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Barn Notes: Thursday, December 12



Brittlyn Stable’s Sunbean, given a realistic chance against open company in last spring’s Grade II Louisiana Derby, was hopelessly compromised at the break and again with traffic problems during the running.  That was discouraging to the connections of the promising Louisiana-bred youngster, but they gave him one more chance to continue on the Triple Crown trail by asking him to travel over Polytrack for the first time in his career.  However, he raced wide over that unfamiliar surface in Keeneland’s Grade III Lexington and finished fifth beaten just over four lengths for the win.

Now, in Saturday’s $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, showcase event of Louisiana Champions Day at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Sunbean will face older horses for the second time in his young career.  The first time he was asked to do that was in his last start and he answered that with a victory in the $100,000 Gold Cup at western Louisiana’s Delta Downs on Nov. 2.

“He’s doing really good right now,” said trainer Ron Faucheux, who took over the colt’s training last July.  “I thought his last work (five furlongs in a minute flat Dec. 7) was really very impressive because he did it so comfortably.  We are hoping for a big effort from him this weekend.  We hope he’s ready to show everybody else just how good we think he is.”

Faucheux has two other starters slated for Champions Day.  Foreign Production, a 7-year-old gelding he co-owns with Thomas Arnaud is named to the $100,000  Louisiana Champions Day Sprint and Timothy D’angelo’s Ten to Midnight in the $50,000 LCD Handicap.

“Foreign Production is just a hard-knocking old campaigner who gives you his best every time he runs,” said Faucheux of the horse who won his last start at Delta Oct. 16 and is a veteran LCD runner who finished third in the 2010 Sprint, ninth in the 2009 Sprint and third in the 2008 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile.

“The starter conditions of the Handicap are perfect for Ten to Midnight,” Faucheux said of the horse who must shoulder the top impost of 121 pounds.  “He’s been doing well, too.”

OWNER-TRAINER-BREEDER SMITH SHOOTS FOR ALL THE MARBLES WITH STRING KING—Charlie Smith, the always likeable Louisiana native horseman who owns and trains two-time defending Louisiana Champions Day Turf winner String King surely knows his horse better than anyone else because he also bred him.

This week, however, Smith and String King have become the buzz of the backstretch.

That’s because on Saturday, Smith will drive in from his Haughton base of operations to saddle String King – not in the $100,000 Turf in a quest for his third straight win in that test over the Stall-Wilson turf course but in the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic on the main track.

“I have to admit I’m getting a little antsy,” said Smith Thursday morning, speaking over the phone from Haughton of his courageous, calculated gamble to go for the larger purse, “but I’m looking forward to running him in that spot (the Classic).  I hope it works out the way I planned it.

“I may not be the smartest guy in the world,” Smith concluded.  “No one knows that better than me – but I didn’t just jump off the last banana truck, either.”

ADJUDGED BC JUVENILE FILLIES HEROINE RIA ANTONIA ARRIVING AT FG DEC. 27—Christopher Dunn and Loooch Racing Stable’s Ria Antonia, adjudged winner of the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in her last start Nov. 2 at Santa Anita, will be arriving at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Dec. 27, co-owner Ron Paolucci advised Thursday morning.

“She’ll be there to train up to a start (against males) in the (Grade II) Risen Star (Feb 22),”Paolucci said.  “I doubt we’ll get a race into her before then.”

The Risen Star is one of four graded stakes that will be run on that Louisiana Derby Preview Day program, and also serves as Fair Grounds’ final designed tune-up for the $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 29.

“Obviously, I plan to be there for the Risen Star,” said Paolucci, “but I also might have a horse running in the ($75,000) Bonapaw (Dec.21) and be at Fair Grounds for that one, too.”

ADDED ATTRACTIONS ABOUND SATURDAY ON LOUISIANA CHAMPIONS DAY—Eight Thoroughbred stakes and three Quarter Horse stakes highlight Saturday’s Louisiana Champions Day program at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, but among the added attractions will be paddock judge and former trainer Gary Palmisano and jockey agent and sometime public address announcer Rick Mocklin forming a duet to sing the National Anthem at noon with a mounted patrol standing at attention behind them.

Gates will open at 11 a.m. on Louisiana Champions Day with a special early post time of 12:30 p.m. to accommodate the 13 races slated for the afternoon. Members of the military have been invited by the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association (LTBA) to be their guestsand the LTBA will give away two $1,000 scholarships.  A sign-up table will be in the valet parking lobby for full-time students only, and signees must sign up prior to the first race and must be present to win.