NEW ORLEANS -- What's an extra couple of furlongs? Oak Hall, winner of the
Champions Day Sprint last season, won the $150,000 Champions Day Classic on
Saturday, the culminating event of Fair Grounds' $1 million Louisiana Champions
Oak Hall stalked a torrid pace in the 1 1/8-mile Classic, getting a perfect trip under
jockey Kirk LeBlanc, who swept the last three Thoroughbred races on the card, the
Turf, Ladies, and Classic.
Owned by Ena Ortega and trained by Doyle Waldrop, Oak Hall had never raced
beyond 1 1/16 miles, and for much of his career the
5-year-old gelding had made a living as a sprinter. But no matter what the
distance, Oak Hall, with 12 wins in 30 starts, has always been a hard-trier, the sort
of horse to take advantage of favorable circumstances.
He got them Saturday. Favored White Star was sent to the front under Alex
Jimenez, but longshot Doc's In engaged him on the first turn and the pace turned
wicked. Doc's In was pulled up on the backstretch, but the damage was already
done - a half-mile in 47.38 seconds.
Oak Hall sat third behind the leaders, and quickly challenged White Star after Doc's
In gave way. He pushed to the front on the far turn and drew off in the stretch to
win by 2 1/4 lengths. Late-runners One Brick Shy and Doctor Mike clunked along to
be second and third, respectively. Oak Hall paid $7.80 and was timed in 1:50.99
over a fast track.
Turf: Mr. Sulu upsets Turf
Mr. Sulu turned the tables on fellow 3-year-old L'homme, rallying to win the
$100,000 Turf by one length. L'homme had easily beaten Mr. Sulu in the $100,000
Gentilly Handicap here last spring, but the effects of an eight-month layoff showed
on the pace-setting L'homme, who tired in the final furlong.
Mr. Sulu, a homebred by Rail who is owned by A L "Red" McMurray, campaigned
with trainer Josie Carroll this summer at Woodbine, where he failed to win a race in
But Mr. Sulu signaled improvement here Nov. 25, finishing a closing second to the
talented Wild Summer in an open dirt allowance race.
That prep was all Mr. Sulu needed for a peak race on Champions Day. A great trip
under Kirk LeBlanc helped, too. "It looked on paper like [L'homme] was the one I
had to beat, so I stalked perfect and saved ground on the inside," LeBlanc said.
L'homme could not respond when challenged by Mr. Sulu and was passed for
second at the wire by the late-running Bourbon Boogie. Mr. Sulu paid $26.20 to win
and was timed in 1:44.51 over a firm course.
Juvenile: Hail to Bag wins for Hebert
The undefeated Hail to Bag won his fifth race, and trainer Doris Hebert continued
his dominance of the Champions Day Juvenile. Hail to Bag won the $100,000
Juvenile by 2 3/4 lengths, and Hebert, who was seriously ill and spent a month in
the hospital late this summer, won the Juvenile for the fourth time in 11 years.
While Hebert recovered, Hail to Bag rested. After winning the $50,000 Lafayette
Stakes at Evangeline Downs on Sept. 3, Hail to Bag trained up to the Juvenile. And
Hebert, who has always done well with 2-year-olds, had him primed for Champions
Hail to Bag, who has led at every call but the first of his first start, broke fastest in
the Juvenile field under jockey Steve Bourque. He was clear by three lengths after a
quarter-mile in 21.75 seconds, maintained a clear advantage into the stretch, but
began drifting out badly, even when Bourque switched to a right-handed whip.
That gave favored Walk in the Snow a clear run through the inside, but he could
not make up any ground on Hail to Bag through a slow final furlong. Walk in the
Snow edged Fine Stormy for the place spot. Hail to Bag ran six furlongs in 1:11.11
and paid $5 to win.
Lassie: Kwik Kash fulfills expectations
Kwik Kash justified the expectations of her connections, owner Murray Valene and
trainer B.J. Gilbert, with a flashy 3 1/4-length win in the $100,000 Lassie. Valene
and Gilbert had hoped to send Kwik Kash to Kentucky for a race in the spring of her
2-year-old season, but eventually scrapped that plan and pointed for Champions
They gave the filly two preps for the Lassie, a Fair Grounds training race and a
maiden race Nov. 23, which Kwik Kash won easily. Kwik Kash, a gray filly by Bag,
was at her best Saturday. She broke like a shot under jockey Jamie Theriot, was
well clear of the field after 50 yards, and was never threatened, running alone
through the stretch. Kwik Kash, who paid $8.20, ran the six furlongs in 1:11.13. C
J's Star, the favorite, finished second, more than seven lengths in front of Sunny
"She runs through pain and is probably the most courageous filly I've ever had,"
Offspring of Bag, a Devil's Bag stallion, swept the Champions Day 2-year-old races.
* In the $100,000 Ladies, heavily favored Midge Too withstood a fast early pace to
lead virtually all the way. Midge Too ($3.80), beat Eastern Sun by almost four
lengths, winning her fourth straight for trainer and co-owner Jerry Cart.
* Richard Englander's Sunup Sundown ($6.40) wore down Proper Sunday in the final
furlong to win the $50,000 Starter by two lengths.