NEW ORLEANS — The equine pride of the Pelican State will be on display Saturday at the Fair Grounds when the facility hosts its annual Louisiana Champions Day races, all of which, as per course tradition, feature Louisiana-bred horses.
Highlighted by the 22nd running of the $150,000, 11⁄8 mile Louisiana Champions Day Classic stakes race, Saturday’s festivities give local trainers and mounts a chance to showcase the talent in Louisiana.
“Louisiana Champions Day celebrates Louisiana racing,” said Eric Halstrom, Fair Grounds vice president and general manager. “It’s something for all of the state to be proud of. Louisiana has done a great job of climbing up (the national breeding scene), while other states have been descending.
“The purses are great, and for the Fair Grounds, it’s a day we’re extremely proud to have.”
With an early post time of 12:15 p.m. kicking off 13 races — including eight thoroughbred stakes events restricted to accredited Louisiana-breds — Saturday’s events will feature something of a passing of the torch in racing leadership. The main event, the Champions Day Classic, will feature a showdown between Klaravich Stables’ Populist Politics and Robert Orth’s and Wes Hawley’s Get in Da House. They last clashed in the Fair Grounds’ Costa Rising Stakes in the spring.
In that event, Populist Politics and Get in Da House finished second and third, respectively, behind Louisiana legend Star Guitar of Brittlyn Stable, who became the richest Louisiana-bred mount in history.
Star Guitar retired shortly thereafter and will be honored by the Fair Grounds. Guitar will lead the competitors to the gate in the Classic, allowing other local-breds like Populist Politics, a 3-1 favorite, and Get in Da House (7-2) a chance to symbolically inherit the unofficial Louisiana-bred showcase role. Early-arriving spectators will have a chance to receive Star Guitar posters and T-shirts.
Also expected to post strong showings in are Lee’s Spirit (9-2) and Heavy on Themister (5-1).
Halstrom said the honoring of Star Guitar “will showcase how great we think this track has become. It will be a chance to show that Louisiana racing in this day and age has gotten very, very good.”
Besides the Classic, today’s schedule also features the one and one-16th,$100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf, which is being defended by 9-5 favorite String King, who won the event by a nose in 2011. String King won the $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes on the Fair Grounds’ seasonal opening day on Thanksgiving Nov. 22.
In addition to recognizing the career exploits of Star Guitar, today’s festivities will also honor all branches of the armed forces, and the opening of the new Hall of Fame Room for the regular, free “No Favorites Allowed” handicapping seminars, the only time the room is open to the public.