07/03/2013 1:28PM

Evangeline Downs: Louisiana Legends Night Classic has full field of 12

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Coady Photography
Heavy On Themister will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik in the Louisiana Legends Night Classic.

OPELOUSAS, La. – For the first time since 2009, a horse other than Star Guitar is going to win Saturday night’s Louisiana Legends Classic at Evangeline Downs. The four-time reigning Louisiana-bred Horse of the Year retired shortly after winning the 2012 Classic, capping a brilliant career that saw him win 24 of 30 starts while amassing more than $1.7 million in earnings.

Saturday’s mile and a sixteenth Classic over the main track will anchor a 12-race program with seven $100,000 stakes, all restricted to Louisiana-breds. Total purse money for the evening will be just under $1 million.

So dominant was Star Guitar during his reign that he averaged less than five opponents in his four Classic victories. This year’s edition has a much different feel as a full field of 12 will shoot for the winner’s share of $60,000 and the rank of alpha male in the state’s handicap division.

Heavy On Themister appeared to be the immediate heir apparent to Star Guitar after winning the Evangeline Mile against open company late last summer. That effort followed a second-place finish in last year’s Classic. He regressed with a third-place performance in the Gold Cup at Delta in October before a couple of stakes scores at Fair Grounds and Delta over the winter. The Shawn David trainee continued to run hot or cold, finishing fifth and last in the Costa Rising Stakes at Fair Grounds in late March. After some freshening, David says the 5-year-old son of Lion Tamer has been training forwardly for his return.

“He has been working fast,” David said. “That 59 and change three weeks ago might have been a bit quick, but he came back fine and that five-eighths [1:00.60] last week was just what we wanted.”

Heavy On Themister will be reunited with Rosie Napravnik on Saturday. The two teamed up to win the Champions Day Classic at Fair Grounds in early December and the Premier Championship at Delta in February. It will be Napravnik’s first trip to Evangeline. She has five other mounts on the card.

“We didn’t have Rosie for the Costa Rising because she went to Gulfstream to ride in the Florida Derby,” David said. “Getting her back for this has been in the works for a while. It works out well as she does not have a whole lot going on right now.”

Populist Politics returns for this year’s Classic after skipping last year’s edition. Trainer Tom Amoss candidly admitted at the time, “I can’t beat Star Guitar,” and explored other options for his then-4-year-old. He says the landscape has since changed.

“The only one who misses Star Guitar is Al Stall,” Amoss joked on Tuesday, referring to his longtime friend and fellow New Orleans native who trained Star Guitar.

Populist Politics also was last seen in the Costa Rising, missing by only a nose to Lee’s Spirit, who will be in the race Saturday night.

“The big factor is obviously the layoff,” Amoss said. “We have been pleased with the way he has been training, but it has still been three months since he has been out.”

Included in a steady string of works by Populist Politics is a rapid 1:12.40 for six furlongs at Churchill Downs last week.

“It’s what we wanted,” Amoss said. “It should set him up well. We’ll ship Thursday and get into Evangeline Friday morning.”

Amoss is sending in Southern Dude for the Legends Sprint from his Churchill base. Amoss plans to be in attendance Saturday night.

“I’m going down to spend the Fourth with my folks in New Orleans and then head over to Evangeline on Saturday. I like that little track.”

In addition to defeating both Heavy On Themister and Populist Politics in the Costa Rising, Lee’s Spirit finished in front of both of those rivals while winning the Gold Cup at Delta late last year. The 8-year-old gelded son of Leestown is trained by Eddie Johnston and will be making his first start at Evangeline.

In his most recent start, Lee’s Spirit was unplaced in the John Franks Memorial over the Louisiana Downs turf on June 1. Lee’s Spirit has won 12 of 55 starts and earned $615,793.