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BARN NOTES: December 11, 2015

  • ·        Sunbean Returns to Work
  • ·        Lou Possibly Stakes-Bound After Allowance Score
  • ·        Tough Customer May Race Once More before 2016
  • ·        Mi Fiori Impresses in Long-Awaited Return
  • ·        Tom’s Ready Returns to Work Tab




Louisiana Champions Day being imminent, it seems only appropriate for living Louisiana legend Sunbean’s name to return to print. The Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots-beloved charge returned to the work tab for owner Brittlyn Stable and trainer Ron Faucheux on Sunday afternoon, working an easy three furlongs in 38.80. The move was his first recorded work since finishing a disappointing third in the $200,000 Louisiana Premier Night Championship on Feb. 7 at Delta Downs. A 12-time stakes winner – all in the state of Louisiana – within his 21-race career, the 5-year-old gelded son of Brahms has been patiently recuperating during the majority of 2015.

“He had a small tear in his tendon after his last race,” Faucheux said. “He had a couple stem cell treatments and we’ve taken our time coming back with him. Honestly he might look better than he ever has and is doing really well. The time off was good for him.”

Prior to his failed February foray at Delta, the 13-time winner of $1,020,150 won seven stakes during the course of 2014, including a second consecutive crowning in the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic. A six-time winner from nine Fair Grounds starts, Sunbean may be seen in the entries – if all goes well – before the end of the 2015-16 meet.

“We’ll look at getting him back for a race like the ($60,000) Star Guitar (Stakes on Mar. 26, Louisiana Derby Day) as a target,” Faucheux concluded.



Last Sunday’s second race began on paper as an intriguing match-up of seemingly equally promising 2-year-old turf fillies from adept barns and ended with a decisive victory from the leading conditioner on the grounds. Thad Ackel’s Mike Stidham-trained Lou, a good-looking homebred gray daughter of freshman sire and multiple champion Gio Ponti (below), stalked well under Florent Geroux before sprinting away from her rivals by four lengths in the one-mile contest.

Left in Lou’s wake were the well-bred duo of stablemate Siralen – a Cobra Farm-owned daughter of Majestic Warrior who completed the Stidham exacta – and Claiborne Farm’s homebred morning-line favorite Lope, from the Al Stall, Jr., barn. Also in the field was Eclipse Thoroughbreds’ Wayne Catalano-trained World Peace, a winner first out in her previous effort, who set the pace before fading to fourth.

“I have trained a lot of horses the last five or so years for Thad Ackel and he got her started at Indiana with Paul Holthus,” Stidham explained. “After she broke her maiden (at Ellis Park in a turf dash on Sept. 16), he sent her to me at Keeneland and we entered in a race that came off the turf. That day we found out if she was going to be strictly grass or not and got our answer when she finished fourth. We brought her to Fair Grounds and entered her in the first allowance we could.

“She’s still a little green and finding her way, but obviously has some talent,” he continued. “We’ll definitely stick with the grass. Without a 3-year-old filly stakes turf program here, we might send her to Florida to Gulfstream or Tampa. We’ve been in this boat before with talented horses like Upperline, Istanford and Willcox Inn.”



Brittlyn Stable’s Ron Faucheux-trained Tough Customer provided a nice return on investment for his connections on Saturday. The well-bred son of Giant’s Causeway was a private purchase this past fall from Gary and Mary West and trainer Wayne Catalano and won in his first start for his new connections by a widening 2½-length margin.

Tough Customer’s victory was his first around two turns and second of his career following a 5½-length debut victory at Churchill Downs on Sept. 26, 2014, that Catalano deemed impressive and undemanding enough to run him back eight days later to a fourth-place finish in the Grade I $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.

“He came out great,” Faucheux said. “We may run him one more time before the year’s up. He still has a condition and we also could think about entering him in the ($75,000) Woodchopper (Stakes on Dec. 26) with hopes of it coming off the turf. It was nice to get the win with him. He has a lot of talent.”

The Woodchopper is one of three stakes on the day after Christmas at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots and is expected to draw recent graded stakes winner Almasty, among others.



Trainer Mike Stidham has done little wrong so far this meet – and that includes winning with a 14-month absent maiden on Thursday’s card. The veteran conditioner and his team were visibly joyous after the well-regarded barn favorite Mi Fiori returned from more than a year layoff and throat surgery to win the eighth race by a clear two lengths under Patrick Valenzuela.

A daughter of Congrats bred in Kentucky by Highclere, Mi Fiori was a $50,000 purchase at Fasig-Tipton in October of 2013 and was the buzz of the backstretch before her debut on Sept. 12, 2014 at Arlington. Sent off at 4-5, the handsome dark bay filly tracked and made a bid under James Graham, but fell 2½-lengths short when second astern Eclipse Thoroughbreds’ Wayne Catalano-trained subsequent stakes winner Bossy. Mi Fiori returned six weeks later in a two-turn turf event at Keeneland, where she faltered to finish last and was put on the shelf since.

Dismissed at nearly 12-1, Mi Fiori rated kindly behind horses in third in Thursday’s 5½-furlong turf dash for older maiden fillies before switching out smartly at the top of the stretch and extending her lead to the wire while showing marked acceleration. Out of the Dynaformer mare Shoo In, she hails from the immediate family of multiple Grade I-winning Leroy Jolley trainee Rose’s Cantina.

According to Stidham – who also reported that the victory was gratifying for his team – Mi Fiori “looked great” on Friday morning. Her first race against winners has not yet been determined, but will likely come on the grass, once again.



G M B Racing’s Triple Crown hopeful Tom’s Ready – owned by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson’s wife Gayle – returned to the work tab for the first time since finishing eighth in a sloppy renewal of the Grade II $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club, working a half-mile in 48.80 for trainer Dallas Stewart.

Multiple stakes winner Marchman continues to work toward a start in the $60,000 Bonapaw Stakes on Jan. 2, working five furlongs in 1:01.40 for trainer Bret Calhoun and owner Martin Racing Stable.

Larry Jones trainee Cinnamon Spice, one of the more impressive allowance winners last Fair Grounds meet, worked a half-mile in 49 flat for owner Fox Hill Farm. Undefeated in three starts since being turned over to Jones, the half-sister to Violence is unraced since Apr. 9.

A M Milky Way (above) lit up the track on Friday morning, going a half-mile in 47 flat for trainer Karl Brobert and owner David Davis. The stakes-winning son of Elusive Bluff bested 75 other works at the distance as he prepares for his first race since July 5.

Al and Bill Ulwelling’s turf stakes winner Pumpkin Rumble continued to work toward a start in either the $60,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial on Dec. 19 or allowance company for trainer Brad Cox, going a half-mile in 49.40.

Fox Hill Farm’s lightly raced 4-year-old The Sandman continues to work well in the mornings for trainer Larry Jones, achieving his second consecutive three-furlong bullet since returning to training at Fair Grounds. Both works – including  last week’s Dec. 4 move – were timed in 35.80 for the $700,000 Keeneland September 2012 purchase.

Michael Adolphson | Media Specialist, Senior Writer