Monte Man puts win streak on line in Champions Sprint
Monte Man won the Heitai Stakes on Nov. 17 at Fair Grounds and hasn’t worked since as he heads into the $100,000 Champions Day Sprint there Saturday. Don’t sweat it.
Trainer Ron Faucheux holds to the idea that less is more when it comes to training fast sprinters.
“Just a lot of jogging and galloping,” Faucheux said days after the Heitai. “I’m not going to do too much with him, for sure.”
Monte Man has won seven straight starts – all his races since he was claimed in New York by Ivery Sisters Racing and turned over to Faucheux – and stands a strong chance of making it eight Saturday on a Champions Day card that includes seven Louisiana-bred stakes.
Nine are entered to oppose Monte Man in the six-furlong dash. Givemeaminit has the best chance of taking him down.
Faucheux tried to walk a fine line with Monte Man in the Heitai, having him sharp enough returning from a layoff to keep his win streak alive, but treading carefully to avoid emptying the tank in a race worth half the Champions Day Sprint. It looked like Faucheux succeeded. Monte Man ran hard enough to get something out of the Heitai but won comfortably enough. He’ll be a handful Saturday under Diego Saenz, in to ride from his Delta Downs base.
Givemeaminit has been in too tough most of this year, having started in six graded stakes. His other two 2018 races produced an easy Louisianabred sprint maiden win and a second-place finish last out at Churchill in an open firstlevel allowance. The 3-year-old probably is more capable than
his 1-for-14 record.
“After Saratoga we gave him a break, sent him to the farm for 30 days,” trainer Dallas Stewart said. “He’s really on for this race.”
Divine Bean, second in the Heitai, seems like the only other non-random win consideration.
While Monte Man got a useful prep last month, the filly Ours to Run might’ve run too well for her own Champions Day good winning the Nov. 18 Happy Ticket Stakes by almost nine lengths. The career-best performance came first start back from a sixmonth layoff.
If trainer Larry Jones can coax a repeat run out of Ours to Run on Saturday in the $100,000 Ladies Sprint, the filly probably wins again, but expecting paired tops following a halfyear layoff seems imprudent at a short price.
Racing fresh in the Ladies Sprint, for fillies and mares at six furlongs, is the capable filly Minit to Stardom, who hasn’t seen action since running up the track at odds of 7-2 in the Grade 1 Test on Aug. 4 at Saratoga. Al Stall, who trains the filly, said Minit to Stardom “wasn’t out of training that long” following the Test, and Stall has gotten a series of lively drills into her. Minit to Stardom won her debut and the Champions Day Lassie a year ago at Fair Grounds like a potential Louisiana-bred standout, and she will be formidable if Stall has her tuned.
The other horse to consider is Wheatfield, who makes her first start since June and probably is a year or so beyond her peak.
The best male Louisiana-bred turf horses of the last decade and a half – horses like String King and Mr. Sulu – could’ve won this edition of the $100,000 Champions Turf while having a casual conversation over tea. It’s not easy figuring out who among eight actual entrants can win the about 1 1/16-mile turf race.
In the Navy won the $50,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes, the Nov. 16 Champions Turf prep, over three others running back in Saturday’s race. Maybe In the Navy still has more to give, but after 21 races, including 10 on turf, that might not be a good bet. He worked out a perfect pressing trip at odds of 6-1 in the Mr. Sulu and is listed at half that price Saturday – which is to say In the Navy has no value as a betting proposition.
Ninety One Assault in a slightly different world would be the horse to want out of the Mr. Sulu. He made some solid late ground in his first Louisiana start since March and finished third, but he’s the morning-line second choice in the Turf and has nine places and shows from a 20-start grass career, compared to just three wins. Maybe that record relates merely to racing luck and circumstance – and maybe it doesn’t.
The interesting entrant is Pont Du Gard, a newcomer to the division. Pont Du Gard ships from Florida for trainer Ignacio Correas, who sent him once before to Louisiana, when Pont Du Gard comfortably won a Louisiana-bred turf allowance race last March at Fair Grounds. Pont Du Gard held his own in the Grade 3 Arlington Classic and Grade 3 American Derby, 3-year-old stakes this summer at Arlington, and has been aimed to the Champions Turf since September.
“I think he belongs there,” Correas said. “He’s going to run big.”
Joe Bravo has the mount, and big could be good enough this year.
Bermuda Star is the pick to beat morning-line favorite Viva Vegas in the $100,000 Ladies, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares.
Four-year-old Bermuda Star has won half her eight grass races and can be forgiven for a third-place finish last month at Fair Grounds in a prep for the Ladies. Trainer Victor Arceneaux, who has a 26 percent strike rate after 108 starts this year, surely was using that last race as a bridge to the Ladies, and Bermuda Star, breaking from an outside post, lost considerable ground on both turns. A step back up to her best form can win the Ladies at a fair price.
Bermuda’s Star’s odds should be acceptable if Viva Vegas gets played the way she might. Viva Vegas hit a high-water mark finishing second three months ago in the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth Park. She was far less effective last March, checking in fifth in the Red Camelia Stakes, her only Fair Grounds experience.
Viva Vegas, a front-running type, makes her first start since being purchased at auction and moved into the barn of trainer Correas.
“Her best races are stalking the pace, so we’ll see if we can get her back a little bit,” Correas said.
Remember Daisy, Eskenformore, and Pacific Pink also merit consideration.