“The older he gets, the better and stronger he’s getting,” said trainer Al Stall Jr. this week of the homebred 4-year-old son of Quiet American who won the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile in 2007 and the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint in 2008.
However, Star Guitar is not confined to state-bred racing. He has also proved competitive in open company, finishing third, beaten less than two lengths, in Churchill’s Grade III Alysheba Stakes on Kentucky Oaks Day May 1 and winning the $150,000 Evangeline Mile last Aug. 15.
Stall is quick to dismiss Star Guitar’s disappointing effort in Fair Grounds’ Grade II New Orleans Handicap last March 14 because of a combination of factors, including an outside post and the lack of an opportunity to save any ground.
“He came back to finish in front of a lot of those same horses in the Alysheba,” Stall explained. “Star Guitar is who he is,” the trainer had said following a bullet five-furlong breeze in a minute flat late last month but prior to Sunday’s maintenance half-mile move in 51.20. “He pretty much trains himself. All I have to do is stay out of his way.”
LADIES: Superior Storm One More Superior Louisiana-Bred
Jac Mac Stable’s Superior Storm is another Louisiana-bred on the cusp of joining the Louisiana Champions Day three-time winners club should she annex Saturday’s $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies after winning last year’s renewal. Two years ago she captured the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie.
However, she is also another Louisiana-bred who has proved competitive in open company, finishing second in Oaklawn’s Grade I Apple Blossom last April 4, and was then runner-up by a length in Lone Star’s Grade III Ouija Board Handicap May 25.
“All I can tell you is that the way she’s been training, she’s sitting on go,” said trainer Richard Jackson, speaking over the phone from Hot Springs, Arkansas, Tuesday morning. “She’s already down there at Fair Grounds and is stabled in Morris Nicks’ barn. I’ll get down there Friday night and be there for the race on Saturday.”
Superior Storm was also one of the original nominations to Saturday’s $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint, so Jackson was asked about her versatility.
“She’ll do whatever you ask her to do,” said Jackson. “She can sprint or go long, and I don’t get concerned about track conditions either, but this race (the Ladies) is the one we have really been pointing to for awhile.”
TURF: Former Louisiana Champions Day Turf Winner Desert Wheat to Try Again
Wachtel Stables, Brous Stables and Jerry Lee’s Desert Wheat won the Louisiana Champions Day Turf in 2006, finished third in that race’s 2007 renewal and was then second in last year’s running behind GAL Racing’s Wildrally, who he must face again Saturday.
“Basically, Desert Wheat always runs the same race,” said Mike Kaetzel, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott after Desert Wheat captured his second straight $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes last month. “He always tries his best, and he’s always right there at the finish, but he doesn’t always get the win. But the one thing you can always count on his best effort.”
JUVENILE: Stall Set With Two Chances
In addition to having good chances in both the Classic (Star Guitar) and the Ladies (Miss Bean Wah), trainer Al Stall Jr. has two live colts in the Juvenile and a fast filly for the Lassie. The $100,000 Juvenile will be an especially competitive contest, with 13 colts and geldings entered for the six-furlong sprint. A large field of lightly raced horses can present a whole host of trip problems, which is partly why Stall hopes to have his youngsters sharp for Saturday’s stakes.
“These races play off the break, that’s the whole thing,” Stall said. “You have to leave there sharp and if you’ve got some horse and can get into a good position that usually means you’ll run 1-2-3.”
All three of Stall’s juveniles racing Saturday have received some form of gate work since their most recent starts. My Three Sons Stable’s Can’t Complain, the Leestown gelding who ended up a five-length winner at first asking in a state-bred maiden special weight on opening weekend, could prove better with a cleaner start.
“He missed the break a hair the other day but then he just kind of took off,” Stall said. “He’s got a chance to improve off that race if he gets himself a little bit more organized. I think he’ll run well.”
Handicappers that might be concerned about a “bounce” off of Can’t Complain’s big effort need not worry, according to the trainer. “He’s the type of horse that wins first-time out,” Stall said. “He’s always trained like a speed horse. That’s what makes a ‘first-time-out’ trainer is simply having the types of horses that win first time out. He’s always been sharp so we just let him do his thing first-time out.”
Curt Bourque, who rode both of Stall’s entrants in their most recent starts, will be aboard Can’t Complain on Saturday.
Stall’s other entrant in the Juvenile is Michele Rodriguez’s Mr. Wildlee, a recent arrival to the barn following a third-place effort in the Nov. 6 $250,000 Louisiana Legacy at Delta Downs.
“We got him a couple weeks ago and he’s a nice looking horse,” Stall said. “He came to us in nice condition so we just kept him happy and tuned him up a little bit. We pulled the blinkers off for no real reason, just to see how it goes. He’s a pretty straightforward horse and was in nice shape so we just try to stay out of his way. He already has the experience so all we have to do is maintain him. We like him a lot.”
Mr. Wildlee, by Wildcat Shoes, will be ridden by Robby Albarado.
LASSIE: Sheza Sexy A.P. Back On Game After Oklahoma Disapoointment
Tri-Star Racing’s Sheza Sexy A.P. proved that she was back on her game at Fair Grounds last month in an impressive first-level state-bred allowance win that earned her a shot in Saturday’s $100,000 Lassie. One start prior, in the $52,000 E.L. Gaylord Memorial at Remington Park, the A.P. Delta filly faded to a distant seventh-place finish, her second consecutive disappointing effort.
“I took her to Remington Park and between the lights and her first time being fresh, it just blew her mind,” trainer Wes Hawley said. “As soon as we led her up there to the grandstand she got pumped up. I could tell by the way she was acting when we got to the paddock that she might not run well. But I always knew she had talent. We came back here and I entered her in a ‘non-winners-of-two’ for $20,000, knowing I could take a base on balls, but the race didn’t go. So we entered her in the allowance race and she wins.”
Sheza Sexy A.P. had an impressive final work in anticipation of Saturday’s race, a half-mile breeze in :48 4/5 on Sunday that was the fifth-fastest of 99 works at the distance.
“She did that with her neck bowed, so I like my chances,” Hawley said. “It was a perfect move six days out and we couldn’t be happier with the way she’s coming into the race.”
Jamie Theriot, who was aboard for the Nov. 21 win here, has the return call on Sheza Sexy A.P.
Among Sheza Sexy A.P.’s chief rivals is Red Oak Stable’s Shezacrazygirl, undefeated in two starts, including a two-length win in the $250,000 Louisiana Jewel at Delta Downs last month.
“We picked her up right after the race at Delta,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said. “That was a nice phone call to get. She’s a first-class kind of horse, very fit, very agile. She’s trained just right and has a wonderful attitude.”
Red Oak Stable is the nom de course of John Brunetti, owner of Hialeah Park. “I’m glad somebody would put a horse like this in our program,” Stall said. “We’re here year-round so that we can have days like this.”
Shezacrazygirl, by Ide, worked five furlongs over a “good” track Saturday in 1:03 1/5. “She did it in hand and we didn’t let her rip at all, obviously,” Stall said. “The only thing I’ve done to her a little different is, backing down from a two-turn race to a sprint, I’ve tried to get her to where I think she might be a little more explosive.”
Robby Albarado takes over the riding assignment aboard Shezacrazygirl on Saturday.
LTBA to Award 10 Scholarships Worth $1,000 Each on Louisiana Champions Day
The Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association will award 10 scholarships each valued at $1,000 during the races on Louisiana Champions Day at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. College students are invited to Louisiana Champions Day to register to win one out of the ten scholarships. There will be a drawing after each race beginning with the second race of the day. Students must register before the first race at a designated booth and must be present to win.
“The Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association is pleased to make an investment in the future of our state by investing in the education process,” said Tom Early, CEO for the LTBA.