NEW ORLEANS (Saturday, November 14, 2009) – Louisiana-bred Desert Wheat, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and patiently ridden by Corey Lanerie, came from far back with a strong stretch run to capture Saturday’s featured $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes at Fair Grounds by 2 3/4–lengths.

The Mr. Sulu, designed as a prep for the upcoming $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf Dec. 12, was contested at about 1 1/16-miles over a firm Stall-Wilson turf course and Desert Wheat toured the distance in 1:45.01. The Mott trainee, owned by Wachtel Stable, Brous Stable and Jerry Lee, used the same late charge to win last year’s inaugural running of the Mr. Sulu, but that race was taken off the turf and run on the main track.

“I thought the race would set up good for us,” said Lanerie after the race. “He started running for me right at about the five-eighths pole, and then when I asked him in the stretch, he just exploded.

“He was himself again, today,” added Lanerie of the 6-year-old son of Wheaton, who had not won since last year’s Mr. Sulu but was visiting the winner’s circle for the 10th time in 47 lifetime starts.

Desert Wheat returned mutuels of $10.40, $5 and $3.40 and increased his career earnings to $608,001.

“He really likes it here,” said Mott’s assistant trainer Mike Kaetzel. “He did train better coming into this race than he did last year. I think it’s because we gave him a few months off since that last race. He was a little dull in that one. He can run on turf or dirt, so you never know (about his next start). It’ll be whatever Bill wants to do with him.”

Hardy Farms’ Nowandforevermore rallied boldly to be clearly second best, finishing a 1 3/4-lengths to the good of S A S Partners’ Lee’s Spirit. Nowandforevermore paid $5.40 and $3.80, while Lee’s Spirit returned $8 to show.

Robert Asaro Enterprises’ High Toned made the early pace with splits of 24.16 and 49.43 but weakened to finish fourth in the final furlong.

The Mr. Sulu was named in honor of one of only two Thoroughbreds to win three times on Louisiana Champions Day. Aldridge (Red) McMurray, the former owner of Mr. Sulu and twice honored as Louisiana Breeder of the Year over a career that spanned more than 40 years, died at his Folsom, Louisiana, home Saturday at the age of 74.

Flashy Wise Cat wins Champions Day Sprint prep
Saturday’s eighth race, a prep for the upcoming Louisiana Champions Day Sprint on Dec. 12, was won by Lee Young Farm’s Flashy Wise Cat, who paid $13.40 to win while running the six furlongs in 1:09.62

Racing resumes Sunday at Fair Grounds’ 2009-2010 Thoroughbred Racing Season presented by Miller Lite with a 10-race program with a first post time of 12:30 p.m.