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Evangeline Downs and Louisiana Downs offer competitive allowance features Thursday
By Jeff Taylor
Louisiana is in the throes of a drought. Not one caused by a shortage of rain, there has been an ample supply of that in the region of late, but by the lack of any stakes action in the state.
From the running of the Rajin Cajun at Evangeline Downs on the evening of June 1 until that track’s signature event, Louisiana Legends Night on July 6, the state’s stakes calendar remains vacant.
Stakes have been particularly scarce at Louisiana Downs. Only a pair of statebred stakes, the John Franks Memorial and the Honeymoon, have been run during the first seven weeks of the meeting, which began May 3. Its next stakes is not until Super Derby Prelude Day on Aug. 3.
Given the dearth of stakes action, it has been up to the allowance ranks to fill the class void and, in that respect, the two tracks have done a splendid job Friday.
At Evangeline, fillies and mares seeking a third career victory will go 5 1/2 furlongs for a $32,000 purse in the evening’s ninth event.
Snappy Girl set the pace before weakening to sixth in the seven-furlong Acadiana last month and should find the company Friday night somewhat friendlier. A 3-year-old daughter of Student Council, Snappy Girl is looking to recapture the form that produced back-to-back wins at Remington and Delta Downs in the second half of 2012. Diego Saenz will ride for leading trainer Karl Broberg.
Should Snappy Girl have company up front in the early going Friday night, Stacey’s Star may be in position to pick up the pieces late. Trained by Alan Klanfer, Stacey’s Star comes off a hard-fought first-level allowance score at Friday’s same 5 1/2 furlongs. Randall Toups will handle the riding chores.
Meanwhile, upstate at Louisiana Downs, Broberg will send out Pure Divinity in the afternoon’s fourth race, a second-level optional-claiming turf sprint. A Pure Prize mare, Pure Divinity won 5 of her 10 starts last year and just missed in a similar spot in her first start this year last month. Chris Rosier will ride.
Cherub Heart, a winner of two straight, both for trainer Pat Mouton, will be making her turf debut in Friday’s headliner. Leading rider Richard Eramia will once again be in the saddle.
Smitty’s Sunshine’s first foal victorious
Smittystown, the first foal of multiple stakes winner and $500,000 earner Smitty’s Sunshine, made a successful debut last Friday, winning a six-furlong maiden special affair over the Louisiana Downs main track.
Owned and bred by Roger Smith, who campaigned the Louisiana-bred Smitty’s Sunshine, Smittystown is a 3-year-old filly by Speightstown, who stands for a $60,000 fee. She is a registered Louisiana-bred.
“She’s a big, good-looking filly, Louisiana-bred or not,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said following the race. “She had some chronic shins as a 2-year-old, which set us back some, but all that is behind her now. I thought she looked pretty professional.”
While seven of Smitty’s Sunshine’s nine wins came sprinting on turf, Smith says the immediate plans for her daughter include only dirt for now.
“All four tracks in the state have a bunch of opportunities on dirt,” Smith said. “There aren’t too many spots for a statebred turf sprinter.”
“We can always fall back on the grass,” said Stall, echoing Smith’s sentiments. “Right now, we are just going to go as far as we can on dirt.”
Apprentice Ketner debuts
A first-time starter of the human persuasion had his coming-out party in last Saturday’s second race at Louisiana Downs.
James Ketner, the 16-year-old son of former jockey Richard Ketner, finished fifth aboard Thar She Blows in a $12,500 claiming sprint in his first race as a jockey.
Ketner spent the last month training in front of the Louisiana Downs board of stewards.
“We watched him work some horses, switch sticks, had him spend some time at the gate,” said state steward Roy Wood Jr. “It’s something we put all apprentice applicants through.”
The elder Ketner was a longtime regular on the New Orleans circuit, wintering at Fair Grounds and spending the summer at the old Jefferson Downs in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner. He is currently working at Lone Star Park as a jockey’s agent.
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