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Desert Wheat Wins Saturday's Mr. Sulu Stakes at FG

NEW ORLEANS, La (November 15, 2008) - Wachtel Stables, Brous Stables and J.D. Lee's Desert Wheat swung outside the leaders entering the lane and proved best by a length and three-quarters in the inaugural $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes Saturday at Fair Grounds.

The 1 1/16-mile race for Louisiana-breds was scheduled for the grass as a prep for the upcoming Louisiana Champions Day Turf on Dec. 13, but was transferred to the main track following Friday rainstorms.

"Whenever you run for (Hall of Fame trainer) Bill Mott, you have a lot of confidence," said winning rider Pat Valenzuela of Desert Wheat's outside trip.  "I elected to go outside because he is such a big horse."

Valenzuela and Mott also combined their talents to win Friday's Blushing K. D. Handicap on opening day of the Fair Grounds season in another race taken off the turf.

"Bill Mott called and asked how he Desert Wheat was (training) on the dirt here," said Mott assistant Rudolphe Brisset. "I said ‘fine' and he said ‘keep him in, then.' "

For Mott, the win capped off a strong weekend, which also included his record 75th career stakes win at Churchill Downs in the Cardinal Handicap with Courtlandt Farms' Indescribable earlier Saturday.

Snug pressed the pace most of the way and held down the runner-up position at the wire, three-quarters of a length to the good of Grand Minit, who came from far back to get third.

Desert Wheat, who won the 2006 Louisiana Champions Day Turf, increased his career earnings to $491,581 with his ninth victory in 38 career starts, and paid $7.60, $4.80 and $4.20.  He toured the distance in 1:45.74, after early splits of :23.36 and :46.75 were established.

Snug paid $13.40 and $9, while Grand Minit returned $6.60.

The Mr. Sulu is named for one of only two Thoroughbreds to win three times on Louisiana Champions Day.

Racing resumes Sunday at Fair Grounds with a first post of 12.30 p.m.

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the nation's third-oldest Thoroughbred racing facility, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN); it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and nine off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. Fair Grounds' 137th Thoroughbred season will run from Nov. 14, 2008, through March 29, 2009, and its inaugural Quarter Horse meet was conducted from Aug. 20-24, 2008. Information about Fair Grounds can be found on the Internet at www.fairgroundsracecourse.com.