’s Validfromthegitgo paid $5.40 for finishing third.


In the 20th renewal of the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf, Charles Craig Smith, who owns, trains and bred the victorious String King, out-fought Red Oak Stable’s favored Kissimmee Kyle as well as Charles Zacney and Edward Johnston’s Wildrally in a dramatic three-horse photo of nose margins, racing between those two rivals under very strong handling by jockey James Graham.


String King paid mutuels of $10.20, $5.20 and $4, and got the about 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:45.40 over a Stall-Wilson turf course rated firm, while Kissimmee Kyle returned $4 and $3 and Wildrally, who won the Turf in 2008, paid $4.20 to show. 


When asked if it was his first stakes win as a trainer, Smith stunned the Fair Grounds crowd by replying: “It’s my first win ever (as a trainer). I was a little bit surprised. This horse was a little slow coming around for me, but he’s come along very well lately.”


The first real upset on the Thoroughbred portion of the state-bred stakes program came when Walter New’s Izzie’s Gold won the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie while paying a win price of $86.40, although that was no surprise to owner-breeder New, who was part of the group that won the 2008 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile with Break Up at 68-1, well before that horse finished third in the 2011 Champions Day Classic. After breaking in stride under the Louisiana-based veteran reinsman Gerard Melancon, Izzie’s Gold carved out fractions of 22.30 and 46.25 before coming home the six furlongs in 1:11.86 for trainer Brett Brinkman.


In the second legitimate upset of the day – in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint as the last Champions Day event – Northpointe Thoroughbreds’ Amanecer de Oro, trained by Steven Duke and ridden by John Jacinto, lit up the tote board with mutuels of $64.20, $28 and 10.40 after earning victory by a length over Raintree Farm’s pacesetting Bold Recruit, who got early splits of 21.81 and 44.69 and paid $12.80 and $7. 


In the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies, Coteau Grove Farms’ Harlie’s Dreams, trained by Pat Devereux Jr., responded to the urgings of seven-time Fair Grounds riding champion Robby Albarado to post a nose victory over Fletcher Clement and Dennis Milligan’s favored Lawyer Tiffany, who gained the advantage between calls in the lane but drifted out steadily in the late stages. The winner, third behind the favorite in their last meeting, got the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:47.02 and returned $9.60 as the second choice in the wagering.


In the other state-bred event for members of the distaff set – the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint – Carl Moore Management’s Speedacious, trained by Bret Calhoun and ridden by Miguel Mena, overtook favored Little Polka Dot, owned by Maggi Moss, in the late stages of the dash for older fillies and mares and got the six furlongs in 1:10.68 while winning by 1 3/4-lengths and paying $6.80 straight as the second choice of the fans. Speedacious won the 2009 Champions Day Lassie.


In the $50,000 Starter, opening the Thoroughbred stakes portion of Saturday’s state-bred program, Robert Orth and Wesley Hawley’s odds-on favorite Get in Da House, trained by Wes Hawley and ridden by Miguel Mena, tallied by 1 1/2-lengths at the wire while paying $3.20 to win after covering the mile and 70 yard distance in 1:43.70.


The day began with three Grade II stakes for Louisiana-bred Quarter Horses, with Awholeseparategame ($9) winning the Quarter Horse Derby as the opener, Coors Select taking the Quarter Horse Juvenile ($7.80) in the second half of the Daily Double, while Louisiana Rangler upset the field of older horses in the Quarter Horse Classic with a $70 win mutuel.


There was no single-ticket winner in the Black Gold 5, resulting in a $46,946 carryover going into Sunday’s 10-race program beginning at 12:40 p.m. CST.

Photo - Hodges Photography / Amanda Weir



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