12/06/2012 4:48PM

Byron King: Heitai can turn tables on Westernator in Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile

Coady Photography
Westernator may be vulnerable to Heitai at six furlongs.

When Westernator and Heitai raced Nov. 17 going two turns in the one-mile Louisiana Legacy Stakes at Delta Downs, Heitai seemed to have the edge at the draw. A colt with tactical speed, he landed in post 6 in a field of nine, compared with post 8 for Westernator, a stalker.

Then the gates opened, and Heitai somehow ended up dueling four wide with three rivals to his inside while Westernator was able to tuck in and save ground before being angled out in the stretch to catch a leg-weary Heitai.

Saturday when these two renew their rivalry in the Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile at Fair Grounds, it is Heitai who warrants support, particularly going a shorter distance of six furlongs.

Here, his tactical speed should prove an asset – provided he can get a little racing luck, hopefully like the type Westernator enjoyed for a closer in his last start.

Heitai is a price – sitting at 9-2 on the morning line, far more appealing odds that the 3-1 morning-line offering on Westernator.

This isn’t a two-horse race. Nine 2-year-olds are in the lineup, including Palmy Bay, who beat Heitai when they last raced six furlongs at Louisiana Downs this summer.

But with Palmy Bay coming off a poor effort in the Louisiana Legacy, in which he finished more than 41 lengths behind the winner after being a part of the early duel, it seems improbable that he will revert to his peak form of old.

If the break goes well for Heitai, look for him to get a favorable trip either pressing or stalking the pace and power home in the stretch.

Post time for the Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile, the ninth race on the card, is 4:17 central.


Two other races on the Louisiana Champions Day card are also attractive to this horseplayer and fortunately come immediately after the Juvenile, resulting in the trio of races being in a pick three sequence.

Immediately after the Juvenile in race 10 is the Louisiana Champions Day Starter, a race Clever Thirteen looks poised to win, provided she indeed goes in that spot. She is also cross-entered in the Champions Day Ladies, the fourth race, a more demanding race but one that offers double the purse at $100,000.

If Clever Thirteen goes in the Starter, she will be facing males, though of the cheap variety, as the race is restricted to Louisiana breds who have raced for $12,500 or less this year.

Clever Thirteen ran for that price just once this year, back on July 4 at Louisiana Downs, and owner-trainer Edward Johnston was there to claim her. Second that day in a race on the turf, she was subsequently transferred back to the dirt, where she won a pair of races going away at Louisiana Downs in second-level allowances.

A stalker with leading rider Rosie Napravnik in the saddle, she looks poised to carve out a great trip, breaking from the fence with a short run to the first turn in races going a mile and 70 yards at Fair Grounds. She ought to be able to save ground into the first turn, and get positioned right behind the leaders.

At 7-2 on the morning line, she figures to drop by post time. But hopefully the 3-1 morning-line favorite, Well’s Gold, will stay in the race and not go in the Turf, a race in which he is cross-entered. He will command mutuel attention and won’t make Clever Thirteen odds on.


Finishing with the Champions Day Classic, the 11th race, Get in Da House is the choice to win the day’s biggest race.

At his best, he is likely superior to these – judging by his fine performances over the summer when he ran third in the Grade 3 Texas Mile and second in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap.

But with his Beyer Speed Figures declining in his last two races, notably when he won a starter allowance Oct. 20 with just a 79 Beyer, the hope is that the public will somewhat underestimate him.

To these eyes, it seems best to view that last race for simply what it was – a prep race, an easy race designed to give him a confidence-boosting victory to prepare him better for the Champions Day Classic.

Expect trainer Wes Hawley to have him at his best on Champions Day and for the late-running Get in Da House to catch his Classic foes in the lane.