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Santa Super Saturday a Stakes Smorgasbord

This weekend’s Santa Super Saturday program at Fair Grounds – originally scheduled as a five-stakes-race package – gets four more gifts already wrapped under its tree when the four stakes cancelled from last Saturday’s Louisiana Champions Day are to be run as originally drawn.

Saturday’s expanded 13-race program will begin with a first post time of 12 noon and include the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf, $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint and $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint – all of which were postponed after torrential rains forced the abandonment of last Saturday’s races midway through the afternoon.

Brittlyn Stable’ Star Guitar, 3-5 morning line choice in the Classic, could become the fourth horse in the 19-year-history of Fair Grounds’ Louisiana Champions Day to win three times on Champions Day should he prove successful in Saturday’s Classic, and Wachtel Stables, Brous Stable’s and Jerry D. Lee’s Desert Wheat, 2-1 morning line favorite in the Turf, could return to the winner’s circle in this year’s Turf after winning the 2006 renewal, running fourth in 2007 and missing by a neck when second in last year’s edition of the grass test.

Heading the original five Santa Super Saturday races slated for this weekend is Fair Grounds’ inaugural running of the $100,000 Daily Racing Form Distaff, a nine-furlong test for older fillies and mares that is headed by 9-5 morning line choice War Echo, owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and conditioned by defending Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen. That filly won last winter’s Grade III Silverbulletday Stakes before being sidelined by injury prior to the Fair Grounds Oaks in the spring.

The other four races originally scheduled for Santa Super Saturday are the 59th running of Fair Grounds’ $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes for 2-year-olds that will be 3-year-olds and be possible Grade II Louisiana Derby candidates after the first of the year; the 50th renewal of the $60,000 Letellier Memorial for juvenile fillies that might be pointed for this spring’s Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks; the 17th running of the $60,000 Esplanade Stakes for filly and mare sprinters; and the fourth running of the $60,000 Bonapaw for older grass sprinters.

Special wagering highlights for Santa Super Saturday include an additional daily double (beginning in the eighth race) on the Louisiana Champions Day Classic and the Daily Racing Form Distaff; an additional all-stakes 50-cent Pick 4 that will begin in the sixth race to include the Ladies Sprint, Esplanade, Classic and Daily Racing Form Distaff; as well as a Pick 6 that will involve races 8-13.

Asmussen Has One More Top Filly Set for This Weekend’s Santa Super Saturday
Winchell Thoroughbreds’ War Echo – trained by Steve Asmussen –  who captured the Grade III Silverbulletday Stakes by a length and a half at Fair Grounds last Feb. 7 before being sidelined prior to the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks, is among the headline attractions for Fair Grounds’ inaugural running of the $100,000 Daily Racing Form Distaff this Saturday.

The new Fair Grounds stakes race for fillies and mares is one of five stakes originally packaged as part of the coming weekend’s Santa Super Saturday program. However, Santa Super Saturday has now mushroomed to a nine-stakes race program to include the four stakes races cancelled when last weekend’s Louisiana Champions Day was rained out before its completion.

Early First Post, New Wagers Announced for Santa Super Saturday
Santa Super Saturday has been expanded to offer a total of 13 races and a new earlier first post of 12 noon this Saturday has also been announced.  

In addition to the $100,000 Daily Racing Form Distaff, others stakes included on the original Santa Super Saturday package are the 59th running of the $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes for 2-year-olds at six furlongs, the 50th renewal of the $60,000 Letellier Memorial Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs, the $60,000 Esplanade Stakes for fillies and mares at five and a half furlongs, and the $60,000 Bonapaw Stakes at about five and a half furlongs over the Stall-Wilson turf course.

Now added to this Saturday’s stakes bonanza are the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf, the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint and the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint.

There will be an extra Daily Double beginning in Race 8 linking the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic and the $100,000 Daily Racing Form Distaff, and a special All-Stakes Pick 4 on Races 6-9 encompassing the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint, the Esplanade, the Louisiana Champions Day Classic and the Daily Racing Form Distaff.

Louisiana Champions Day Delay Unlikely to Bother Star Guitar or Desert Wheat
Brittlyn Stable’s Star Guitar, the 3-5 morning line choice for the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic who will be seeking to become the fourth horse to win a total of three Louisiana Champions Day races, should not be affected by the one-week delay in its running, according to trainer Al Stall Jr.

“It shouldn’t be a problem,” said Stall on Monday morning during training hours. “We’ll just make the sign of the cross and lead him over there like we always do.

“Everybody else is in the same boat as we are,” added Stall of the rain-delayed Classic. “Literally.”

Wachtel Stable, Brous Stable and Jerry D. Lee’s Desert Wheat, 2-1 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf, is another who should not be affected by the one-week delay.  

“That (the delay) doesn’t bother us a bit,” said Leana Willaford, Fair Grounds-based assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott on Monday morning.

Davidowitz Seminar on Saturday Moved Up to 11 a.m.
Saturday’s free Handicapping Seminar with Steve Davidowitz, author of the seminal handicapping guide Betting Thoroughbreds, has been moved up one half-hour to 11 a.m. to accommodate the adjusted first post. The Seminar will be held on the West End of the Grandstand’s second floor.

Davidowitz will also hold a book signing to promote his newest title, Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21st Century: A Professional’s Guide for the Horseplayer, from 1-3 p.m. near the Paddock Gift Shop.

Davidowitz will be at Fair Grounds the day before, Friday, to participate in an invitation-only “Beat Steve Davidowitz” handicapping contest for Twin Spires Club members at the Platinum and Gold levels. For more information on that event, contact Jim Mulvihill, Communications & Pari-Mutuel Marketing Manager, at (504) 948-1233.

Win Black and Gold Tickets Saturday
In addition to nonstop action on the track, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots is sweetening the deal on
Santa Super Saturday with a chance to win tickets to the Black and Gold’s final regular-season home game as they continue their pursuit of a historic perfect season. Every fan gets an entry blank upon entry and additional entry blanks can be found in the on-track program. Other prizes include cash and Fair Grounds prize packs. Winners will be drawn between races and winning names read over the public address system.

Races Over Before for the Game Saturday
Saturday’s 13-race Santa Super Saturday extravaganza will end in plenty of time for fans to make the kickoff of the much-anticipated NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys. Post time for Race 13 is 5:53 p.m. CST. Kickoff for the Saints game at the Louisiana Superdome is 7:20 p.m. CST. Those not lucky enough to have a ticket to the game can watch at Fair Grounds, where it will be shown throughout the Slots facility and grandstand OTB.  

Ownership Seminar Saturday Morning
Don’t forget that this Saturday trainer Bret Calhoun and owner Angus Lind will meet with fans at a free Horse Ownership Seminar at 9:30 a.m. The event will take place along the grandstand apron, just outside the Derby Building and the new Horsemen’s Relations office. For more information on the Horse Ownership Seminar, contact Sandra Salmen in the Fair Grounds Horsemen’s Relation Office at 504-948-1150 or Sandra.Salmnen@fgno.com.
Early First Post Friday, Too
First Post on Friday also has been moved up one half-hour, to 12:30 p.m., in order to accommodate a super-sized 12-race program. Fair Grounds typically runs 10 races on Fridays in December but had added races to make up for those cancelled Sunday.