TwinSpires.com and Fair Grounds have teamed up to present Louisiana Champions Day on Saturday, and the stakes-laden card offers up a Grand Slam opportunity.
Not the Triple Crown/Breeders’ Cup Classic kind of Grand Slam that American Pharoah delivered for the first time ever on October 31.
No, I’m talking about the four wins in the Louisiana Champions Day Turf that String King is seeking.
The bay gelding has competed on Louisiana Champions Day for the past four years and racked up wins in the Turf in 2011, 2012 and 2014. In 2013, breeder/owner/trainer Charles Smith opted to send String King to the Louisiana Champions Day Classic, where he just missed by a nose to fellow popular runner Sunbean.
String King continued to swing back and forth from the main track to the turf following his tough-luck loss in the Classic, and scored a big victory when earning his first graded credit in the Colonel E.R. Bradley H. (G3) at the New Orleans venue to kick off 2015.
String King has suffered just one loss this year, with that coming as a runner-up effort in the John Henry S. at Evangeline Downs, and will try to end his seven-year-old season on the same winning note as he started it with when facing nine rivals in Saturday’s $100,000, 1 1/16-mile Louisiana Champions Day Turf.
“I could have nominated him to both the Classic and the Turf, but I just nominated him to the Turf. He’s a little older now and I think he’ll last a lot longer if I just leave the main track alone and focus on the grass. He could last another couple years with (only) grass racing,” Smith explained.
“At my age, I can understand the wear and tear of getting older, which is also one of the reasons I likely won’t run him on an off-track either, if it happens that the race comes off the grass.
“He’s really just an amazing horse and a different individual that just loves to run,” Smith added. “He loves to compete. As long as he does that and shows he has the will and the want-to, I’ll continue to race him. When he tells me he’s had enough, that’ll be enough to me.”
Stormdriver is the runner who denied String King in the John Henry, and the bay got a measure of revenge that day after finishing third, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths, in last year’s Louisiana Champions Day Turf. The five-year-old is bypassing a third meeting with String King on Saturday and instead will line up in the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic.
The 1 1/8-mile contest drew a field of nine, and will feature a new winner for the first time in two years. Sunbean returned in 2014 to defend his title by a neck but hasn’t competed since early February.
In fact, the Classic will see all new runners except for One King’s Man, who ran third but was elevated to second following the disqualification of the runner-up 12 months ago. Since then the gray gelding captured a pair of starts, went unplaced against graded rivals, and filled the third spot in the Gold Cup S. last out at Delta Downs on November 14.
One of the biggest names in the Louisiana Champions Day Classic is Mobile Bay. The dark bay sophomore has racked up a career mark of 12-6-2-3 this year, including a 2 1/4-length victory in the Super Derby (G2) in mid-September. He followed up with a third in the Oklahoma Derby (G3) and another win, this time in the Zia Park Derby last out on November 25.
The Thoroughbred stakes action on Louisiana Champions Day kicks off in the 4TH race with the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies S. sending distaffers 1 1/16 miles.
Next up will be the $50,000 Louisiana Champions Day Starter H., Louisiana Champions Day Turf, $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie S., $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint S., Louisiana Champions Day Classic, $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile and $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint S.
As part of the Louisiana Champions Day celebrations, TwinSpires.com is offering customers the opportunity to play for 1.1 million points.
Complete details may be found at http://www.twinspires.com/play-11-million-points-louisiana-champions-day.
String King photo courtesy of Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography