Grande Basin needs right trip
Let’s be honest: This is not a classic edition of the Louisiana Champions Day Classic.
The anchor race of Louisiana Champions Day, a series of stakes for Louisiana-breds on Saturday at Fair Grounds, has featured some very useful winners, Grade 3-type horses on their very best day. Unless hidden talent will suddenly be made manifest Saturday, there is nothing at that level in the $150,000 Classic.
The Classic, for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, is one of seven Thoroughbred stakes on a 13-race card that begins at 12:30 p.m. Central and includes three Quarter Horse stakes. At least those races have plenty of entrants. Several of the Thoroughbred stakes came up with surprisingly short fields, and the Classic drew just seven entrants. Only six will run if Morning Mischief’s connections pass the Classic for the $100,000 Turf.
The Classic includes the second-, third-, and fourthplace finishers from the 2017 Classic – Grande Basin, Underpressure, and Mageez. There’s a good chance the edge here goes to Grande Basin, though this horse is difficult to lean on because his deep-closing style requires luck and pace.
Grande Basin, with Miguel Mena named to ride for trainer Eddie Johnston, finished second by a nose in this race one year ago in his only start over 1 1/8 miles. Once best as a onerun sprinter, 6-year-old Grande Basin now appears comfortable racing over a route of ground. He’s a fresh horse – with just two starts since June – and most recently was second in the Mr. Sulu Stakes despite breaking from post 12, rallying into a slow pace, and racing over a surface – turf – that’s probably not his best.
Even if early pace player Morning Mischief goes to the Turf, rail-drawn Autumn Warrior probably will be able to at least put mild pressure on likely leader Ready Prospector. Autumn Warrior has the greater chance to remain a player into the homestretch, at which point Underpressure should be coming, with Mageez and Grande Basin following on his heels. Underpressure’s potential tactical advantage has to be weighed against the manner in which he appeared to flatten out late in the 2017 Classic, his only start at 1 1/8 miles.
Zenucci completes the field and looks overmatched – even in this less-than-classic Classic.
Standouts in Lassie, Juvenile
Everyone with any sense of value-based handicapping and betting tries to poke holes in short-priced favorites. Go ahead and give the voodoo doll treatment to the chalks in the $100,000 Champions Day Lassie and $100,000 Champions Day Juvenile and they probably come through the process still looking solid.
Classy John is listed at 9-5 on the Fair Grounds morning line but looks like an odds-on favorite in the six-furlong Juvenile, race 7 on the card. Midnight Fantasy is priced at 7-5 in the Lassie, race 5, but with a clear talent edge and only five rivals, she almost has to be an odds-on favorite.
Midnight Fantasy debuted Nov. 15 at Fair Grounds and walloped 11 foes in a six-furlong Louisiana-bred maiden special weight. Making the front from the rail, she put away first-time starter Lagniappe and won by more than nine lengths despite shying badly from something along the inside rail near the finish line.
Maybe you want to hold that quirk against Midnight Fantasy, a daughter of Midnight Lute trained by Joe Sharp and ridden by Adam Beschizza. It’s also worth imagining what Midnight Fantasy might do if she keeps a straight course. In any case, don’t expect Beschizza to go to a left-handed crop again with a six-figure pot on the line.
Silvercents and Good Profit are the obvious exacta partners.
Classy John, the Juvenile favorite, showed enough promise that trainer Dallas Stewart took him to Saratoga for owner Murray Valene. That was no vanity project – Classy John won an open maiden race there Aug. 25 by six lengths. Stewart said the colt, by Songandaprayer, “got a little sick on me in late September, so we missed a couple of the big races with him.” Classy John jumped back into the fray finishing second after setting the pace in a sevenfurlong allowance race Nov. 10 at Churchill. No one else in the Juvenile has form like that.
“This is a good spot for him – I think he’ll be tough,” Stewart said.
Too short a price to play, but too much class to play against.
Grande Basin will likely be putting in a late run in the Champions Day Classic on Saturday.