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Star Guitar, War Echo Win Big on Santa Super Saturday

Santa Super Saturday’s expanded 13-race program at Fair Grounds this weekend featured Brittlyn Stable’s Star Guitar becoming the fourth horse in history to win three Louisiana Champions Day races with a sublime victory in the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, the richest race of the day.

Then, in the next race – another remarkable performance – this time by Winchell Thoroughbreds’ War Echo, taking the inaugural running of Fair Grounds’ $100,000 Daily Racing Form Distaff for fillies and mares with a performance that “echoed” her victory in last season’s Grade III Silverbulletday Stakes.

However, helping the atmosphere of the pre-holiday festivities at Fair Grounds was abundant sunshine throughout the nine stakes race-card after seemingly endless days of inclement weather in New Orleans.

Star Guitar, trained by Al Stall Jr. and ridden by Curt Bourque, won the 19th running of the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic after winning the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint last year and the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile two seasons ago.

Now firmly ensconced as one of the top Louisiana-breds of all time, the 4-year-old son of Quiet American was the odds-on choice of the fans, returning mutuels of $2.40, $2.10 and $2.10 after accomplishing the nine-furlong distance in 1:52.15 and increasing his career earnings to $708,458 with his 11th career victory in 14 lifetime starts. Ide Like a Double finished second, paying $3.20 and $2.20, while 2 1/4-lengths in front of Takin’ the Bullet, who returned $2.80.

Winning jockey Curt Bourque was somewhat stunned by Star Guitar’s 7 1/4-length win – and the fashion in which it was accomplished – immediately after the race.

“It’s just an unbelievable feeling being able to ride a horse like this,” Bourque said. “He’s by far the best horse I’ve ever ridden. He has no idea he’s Louisiana-bred. He’s just a very good horse. Al and his crew have just done an amazing job with him. I’m very grateful to be a part of the team.”

Winning jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, aboard War Echo in the Distaff, was similarly impressed with his filly’s facile 3 1/2-length victory that 1 1/8-mile test, where she toured the distance in 1:52.20.

“She ran a very professional race,” said Bridgmohan of War Echo’s remarkable run. “We sat behind the speed, and she got a little headstrong on me when we went down the backstretch but when I asked her – she was just there for me. Believe me, the sky’s the limit for this filly.”

Conditioned by Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen, combining with Bridgmohan for their second stakes win of the day, War Echo paid $3.20, $2.20 and $2.10, and increased her lifetime earnings to $258,537 with her fourth victory from eight career starts.

Unforgotten was easily second best in the Distaff, paying $2.40 and $2.10 while 9 3/4-lengths in front of No Use Denying, who paid $2.40.

Another appetizing Louisiana Champions Day garnish was added to that portion of the afternoon restricted to accredited Louisiana-breds when Desert Wheat – owned by Wachtel Stable, Brous Stable and Jerry D. Lee and conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott – took down winning honors in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf, a race he previously won in 2006, then finished fourth in the 2007 renewal, and then was runner-up by a neck in last year’s edition.

Desert Wheat, ridden by Corey Lanerie, paid mutuels of $3.80, $2.60 and $2.40 while best by four lengths with a final time of 1:49.45. The 8-year-old has now posted 11 victories from 48 starts.

Nowandforevermore finished second in the Turf, paying $4.40 and $3.40, with High Toned running third, a length and a quarter farther back while returning $5.80.

In the 59th running of Fair Grounds’ $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes – the first stakes of the afternoon run as the fourth race – Winmore LLC’s Cool Bullet was always among the leaders and withstood a late run by Ackerley Brothers Farm’s Big Texas Daddy to win by a head. The winner, trained by Steve Margolis and ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., paid $14.80 straight and increased his career earnings to $58,800 with his second victory in four lifetime starts.  The son of Preakness winner Red Bullet toured the six furlongs in 1:10.85.

In the $60,000 Bonapaw Stakes, Mimicry Partnership’s Grand Traverse, trained by Tim Glyshaw, rallied in the final furlong under jockey Victor Lebron to win by two lengths, covering the about five and a half furlongs over the “yielding” Stall-Wilson turf course in 1:05.81. The winner paid $38 and increased his career earnings to $282,020 with his ninth win in 34 lifetime starts.

Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s Seven Seventythree, trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, proved much the best in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint, arriving home eight lengths clear of her nearest rival while covering the three-quarter mile distance in 1:11.53. She paid $9.20 to win and increased her career earnings to $301,300 with her sixth win from 13 trips to the post.

In the $60,000 Esplanade Stakes, Destiny Oak’ She’s Our Annie proved no disappointment as the 11-10 choice of the fans, taking command shortly after the break and winning by two and a half lengths while not fully extended by visiting jockey Jon Court, son-in-law of Oaklawn-based trainer Jinks Fires. She paid $4.20 to win and swelled her lifetime earnings to $142,080 with her fifth win from six starts.

Saturday’s 50th renewal of the $60,000 Letellier Memorial Stakes for juvenile fillies was won by Windmill Manor Farm’s My Jen, trained by Eddie Kenneally and ridden by Jamie Theriot. The daughter of Fusaichi Pegasus paid $13.40, $6.40 and $4.40, remains an undefeated three-for-three with earnings of $81,000 and got the six furlongs in 1:11.55 while winning by a nose.

Finally, in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint which closed out the stakes portion of Santa Super Saturday, Lee Young Farm’s Flashy Wise Cat, trained by Troy Young and ridden by Shane Sellers, justified his 11-10 favoritism with a 4 1/2-length win, paying $4.20 straight  while getting the six furlongs in 1:09.86.  Flashy Wise Cat, winning for the fifth time in nine lifetime starts, upped his career earnings to $157,740.


Race 4—$60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes
Two-year-olds, six furlongs, 59th running

Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. (Cool Bullet, winner): “I could hear him (runner-up Big Texas Daddy) coming but I was surprised to see how close he was at the finish.

“I think he’s got a great shot of being able to stretch out. The way he relaxed coming out of the gate, and he still seems to be maturing race to race. I definitely think he’ll be able to stretch out and he’s doing really well right now, as we just saw.”

Trainer Steve Margolis (Cool Bullet, winner): “He proved his class out there today. Showed a lot of grit, between horses and then fighting back.

“He was a little keyed up in the paddock but there were a lot of people.

“He has shown us some good progression and I think he can go two turns.”

Race 5—$60,000 Bonapaw
Three-year-olds and up, 5 ½ furlongs on turf, 4th running

Jockey Victor Lebron (Grand Traverse, winner): “It’s a little soft inside. I had to swing him out a little bit to get to that firmer turf. This horse has to have something to chase and he needs something a little firm to run on, too.

“From the time we broke it set up perfect, just like we planned. We let the stablemate go and a couple other horses that have more speed. I just stayed a little bit off of them. Around the turn I kind of moved him up a little bit and I tried to get him to the outside to a better part of the racetrack and once I got him out he just exploded. I went along with him and it worked out. He just kept running.”

Trainer Tim Glyshaw (Grand Traverse, winner): “He always needs horses in front of him. When we first got him he had had a year layoff. He went to the lead twice and just stopped. Then in a ‘non-winners of two’ at Churchill Julien Leparoux rode him and we told him no matter what to take him back. So he took him back to mid-pack and he ran past everybody. From then on he won a ‘non-three,’ an ‘a-other-than’ and an overnight handicap, all at Ellis, and Victor rode him all those times at Ellis two years ago. You have to wrestle him back a little bit, he really wants to go. But as long as he has horses to run at he showed today that he can run against those kinds of horses.

“He’s run on Polytrack, he’s won on regular dirt, he’s won on good turf, he won here today. He finished second on soft turf at Keeneland but that’s different than the turf here today.

“We weren’t even going to run in here. We entered him in a starter that didn’t go and I’m glad it didn’t now. We’ll definitely run him in the dirt stakes coming up.”

Owner Mimicry Partnership’s David Osborne of Louisville, Ky. (Grand Traverse, winner): “As a baby he was a pretty precocious horse and was looking like he was going to be a really nice two-year-old. He just kind of fell apart on us so we turned him out for a year. He’s actually racing because he won’t play polo. My wife tried to make him into a polo pony but he didn’t like horses bumping into him.

“We were concerned about the soft condition of the turf course because he had only one previous experience with soft turf and that was last winter here at Fair Grounds where he flattened out”

Race 6—$100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint

Fillies & mares, 3 and up, Accredited Louisiana-breds, six furlongs, 4th running

Trainer Steve Asmussen (Seven Seventythree, winner): “She’s extremely versatile, for her to have the success she did going long. The race set up extremely well for her and Shaun gave her a good trip. She’s an honest—a very honest—filly.”

Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan (Seven Seventythree, winner): “I was just tracking for awhile. Trying to get my filly to relax was my concern. She really threw down a big turn of foot the last part. When they came back to her she was impressive to say the least.”

Race 7—$60,000 Esplanade Stakes
Fillies & mares, 3 and up, 5 ½ furlongs, 17th running

Jockey Jon Court (She’s Our Annie, winner): “With her natural speed I wanted to use the one-hole to my advantage. It takes a few jumps for her to get her feet underneath her. She has such a long stride and she’s ready to contest anything that wants to challenge her, and at the same time I was able to get her to relax on the front end. I had enough horse to finish in front of them today without having to ask her for everything she had.

“She has the bloodlines to go on and were hoping for the best for her future if she continues to train in a positive, forward way. No telling how far she can go.

“It’s nice to have one that wins that many times in a row. I just kept the whip quiet on her and just kept her gathered up; I really didn’t even have to stroke her.

“My son had been watching her train and had told me, ‘Dad, she’s not training good; she’s training great.’”

Trainer William “Jinks” Fires (She’s Our Annie, winner): “We knew that we had something special the second time she worked. Now she’s coming along just like we anticipated. We lost a little time with her with a bruised foot at Churchill so we backed off and missed some works. I was a little worried going into this race but with her talent you might as well take a chance. All I told Jon was to see if he could back the pace down then let her steal off.”

Race 8—$150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic
3-year-olds and up, Accredited Louisiana-breds, 1 1/8 miles, 19th running

Jockey Curt Bourque (Star Guitar, winner): “It’s just an unbelievable feeling being able to ride a horse like this. He’s by far the best (Louisiana-bred) horse I’ve ever ridden. He has no idea that he’s a La-bred. He’s just a very, very good horse. Al and all his crew have done just an amazing job with him, and I’m very grateful to be a part of the team.”

Trainer Al Stall Jr. (Star Guitar, winner): “He’s definitely a better horse (than this time last year). Pedigree and mother nature takes care of all that. We know a little bit more about him. He like his races spaced and the Louisiana-bred program sets up for him that way.

Where does he stack up against the great Louisiana-breds you’ve seen? “I think he’s getting close to the Scott’s Scoundrel and Costa Rising types and we’re working our way up to Happy Ticket maybe. Who else? You all don’t know Fort Eads but look him up in the media guide. He would run every seven to ten days.

Is there more pressure when you’re such a heavy favorite? “You watch the TV this week and, my gosh, it’s ‘Single him in the pick three,’ ‘Single him in the pick four,’ ‘Single him in the pick six.’ I’ll take it every time though.”

Stall indicated that the $200,000 Louisiana Premier Night Championship at Delta Downs on Feb. 6 would be next on Star Guitar’s agenda. “Hopefully I’m not there. Hopefully I’m in Miami at the Super Bowl.”

Owner and breeder Evelyn Brittlyn of Brittlyn Stable (Star Guitar, winner): “With this horse we always go in confident but you can’t help but be nervous when they go in the gate.

“When he shows up and everything goes well, a race like this is what he is capable of doing.

“Last week’s rain delay was on my mind. You really want them to be as fit as possible but we have a great team and Al is one of the best in the business.”

Jockey Kerwin Clark (Ide Like a Double, second): “This is the fourth time I’ve hooked that son-of-a-(gun) and I can’t beat him. I’ve tried every kind of way. When we left my horse broke a step slow. I didn’t panic. A mile-and-an-eighth was a question for him anyway. But I’ve never been behind that horse (Star Guitar); I’ve always been in front of him waiting for him. I knew going into the turn when I saw Curt trying to slow him down and he was going to the lead so soon and I thought, oh, I’m in trouble. But my horse gutted it out and ran a good second. Without Star Guitar in there we win every time.”

Race 9—$100,000 Daily Racing Form Distaff
Fillies & mares, 3 and up, 1 1/8 miles, 1st running

Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan (War Echo, winner): “She ran a real professional race. We sat behind the speed and she got a little headstrong on me when we went down the backstretch, but when I asked her she was just there for me. Believe me, the sky’s the limit for this filly.”

Assistant trainer Scott Blasi (War Echo, winner): “She’s a very impressive filly, well thought of, and it’s good to have her back. She’s got some nice races ahead of her and hopefully she’ll be around at the end of next year when it matters.”

Trainer Dallas Stewart (Unforgotten, second): “No surprise. She always runs hard. Maybe a tad bit further today would have made some difference. She is the kind that really wants to finish. She laid it on the line today. We’ll give her a little time but she’s got the Sunshine Millions ahead in late January.”

Race 10—$100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf
3-year-olds and up, Accredited Louisiana-breds, 1 1/16 miles on turf, 19th running

Jockey Corey Lanerie (Desert Wheat, winner): “He (trainer Bill Mott) put the blinkers on him last year; he was just always tending to get too far back. Then when he’d try to stick close he’d be more competitive.

“When they came back I figured they had to be walking in front of me, because they went from being 10 in front to backing up to where he was right on top of them without me asking my horse. So I didn’t want to disturb him. I just let him run his race and tried to keep him in the clear. I thought he was the best horse and he proved it. He’s an old professional and if you let him run his race he’ll get the job done.”

Race 11—$60,000 Letellier Memorial Stakes
Two-year-old fillies, six furlongs, 51st running

Jockey Jamie Theriot (My Jen, winner): “She’s a nice filly. She’s got enough speed to put you in the race where you need to be on her own. When I called on her she cruised on by the horse on the lead and she kind of got lost a little bit inside the eighth-pole, but when that other horse came to her she dug in and she gave me a little more effort. I felt that horse coming and she gave me that extra little surge. It’s a great feeling.”

Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. (Visavis, second): “I thought we got up. From the sixteenth-pole home I thought we were going to run by that filly. That nine-horse put up a good fight. I thought at the wire that we go it and even when I saw the replay it still looked like we were going to be in front. That’s a bad beat.

“The only thing I wish is that we hadn’t been in the ten-hole. We had to overcome a lot from there. Overall I got her in a position where she felt comfortable and she just got out-nodded today.”

Race 12—$100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint
3-year-olds and up, Accredited Louisiana-breds, six furlongs, 19th running

Jockey Shane Sellers (Flashy Wise Cat, winner): “He’s just a racehorse. When I rode him last time, they told me, ‘Just drop your hands on him and let him go. We got nothing to lose.’ So that’s what I did last time and it worked, and that’s what I did again today.”

Trainer Troy Young (Flashy Wise Cat, winner): “Shane’s worked this horse a ton of times for me and he fits the horse so well I’ really wanted to get him on. He kept telling me, ‘Troy, I don’t think this horse wants to be close early, I think he just wants to make one run.’ So I put him in the allowance race and said, well, this will be the test to see whether he belongs on Champions Day or not. Let’s just let him fall out of there and take one run at them, and it worked. It was the same kind of race today, but he made me nervous. He dropped inside and had to go around a horse, but he was much the best.

“Another thing is that I never got to run him in the wintertime. He feels and acts a lot better in the wintertime. Last winter he was laid up and didn’t get to run at all. He’s a big horse and the hot weather’s a little rough on him.”