Monte Man puts win streak on line in Cham­pi­ons Sprint

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

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.

Ladies Sprint

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.

Turf

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.

Ladies

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.

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