A pair of stakes victories on Louisiana Champions Day for the trainer-owner combo of Dallas Stewart and Valene Farms with Classy John in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile Stakes and Givemeaminit in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint Stakes highlighted a muddy but nevertheless exciting day of racing at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Saturday, December 8.
“I’m just so happy to train for Murray (Valene),” Stewart said “We’ve been working for him for about 10 years. He’s a great guy and always gives you nice horses to train. Both colts are super and they performed great today.”
The victories were also emotional for Valene.
“Classy John was special because he was named after my Dad who just passed away,” he said, “but my father’s favorite horse was (Givemeaminit), so we’re glad that it was a win. It was an exciting one because he came off of the pace this time.”
In the second stakes event of the card, Classy John ($2.20, $2.10 and $2.10) backed up his heavy favoritism when strolling home to a 4¼-length victory in the Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile Stakes.
Guided to victory by jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. over a sloppy main track, the 2-year-old son of Songandaprayer was never in doubt from the get go and glided home to victory under a hand ride in a time of 1:11.55. Jimi’s a Star ($5.40 and $4.00) was second and Calimambo ($3.40) took the show spot.
The Champions Day Juvenile was a second career victory in three starts for Classy John who broke his maiden against open company first time out at Saratoga on August 24 and was second against winners next out over the main track at Churchill Downs on November 10.
The victory moved Classy John’s lifetime earnings into the six-figure mark and now stands at $120,230, a massive return on investment from the $12,000 he was purchased for at this year’s Equine Sales of Louisiana Two-Year-Old Sale. He was bred by Tom Curtis and Wayne Simpson.
“We just let our horse be fast, stayed out of his way and he did what he thought he would do,” Hernandez, Jr. said. “He showed that he’s a good horse and showed his class. Dallas and Mr. Murray will talk things over and figure out the game plan with him.”
Later in the day, Stewart and Valene visited the Fair Grounds winner’s circle once more with Givemeaminit ($5.00, $3.40 and $2.40) who came from off the pace to take the Louisiana Champions Day Sprint Stakes.
The 3-year-old son of Star Guitar sat off the pace in the early stages, angled out at the three-sixteenth pole and hit his best stride in the final half of a furlong to gun down Divine Bean ($6.60 and $3.20) and Monte Man ($2.20).
Givemeaminit captured his second career victory on Saturday evening but had been up against salty graded stakes company all season long. His year began with an eight-length maiden win against Louisiana-breds on January 28 over the local main track. The Louisiana Champions Day Sprint was his 15th career start and the victory pushed his career earnings up to $374,580.
It was a second stakes victory of the day for jockey Corey Lanerie.
“At the top of the lane I thought I had him going real easy,” Lanerie said. “I thought I’d hit him a few times and hand ride him by. (Runner-up) Divine Bean gave me a fight for my money from the sixteenth pole home and my horse gutted it out and proved he was the best horse today.”
In other Louisiana Champions Day action, Mallory Greiner’s Underpressure, also ridden by Lanerie, rated mid-pack early in the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, took over off the final turn and held firm late.
Third beaten only a length for trainer Chris Richard by local legend Mobile Bay in last year’s Classic, Underpressure ($6.60, $3.80 and $2.40), a 4-year-old son of Birdstone, got the jump on runner-up Grande Basin ($5.60 and $2.80) before keeping that rival at bay late to score by 3 ½ lengths in final time of 1:52.82 for nine furlongs over a sloppy main track. It was five lengths further back to the 9-5 post time favorite Mageez in third ($2.40).
Underpressure (25-8-6-6) elevated his career earnings to $468,132.
“Obviously we wanted to be up a little closer and were hoping that he would break running,” Lanerie said. “He broke a little sluggish and I had to ride with the cards that I was dealt and let him run his own race early. At about the half-mile pole I engaged him and had a lot of horse. I was watching the horse in front of me I saw Colby on a lot of horse with (Autumn Warrior).
“I moved him (Underpressure) a touch early to get up to his outside and try to hold my ground and it worked out today. I thank (trainer) Chris (Richard) for letting me ride him and getting him ready. My whole family is here today rooting us on and it’s great to have them here today.”
On Underpressure's performance, Richard added: “He’s just a model of consistency. He gives you everything he’s got every single time. We ran against Mobile Bay a couple of times last year and came close to him. Obviously he’s probably one of the greatest Louisiana-breds ever, if not the greatest Louisiana-bred ever.
“For him to break through in this race on Champions Day, I’m just ecstatic for him. I felt pretty good about it. I just drew a line through his last race, a lot of things didn’t go his way last time. It’s just his ultra-consistency. He tries so hard and I felt really good that we had a really legit shot today to get it done.”
Other Louisiana Champions Day winners included Our to Run in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint Stakes, Magic Vow in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day (off the) Turf, Remember Daisy in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies, and Midnight Fantasy in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie Stakes.