Home of the Louisiana Derby

Barn Notes: Thursday, December 11

IN TODAY'S NOTES: SUNBEAN FEELING LIKE A MILLION DOLLARS FOR THE CLASSIC; WIND CHILL FACTOR BRINGS CLASS INTO LASSIE; GANTRY LOOKS TO RETURN TO FORM IN THURSDAY FEATURE

SUNBEAN FEELING LIKE A MILLION DOLLARS FOR THE CLASSIC

            Brittlyn Stable’s Sunbean will look to become only the sixth millionaire in the history of Louisiana-bred thoroughbreds on Saturday when the 4-year-old gelding defends his title in the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic against 4 other charges.  If he does so, it will be his third added-money victory in just six weeks.

            “He’s doing really good right now,” said trainer Ron Faucheux.  “We have every reason to run him.  He’s training really well and we can probably give him about two months after this to freshen him.  We’re going to go for it.”

            Faucheux’s confidence is not without substance.  Sunbean is firing on all cylinders recently – including two open-length wins in stakes races at Delta Downs.  Last out, the son of Brahms defeated the likes of stakes winners Agent Di Nozzo and Grand Contender with utter surety by five widening lengths in the $250,000 Delta Mile.  Said victory boosted the bay charge’s career earnings to $910,150 – making the $90,000 guaranteed purse to the winner of Saturday’s Classic just enough to cross the $1 million threshold. 

            “The Louisiana Champions Day Classic is a huge race for us,” Faucheux continued.  “This is the race you want to win every year if you’re in Louisiana.  It’s an added bonus if he gets it done and becomes a millionaire.  It would be a big deal for my stable, as we’ve never trained a horse who earned a million dollars.  Hopefully he can.”

            Faucheux will also start the come-backing Watch My Smoke, whom he co-owns with Cherie Munna.  The 6-year-old son of Leestown has not started since July of 2013, but was second in the 2012 Classic and has hit the board in six of eight Fair Grounds starts. 

            “He’s a talented horse and coming off the layoff you never know,” Faucheux said.  “We hope he returns to his previous form and gets a piece of it.”        

WIND CHILL FACTOR BRINGS CLASS INTO LASSIE

Gary Scherer and Al and Bill Ulwelling’s Wind Chill Factor brings substantial back-class and a nice bankroll into Saturday’s $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie.  The daughter of Successful Appeal only has three starts, but she has an easy victory over maiden special weight company at Canterbury Park in August, a third to two stakes-quality fillies in a Keeneland allowance in October and a romping 5¾-length win last out in the $150,000 Louisiana Jewel at Delta Downs.  On Saturday, she puts those credentials to the test as one of the favorites while breaking from the outside 12-post.

“She’s coming in pretty good,” said Scherer, who also trains the juvenile filly.  “It’s always a concern coming back on three-weeks’ rest, but this was always the next target for the program she’s on, being a Louisiana-bred 2-year-old.  The outside (post) worries me a little.  She doesn't break too well half the time.  If she can save some ground, it’ll be up to her down the stretch.  At Keeneland she was aggressive and showed a lot of speed, but in the last race she settled.”

After her facile debut victory, she was given two months off and returned to finish a good third behind the highly regarded stakes-placed Sarah Sis and the equally touted Lovely Maria.  The latter, considered to be one of the best juvenile fillies in the Larry Jones barn, returned last week at Fair Grounds to run a huge race while second to stakes-quality sprint filly and Keeneland maiden winner Toutsie Rules.  Wind Chill Factor held her own against these fillies, finishing a good third in the nine-horse field.

She returned six weeks later at Delta Downs as the 6-5 favorite and dismantled the field of eight fillies – including fellow Lassie entrant Private Promise – by nearly six lengths, while also making her two-turn debut.  On Saturday, she will cut back to six furlongs.

“The routing victory was a bit of a surprise,” Scherer said.  “I have a full-sister and a half-brother and her sister (three-time stakes-winner) Polar Plunge was really good.  You never know if you can strike lightning twice with the same breeding.  They loved her at the farm when she was young and when we got her she was always very smart.  It took her a while to figure it out, but when we breezed her three-furlongs with company we knew we had something.

“I’m hoping she’s as good as we hope she is,” Scherer concluded.  “Hopefully she can cut back to a sprint and get it done.”

GANTRY LOOKS TO RETURN TO FORM IN THURSDAY FEATURE

Ron Faucheux took a moment Thursday morning to reflect on his star sprinter, Brittlyn Farm’s graded stakes winner and $824,331 earner Gantry who runs Thursday afternoon in a salty allowance race over 5½ grassy furlongs.  Two weeks ago, the gelded son of Pulpit ran a surprisingly dull race in the $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap – finishing fifth beaten 11¼ lengths by longtime rival Delaunay.   

“He was really fresh last time and we probably didn’t train him hard enough going into the race,” Faucheux explained.  “I don’t think he was 100% fit.  Wheeling him back and consistently galloping him into this race should really sharpen him.  He really hasn’t fired his race in the last three starts.  Hopefully we can get him back with this race.” 

After running in a tough edition of the Thanksgiving – against three other graded stakes winners – in what was his first race since June, the 7-year-old now will jump out of the proverbial frying pan and into the fire when he switches surfaces in Thursday’s allowance and runs against the likes of Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint runner-up Unbridled’s Note and two-time Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner and multiple graded stakes-winner Sum of the Parts. 

“There aren’t many easy spots here at the Fair Grounds,” Faucheux said.  “You have to roll with it and hope for the best.”