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Barn Notes: Monday, November 18
Charles Craig Smith, the owner-trainer-breeder of the Louisiana-bred-fan-favorite String King and his popular bay gelding are coming back to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots to ring in another season at the Crescent City oval.
The 142nd meeting at the New Orleans Thoroughbred oval gets underway Friday, but on Saturday Fair Grounds hosts the seventh running of the $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes at about one mile over the local lawn. As the event’s defending champion, String King will be in there to defend.
“He’s been doing pretty good all summer long,” said Smith, speaking over the phone from his Haughton, Louisiana, home-base of String King, who last appeared at Fair Grounds in open company March 30 to run a competitive third in the Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial, the main event of the Fair Grounds season for turf horses.
String King breezed three furlongs in 38.40 at Fair Grounds last Saturday with jockey James Graham aboard for the move
“I sent String King down last Tuesday,” said Smith. “He’s inKenny Hargrave’s barn right now. “I’ll probably get on the road Saturday morning, leaving Haughton at about 6 o’clock and get into New Orleans around 11 a.m., well before the races that day. He’s pretty fit right now so I haven’t had to do much with him. I just blow him out every once and awhile to keep his feet on the ground.
“He’s been running in some pretty good company all summer long,” added Smith, who sent out String King to run second by a neck in Louisiana Downs’ John Franks Memorial, win Evangeline’s Louisiana Legends Turf, make it two in a row back at Louisiana Downs in the Louisiana Cup Turf Classic, and most recently finish second by a neck in the Bossier City oval’s Unbridled Stakes Sept. 7.
Last season, String King parlayed his win the Mr. Sulu to another in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf at Fair Grounds and String King is nominated once again to that grass test at about 1 1/16-miles Dec. 14. It was String King’s second successful score in the Turf. However, Smith has also nominated String King to the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic to be run on the main track at nine furlongs that same afternoon.
“I want to see how the turf course holds up those first few weeks at Fair Grounds before I decide between the Classic and the Champions Day Turf,” said Smith. “We’ll just wait and see how everything is going before I make a decision about which of those two races we want to run in on Champions Day."
DELAUNAY GETS SATURDAY BREEZE —Maggi Moss’s Delaunay, who swept all three of the major local stakes for older sprinters last season on his way to Fair Grounds’ Horse of the Meeting honors, breezed a half-mile in 48.40 last Saturday at the local oval.
Delaunay, trained by 10-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Tom Amoss, won last season’s $100,000 Thanksgiving Handicap, the $75,000 F. W. Gaudin Memorial and the $150,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes. The 6-year-old gelding’s final time of 1:08.32 in the Kenner was the fastest six furlongs recorded at Fair Grounds since 2002.
Horse of the Meet and divisional honors were determined by a vote of media and racing officials.
Delaunay has been idle since finishing fourth in the Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap Aug. 4 at Saratoga.
This season’s 88th running of the Thanksgiving Handicap will be run on November 28.
LOUISIANA DERBY WINNER PANTS ON FIRE ARRIVES IN JAPAN—George and Lori Hall’s 2011 Grade II Louisiana Derby winner Pants On Fire arrived in Japan last Friday to compete in the upcoming Group I Japan Cup December 1.
Trained by Kelly Breen, Pants on Fire was ridden by defending jockey champion and three-time local leading rider Rosie Napravnik in the Louisiana Derby who became the first and only female jockey in Fair Grounds’ history to win the Louisiana Derby.
Pants on Fire most recently finished seventh in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile November 1 at Santa Anita.