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String King Pointing to LCD

NEW ORLEANS (Friday, Nov. 23, 2012) – As the registered owner of String King, hero of Thursday’s Mr. Sulu Stakes, the native Louisianan is listed in Daily Racing Form as  Charles Craig Smith. As the horse’s trainer he is down as Charles C. Smith and as the 4-year-old gelding’s breeder his name reads Charlie Smith, but rest assured, the owner, trainer and breeder of String King are all the same person.

Charlie Smith is a good old boy, born in Mansfield 66 years ago but now living in Haughton, just a bike ride away from the Bossier City backstretch at Louisiana Downs. He bought his first horse back in 1973. Eventually he bred that mare and she had a foal that Smith was looking forward to racing but that foal had to be put down before ever getting to the races.

Undaunted, Smith stuck with the game as an owner and breeder, but he didn’t officially take out his trainer’s license until about 14 months ago.

When Fair Grounds hosted its annual Louisiana Champions Day last year, and String King outfought two other rivals for a nose tally in the 2011 Champions Day Turf, Smith was asked in a winner’s circle interview if the race was his first stakes victory as a trainer.

“Actually, it was my first win ever,” Smith said, and that’s how the “feel good” story of String King and Smith began. On Opening Day of Fair Grounds’ 2012-2013 meeting, that story continued with its latest chapter – a two-length victory by String King in the Mr. Sulu.

“He’s a gutsy little horse, and I believe he’s getting better as he gets older,” Smith said on Black Friday, speaking from his vehicle on I-49 as he neared his home town Haughton. “But one thing he’s not doing is getting better in the paddock. It took three of us to saddle him yesterday, and he was dripping wet when we finally got the saddle on him. I was a little concerned that, as wet as he was, it would affect his race, but it didn’t bother him at all.

“I don’t know why he does that,” Smith said. “He’s not a hard horse to handle around the barn at all – he only acts up like that when he’s in the paddock before a race.

“When he needed a published work the other day (a bullet half-mile in 47.80 Nov. 15) he did it like a real pro,” Smith said. “All Kenny Hargrave did was smooch to him and he just took off on his own. We got him galloping out in 1:03 and change. His gallop-out was just as strong as his work. He really likes to run, and he really likes to win. I think when he won the Turf last year he got the win just because he was the horse that wanted it the most.

“He’s always been a sound horse,” Smith added. “I’d like to say that he’s sound as a dollar but the dollar isn’t that sound anymore. He’s sounder than the dollar.”

For Smith, the big question after his Mr. Sulu win was what would be his next race and Smith answered that it would come on 2012 Louisiana Champions Day Dec. 8 –  either in a defense of last year’s $100,000 Turf title or possibly in this year’s $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic.

“It’s still a toss up,” said Smith Friday of that upcoming decision. “I’ll be looking around to see who is going where and what the post positions are before I decide. I’ll probably have to enter in both races and pay both entry fees. But I guess you can’t really complain about that when you’re running for all that money.

“Everybody tells me, ‘You know you got the best turf horse – why risk going in the Classic?’” Smith said. “But this horse has run some pretty impressive races on dirt, too. So I still haven’t completely made up my mind.

“One thing I will keep in mind, however, is that this horse has developed a pretty good following since we came here last year,” Smith concluded. “They are the betting public, and they are the people who keep this game going. They are the people who might be betting their money on my horse and I don’t want any of them to be disappointed.”