Grande Basin needs right trip

Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition - - News - By Mar­cus Hersh

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.

AMANDA HODGES WEIR/HODGES PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Grande Basin will likely be putting in a late run in the Cham­pi­ons Day Clas­sic on Satur­day.

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