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Evelyn Benoit’s Wild About Star Brings National Attention to the Louisiana Breeding Program

Star Guitar Filly Scores in the Very One Stakes on the Preakness Undercard

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Louisiana-bred Wild About Star wins The Very One Stakes at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard. Steve Queen photo.

by Gary McMillen
Steve Queen photos

Close your eyes. Imagine Evelyn Benoit speechless.

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Evelyn Benoit, makes her way to the winners circle following the victory of her homebred Wild About Star in The Very One Stakes. Steve Queen photo.

Seldom at a loss for words—Benoit lost her voice for three days after Brittlyn Stable’s home-bred Wild About Star won the $100,000 The Very One stakes on May 14 at Pimlico Race Course on the undercard of the Preakness Stakes.  

Benoit was with her 5-year-old Star Guitar mare in the shed row at Delaware Park the night before the race. “I went straight from the airport to the barn,” Benoit recalls. “It was 10 o’clock at night and she was cleaning up a bucket of oats and molasses. Her color and attitude were great. She looked amazing. You could tell she was sitting on a big race.”

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Trained by Venezuelan-born Jose Camejo, Wild About Star shipped in to Pimlico on the morning of the race. From the first crop of Star Guitar, Wild About Star had previously done all of her racing in Louisiana. Going five furlongs on the turf and breaking from an outside post, Wild About Star made a statement for Louisiana-breds on the national scene. Three wide on the turn, Wild About Star chased the early pace before taking command at the 1/8th pole and drew off to win by daylight.

It may not have been good for her vocal cords, but for Benoit, winning a $100,000 stakes on the Preakness undercard was a dream come true. “From the time I landed at Delaware Park until we were in the winner’s circle I was treated like royalty,” Benoit recalls of the experience. “Every single person we met in Baltimore was kind and accommodating. Day or night the management and staff at Pimlico allowed us access to everything.” 

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“The atmosphere at the track was incredible. The place was packed,” Benoit continued. “The whole day was one big party just like the Kentucky Derby. The crowd was really into it. The enthusiasm was off the charts.”

In the party atmosphere and media attention, Benoit never made it back to her reserved seat in the clubhouse to watch the race. “People that I had never seen in my life came up and wanted to talk,” she explained. “When I walked out of the paddock I couldn’t find a place to stand.”

Benoit is no stranger to traveling to stakes venues and being on hand to root for her horses. “In forty years I don’t think there has been more than two occasions when I was not present,” she says. “It is very important to me. I just keep trying to promote horse racing in any way that I can. No matter what other business ventures I am involved with, horse racing has my maximum attention.”

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Louisiana-bred Horse of the Year four times, the top money earning Louisiana-bred in history and winner of 24 of 30 starts, Star Guitar is the glue that holds Benoit’s racing stable together. “From the very beginning I knew that Star Guitar was the best horse I ever bred,” Benoit says. “From the day he started racing my bond with him grew stronger and got me through some tough personal times.”

For Benoit, winning The Very One stakes on the Preakness undercard was exhilarating but she is not one to dwell in the past. “I can’t say enough about my trainer Jose Camejo and his racing team,” Benoit explains. “They are so thrilled and committed to the progeny of Star Guitar. I’m looking forward to finding more quality mares to breed to Star Guitar. Just wait until you see the next batch.” 

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Louisiana-bred Star Guitar racemare, Wild About Star, Scores Open Stakes Win on the Pimlico Undercard

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Louisiana-bred Wild About Star wins The Very One Stakes at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard. Steve Queen photo.

Brittlyn Stable’s Wild About Star, racing for the first time outside of her native Louisiana, came with a sweeping move on the outside and stormed down the center of the track to pass favored Jo Jo Air to win Saturday’s $100,000 The Very One at Pimlico Race Course.

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Evelyn Benoit, makes her way to the winners circle following the victory of her homebred Wild About Star in The Very One Stakes. Steve Queen photo.

“I am wild about Star!” said winning owner Evelyn Benoit. “It took me about 40 years to get a stallion. Star Guitar is the Louisiana stallion of the year, and I own the mare and we have a lot of babies.  This is what I’ve been trying to do, not only promote Louisiana racing but horse racing for everyone, to show that Louisiana and women and women in my position can do this. It was very difficult. I never had a horse super enough to be a stallion. Gosh, it’s just a dream. To win an open stakes here in this beautiful state of Maryland, it means everything to me. I’m so thrilled, couldn’t be any happier if I won the Preakness. You have no idea, this is like the biggest dream in my life come true.”

The 20th running of the five-furlong The Very One for fillies and mares on the grass was among nine stakes, five graded, worth $2.8 million on a 14-race program highlighted by the 144th Preakness Stakes (G1), the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Ridden by Daniel Centeno, Wild About Star ($13) won in 56.93 seconds over a firm turf course.

It was the first career stakes win for Louisiana-bred Wild About Star, a 5-year-old Star Guitar mare making her first start for trainer Jose Camejo. Wild About Star chased even-money favorite Jo Jo Air through a quarter-mile in 22.88 seconds before forging a short lead on the turn and pulling away to a 1 ¾-length triumph. Jo Jo Air stayed up for second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Misericordia. Eye On Berlin finished fourth.

Wild About Star has six wins from 15 career starts and is 5-for-11 lifetime going five furlongs on grass.

“(Benoit) wanted to promote the stallion all over the place, so she decided to run (Wild About Star) here after she worked,” said Camejo. “She was feeling really good. She was ready for this race.”

Benoit said the mare’s success is a big boost for Star Guitar, who stands at Clear Creek Stud in Louisiana, where his 2019 fee was $7,500.

“She’s out of his first crop, and I’ve wanted to have this opportunity in front of a large crowd to show that in Louisiana we can breed nice horses,” the owner/breeder said.

 

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TRAINER BECKY J. LEBLANC SADDLES HER FIRST WINNER MONDAY, MAY 14 AT HARRAH’S LOUISIANA DOWNS

Bossier City, LA – Monday, May14 was a very good day for trainer Becky LeBlanc. Just two months after getting her trainer’s license, she shipped in two horses to Harrah’s Louisiana Downs and won her first career race. On, Tuesday, May 15, she added a second win!

 

Born and raised in Sioux City, Nebraska, LeBlanc native fell in love with horses at an early age and spent her summers working and grooming at various farms. She relished the demanding work; everything from mucking stalls to cleaning tack and credited Nebraska horseman Harlan Norman for teaching her the ropes.

 

“He taught me everything I know,” said LeBlanc.

 

So after graduating from high school, LeBlanc began her pursuit of a career in the racing industry. She has been an assistant trainer since 1990, working for a number of horsemen. Owner Thomas Holyfield got to know LeBlanc when she was serving as an assistant to trainer Keith Bourgeois and encouraged her to go out on her own.

 

On March 10, she took out her trainer license and set up a 12 horse stable at Evangeline Downs. Fittingly, her first win came for Holyfield in Monday’s third race at Louisiana Downs when Opportunity Cost won the mile and one-seventy yard claiming event under jockey Thomas Pompell.

 

Track announcer John McGary recognized her achievement and tweeted that Opportunity Cost, a son of Tapit and $400,000 Keeneland sale purchase, was making his first start since October 17.

 

LeBlanc admits the handsome gray gelding didn’t always keep his focus, but ran a very good race Monday, sustaining his lead against the race favorite.

 

“He’s a big feeler in the barn,” LeBlanc said. “He likes to bite and play, but that’s what makes him happy!”

 

One day after winning her first career race, LeBlanc returned to the Bossier City racetrack and scored with another horse owned and bred by Holyfield. She’screative, a filly by Creative Cause, captured Tuesday’s fourth race, a $17,500 optional allowance claimer. Pompell was in the saddle as she drew off to a 2 ¼ length victory.

 

“She’s my baby girl,” admitted LeBlanc. “After breaking her maiden in her first start, she won the D.S. Shine Young Futurity (at Evangeline Downs). She ran her little heart out on Tuesday.”

 

LeBlanc, 48, married her husband, retired jockey Kirk LeBlanc in 2011. The former top rider on the Louisiana circuit is now a jockey agent at the Opelousas, Louisiana racetrack and handles the business for riders Pompell and Alfredo Contreras.

 

After cooling out her filly Tuesday afternoon, LeBlanc loaded both horses for the four-hour trip back to Evangeline. No big celebrations were planned as she recognizes that winning two races back-to-back is not the norm for a new trainer.

 

“It was a big step, and I wasn’t sure I was ready,” acknowledged LeBlanc. “But this was a very nice two days!  I’ve been blessed.”

 

Simulcast of the 143rd Preakness Stakes on Saturday

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs will offer an exciting afternoon of racing on Saturday, May 19 with seven live races and the simulcast of the 143rd Preakness Stakes from Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. Fans can watch and wager as Justify, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert goes for the second jewel in Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.

 

Post Time for the first live race at Louisiana Downs is 3:15pm! The full card at Pimlico will be simulcast with the Preakness scheduled to run at 5:20 pm(Central). The Harrah’s Club will offer an All You Can Eat Buffet for just $39.99 this Saturday. Reservations are strongly encouraged and can be made by calling 800-551-7223 or 318-752-6367.

 

Trainer, Jockey and Owner Standings

Through the first eight days of the 2018 Louisiana Downs Thoroughbred season, trainer Joe O. Duhon tops his fellow conditioners with four wins. Jorge Lara, Dana Whited and Danny Pish have each saddled three winners.

 

As expected, a very tight battle for leading jockey is off and running! Four riders are tied with five wins each. Last year’s leading jockey Gerardo Mora, Richard Eramia, Eddie Martin, Jr. and Joel Dominguez are each off to a solid start for the meet.  Kevin Smith, Emanuel Nieves and Eguard Tejera follow closely with four wins.

 

Dream Walkin Farms, Inc has won three races to take the early lead in the owner standings. Brittlyn Stable Inc,, Thomas L. Holyfield, P and D Racing Stables and Lara Racing Stables, Inc. follow with two wins each.

 

Wednesday and Saturday Race Day Promotions

Louisiana Downs offers value for racing fans each Wednesday with Dollar Day. They will be able to enjoy $1 hot dogs, $1 beer at the Paddock as well as $1 programs. Saturday’s weekly promotion is the Family Four Pack featuring four hot dogs, four sodas, a program, and a box seat for four at the affordable price of just $16.

 

The Total Rewards program is free for horseplayers. With the swipe of their card each Saturday, members will receive valuable incentives.  These include:

  • Play $250 or more to receive a 5X multiplier
  • Play $1,000 or more to receive a 7X multiplier
  • Play $5,000 or more to receive a 10X multiplier

Participant’s multiplier cannot exceed a total balance of more than one hundred thousand (100,000) Reward Credits during one promotional day after the multiplier is applied.

About Harrah’s Louisiana Downs

Located near Shreveport in Bossier City, Louisiana, Louisiana Downs opened in 1974 and was purchased by Caesars Entertainment in December, 2002. With annual Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing seasons, the track is committed to presenting the highest quality racing programs paired with its 150,000 square foot entertainment complex offering casino gambling, dining and plasma screen televisions for sports and simulcast racing.

For further information, please contact:

Trent McIntosh  |  Assistant General Manager
318-752-6980
8000 East Texas Street | Bossier City, LA 71111
www.caesars.com
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