Dixie Poker Ace Still Enjoying Senior Citizen Years

He turned 24 years old a week ago, but Dixie Poker Ace, for whom Saturday’s $60,000 Fair Grounds’ featured grass stakes for accredited Louisiana-breds is named, is still doing fine, according to Lora Pitre, owner/manager of Peach Lane Farms in Opelousas, Louisiana, where the ancient warrior is still enjoying his retirement years.

“He’s getting to show his age a little,” wrote Pitre when answering an inquiring e-mail this week concerning “Dixie” – winner of the first three edition of the Louisiana Champions Day Turf at Fair Grounds, “so I have him in a paddock by himself across from another retiree I have here.

“He has lost most of his teeth,” Pitre continued, “but I am feeding him Equine Senior that he can still eat. He is very content and I think happy. He is still pampered.”

Dixie Poker Ace was the top money earner among Louisiana-breds at the time of his retirement. Also, in his third win in the Champions Day Turf, as a 7-year-old, the gelding established a track record of 1:42 for the about 1 1/16-mile distance over the Stall-Wilson turf course that still stands.

Pitre, a “hands-on” farm owner who does her own foaling with help of a handful of farm employees, has had Dixie Poker Ace at her farm for the last 15 years, or about six months after he stopped racing.

Also on her farm are a handful of stallions, a number of boarders and a host of broodmares, in addition to a Baker’s Dozen of retirees in addition to Dixie Poker Ace.

“These guys deserve a place to live, too,” she said of her retirees. “I only charge their owners for feed. I don’t make any money on them.”

UPDATES ON SATURDAY’S 30TH RENEWAL OF THE DIXIE POKER ACE STAKES – Trainer Al Stall Jr. indicated Friday morning that everything remained on schedule concerning Red Oak Farm’s Kissimmee Kyle’s participation in Saturday’s 30th renewal of the $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace Stakes at about one mile over Fair Grounds’ Stall-Wilson turf course.

The 5-year-old gelding, a lukewarm 5-2 morning line choice in Saturday’s headliner, finished second in this season’s 20th anniversary edition of Fair Grounds’ $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf four weeks ago.

Wachtel Stable, Brous Stable and Jerry D. Lee’s Desert Wheat, who won the 2007 Dixie Poker Ace, finished second in last season’s renewal and also has wins in the 2006 and 2009 Champions Day Turf to his credit, is the 7-2 third choice in Saturday’s feature.

“His last race was probably too quick back from his one before that,” said Mike Kaetzel, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s assistant at Fair Grounds. “In that last race (a fifth-place finish Dec. 11 in the Champions Day Turf) he didn’t even really try. That race was the worst race I’ve ever seen him run. His race before that (third in the $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes (taken off the grass and run in the slop Nov. 26) was a better race for him.

“He’s doing good now,” said Kaetzel Friday morning during training hours. “Obviously, we’re hoping for a nice firm turf (Saturday). He really likes firm turf best.”

James Hanna’s Grey Papillon, 3-1 second choice in Saturday’s Dixie Poker Ace, will probably be a race day scratch, trainer Tony Richey indicated Friday morning.

“We entered him hoping it would rain and the race would come off the turf,” Richey said, “and if it should rain and come off the turf, we’d leave him in there. He’s been a real nice horse for us and that last race (a 16 3/4-length win in the $50,000 Louisiana Champions Day Starter Dec. 11) was one of his best.”

Interestingly, in 40 lifetime starts, Grey Papillon has run only once on the grass, but won that race last May 22 in the $40,000 Louisiana Cup Starter at Louisiana Downs convincingly by 4 1/4-lengths. Why not try the grass again Saturday?

“That turf course is much tighter than the one at Fair Grounds,” said Richey. “He likes to hear his feet rattle, and despite how good that Louisiana Downs race looks on paper, I don’t feel it was a very good race for him. He lost three shoes in that race and also stumbled several times. He just wasn’t comfortable out there that day.”