Big performances highlight Louisiana Legends Night

OPELOUSAS — Legendary performances from both horses and jockeys crafted an appropriate theme Saturday as Evangeline Downs hosted its annual Louisiana Legends Night.

A packed crowd — perhaps the largest of the facility’s thoroughbred season — watched as Sunbean, a three-year-old colt owned by Brittlyn Stables Inc., broke the track’s one-mile record, while veteran jockey Mark Guidry rode five winners on the 12-race card.

Populist Politics, veteran of 25 races, created a highlight moment of his own by running past pre-race favorite Heavy On Themister, ridden by guest jockey Rosie Napravnik, in the Louisiana Legends Classic event.

The night of racing, which included a total betting handle of $2.169 million, featured racing exclusively among Louisiana-bred horses.

Each of the seven stakes races featured total purses of $100,000 in track and turf events for three-year-old and upward horses bred in the state.

“This is the night where the best of the best in Louisiana come to race at Evangeline Downs,” veteran thoroughbred owner Harry Benoit said.

Sunbean, with Corey Lanerie riding, covered the mile in 1:35.75, edging second-place Skip The Pinot, with Guidry aboard.

Ron Faucheux, Sunbean’s trainer, said the horse is now receiving attention he deserves.

“I think (Sunbean) has definitely established himself as the top three-year-old horse in this state. We just have to keep it going,” Faucheux said as he stood in the winners circle with Lanerie and owner Evelyn Benoit, following the fifth race.

Benoit’s Brittlyn Stables also produced Star Guitar, one of the state’s most decorated horses.

Sunbean, which raced most recently this year at Churchill Downs and the New Orleans Fairgrounds, is a fourth-generation stakes winner, Benoit said.

Lanerie, riding Sunbean for the first time, said everything went perfectly after his horse broke from the starting gate.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but (Sunbean) broke smoothly, and we had a trouble-free ride,” said Lanerie.

Guidry, who began his 38-year-old riding career at the old Evangeline Downs track in Carencro, said he’s had better nights racing horses, but Saturday night’s performance will carry some personal memories.

“I’ve had nights about seven or eight times where I’ve ridden six winners, but this one is really special. My grandbabies got to watch their grandpa,” Guidry said after the final race.

In that event, Guidry rode Kisses for Carrots in front of the field from starting gate to finish line.

Guidry’s winners included four in the $100,000 stakes races.

Populist Politics, ridden by Gerard Melancon, won an eighth race in 25 career starts.

Melancon maneuvered Populist Politics into the lead on the upper stretch to win by a length-and-a-half over Hud’s Rebellion.

Populist Politics trainer Tom Amoss said the horse is accomplishing greatness.

“He is definitely the best Louisiana-bred horse that I’ve trained,” he said. “I’ve probably had only a handful of horses with over one million in earnings, and (Populist Politics) is one of them.”

Melancon said he didn’t know how well the horse would perform since the last start for Populist Politics was March 13.

“I was confident that (Amoss) would have him ready,” he said. “This race was perfectly set up for me. Heavy On Themister got out in front at the quarter pole, but after that, I went by him easily, and it was right there that I thought we were home free.”

Napravnik, a regular Fair Grounds jockey who rode in this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness, was aboard five horses Saturday night, but her best finish was second place in the fourth race.

In that event Napravnik, was astride No Rules Now, which placed second to Guidry, who won with Well’s Gold.