Saturday’s Opening Day card at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots includes four overnight stakes restricted to Louisiana-breds that will serve as preps for Louisiana Champions Day presented by Acadian Ambulance Service on Dec. 9. First post on Opening Day is 3 p.m.
Scrivener Stables’ Trust Factor heads a field of ten in the $50,000 Mr. Sulu Overnight after capturing an easy win at Keeneland against open first-level allowance company on Oct. 14. The 4-year-old son of Paddy O’Prado landed a stakes event at Louisiana Downs in July for trainer Mike Maker and will be piloted by last season’s leading rider Florent Geroux from post three. Valene Farms’ 2016 Louisiana Champions Day Turf winner Hail to the Nile will use the Mr. Sulu to prep in advance of that race when he breaks from post 10 under Francisco Torres. The 6-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile returns for his first start since April for trainer Sturges Ducoing.
Fort Pulaski (Jose Valdivia, Jr., rail), Extra Credit (Shaun Bridgmohan, post two), Mageez (Mitchell Murrill, post four), Gallery (Edwin Gonzalez, post five), Culp’s Hill (Gabriel Saez, post six), Thunderberg (Chantal Sutherland, post seven), Fee Do (James Graham, post eight) and Jack Snipe’s (Miguel Mena, post nine) complete the Mr. Sulu field.
One race later, Keith Plaisance will seek a big Opening Day victory when his Sunny Oak leads the charge in the $50,000 Happy Ticket Overnight. Eddie Johnston trains the 4-year-old daughter of Giant Oak who has not been seen since Aug. 5 when easily handling stakes company at Louisiana Downs. Miguel Mena will ride from post four as the filly looks to eclipse the $300,000 mark in career earnings, entering the race just $120 shy of that milestone. Her main threat may come in the form of Tigertail Ranch’s Danny Pish-trained Wheatfield. A 5-year-old daughter of Lone Star Special, Wheatfield has been a constant presence in stakes company and has tried graded stakes spots five times since finishing second in the Mardi Gras Stakes here on Feb. 28. Florent Geroux has the call from post two.
Fairwell Tax Break (Francisco Torres, rail), Ramona’s Wildcat (Jack Gilligan, post three), Naughty Little Nun (Marcelino Pedroza, post five), Million Dollar Day (Colby Hernandez, post six), Half a Go Go (Chantal Sutherland, post seven), Look Into My Eyes (Jesus Rios, post eight), My Miss Chiff (Mitchell Murrill, post nine), Play Unified (Gabriel Saez, post 10), Jo Jo’s Wine (Jose Valdivia, Jr., post 11) and Lady Lutie (Jose Guerrero, post 12) complete the field.
Trainer Brad Cox will hold an impressive hand in the $50,000 Si Cima Overnight when he sends out two of the likely favorites in Zayat Stables’ Dontmesswithjoanne and Allied Racing Stable’s Inveniam Viam. The former, a sophomore daughter of Pioneerof the Nile, cleared her open first-level allowance condition by a nose in her most recent start, and prior to that had finished fast to cross the wire sixth, beaten just 3¾ lengths, in the Grade III Pucker Up at Arlington. Florent Geroux, aboard for her win last out, will retain the mount from post 11. The latter, a 5-year-old Half Ours mare, rattled off four wins in a row after being claimed for $20,000 locally in January, including a minor stakes event at Ellis Park and will look to bounce back off a flat showing at Keeneland. Shaun Bridgmohan will ride from post three.
Wind Chill Factor (Mitchell Murrill, rail), Pera (Chantal Sutherland, post two), Vivacious V. V. (Gabriel Saez, post four), Pacific Pink (Colby Hernandez, post five), Big Game Baby (Gerardo Mora, post six), Safari Calamari (Jose Valdivia, Jr., post seven), Temple Shadow (Sophie Doyle, post eight), Bermuda Star (Diego Saenz, post nine), Smiley Briley (Jamie Theriot, post 10), Calamity Jane (Miguel Mena, post 12), Reine des Animaux (Francisco Torres, post 13) and Discreetly Grand (James Graham, post 14) round out the field.
In the day’s final stakes event, Whispering Oaks Farm’s Eden Grey’s Kitten will look to transfer his reliable turf form over to the main track in the $50,000 Heitai Overnight. The 5-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy is a multiple stakes winner on the grass for trainer Steve Flint, but has only started once in his career on the main track – a fourth-place finish going a mile on the main track in February 2015. Florent Geroux will ride from post six.
King Bandit (James Graham, rail), Icy Gentleman (Francisco Torres, post two), Wonder Run (Steve Bourque, post three), John’s Luck (Mitchell Murrill, post four), Philly (Colby Hernandez, post five), Stand Him Up (Gabriel Saez, post seven), Grande Basin (Miguel Mena, post eight), Sir Genghis (Shaun Bridgmohan, post nine), Made to Fit (Jose Valdivia, Jr., post 10) and Biblical Strength (Gerardo Mora, post 11) complete the field.