Barn Notes: Sunday, December 15

IN TODAY'S NOTES: TRAINERS SMITH, FAUCHEUX EXEMPLIFY BEST OF GAME; LADYZARBRIDGE QUEEN FOR A LOUISIANA CHAMPIONS DAY LADIES AGAIN; JOCKEY JOSE RIQUELME SIDELINED WITH FOUR BROKEN TOES

On the morning after the 23rd  Louisiana Champions Day at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the first two horses that finished a nose apart in the $150,000 Louisiana Champion Day Classic in one of that race’s most exciting editions were both doing well after running their respective hearts out.

Brittlyn Stable’s Sunbean, a 3-year-old facing older rivals, was the nose victor in the race, while Charles Craig Smith’s String King, a two-time $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf winner, readily accepted the challenge of an unfamiliar sloppy main track to miss Classic laurels amidst a series of alternating head bobs.

“We’re just extremely happy with the result,” said Sunbean’s trainer Ron Faucheux during training hours Sunday morning.  “When I saw the race live, I thought we won it, but to be perfectly honest, when I watched the race on replay I couldn’t tell which horse won it.

“We just have to take our hats off to String King and his connections,” said Faucheux.  “That horse is a very good horse and he is in excellent hands.  He certainly showed that yesterday.

“We’re not sure yet what’s next for Sunbean, but I think we’ll keep him in state-bred company for now,” Faucheux said.  “We have some options – maybe Premier Night at Delta (Feb. 1) or possibly the ($60,000) Star Guitar here (March 1.)  He loves Fair Grounds.”

Some distance away in another barn, owner-trainer-breeder Charlie Smith was preparing to drive back his Haughton, Louisiana, home while his horse String King would stay behind for a few more days.

 “It’s just a shame one of us had to lose,” said Smith, “and I’m even more sorry that it was me.  But we’ll live to fight another day.  Both horses ran their hearts out.  I admit I was a little concerned about the sloppy track before the race, but (jockey) James (Graham) put him in the best spot on the track to give him a chance.”

Smith, who owns a body shop in northwest Louisiana while dabbling with minor investments in the racing game, probably lost $30,000 in purse money (assuming String King would have won his third straight Turf)  by gambling on the main track challenge, but he didn’t lose his sense of humor.

“You have to give a lot of credit to Evelyn (Benoit, who owns Brittlyn in partnership with her husband Maurice), said Smith. “She’s put a lot of money into this business developing good Louisiana-bred horses and advertising Louisiana-bred racing.  In fact, she may need that winner’s purse money even more than I do.

“Floyd (String King) is doing fine this morning,” Smith said.  “His ankles, knees and hocks are all good, and he’s eaten everything we’ve put in front of him.  I think we’ll give him a little R & R right now and then try and bring him back for the (Grade III) Col. Bradley (Handicap Jan. 18).

Floyd?  Where did that nickname come from?

“Well, I used to call him ‘Pretty Boy,’” said Smith, “but he used to be so nasty I told myself he’s too ornery to be called Pretty Boy, and Floyd was the next thing that came into my mind – you know, after the gangster.”

LADYZARBRIDGE QUEEN FOR A LOUISIANA CHAMPIONS DAY LADIES ONCE AGAIN —Trainer Eddie Johnston was understandably in fine fettle Sunday morning during training hours at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, considering that Ladyzarbridge, the mare he co-owns with Charles Zacney,had just won her third$100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies in the last four years on Saturday.

“I’m doing great today,” said Johnston.  “Having a winner – there’s nothing like it.  She’s been training good lately.  I just hope we can keep her going like this.  She’s doing great today and ate up great, and I thought Rosie (Napravnik) gave her a great ride yesterday.

“I suppose we’ll think about running her in state-bred company at Delta in February,” Johnston said, “and then bring her back here at the end of the meet – maybe in the ($60,000) Red Camelia (over the Stall-Wilson turf course March 22.)  She likes the grass almost as much as she likes the dirt here.  The only thing she doesn’t like is hot weather.  The temperature yesterday was something like 65 degrees but I would have liked it better if it was six (degrees.)”

JOCKEY JOSE RIQUELME SIDELINED WITH FOUR BROKEN TOES—Louisiana-based jockey Jose Riquelme, who won the first race of the season at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots aboard 3EJ Racing Stable’s Maid For War  for trainer Merlin Marechal and a $23.20 payoff, has been sidelined by four broken toes in his right leg, an injury he suffered during training hours last week.

“I don’t know yet how long I’ll be out,” Riquelme said Sunday morning.  “I go to see my doctor tomorrow morning.”