12/08/2011 5:04PM

Fair Grounds: Chief Jay tries to turn tables on My Star Runner in Sprint


Snakebite Kid dominated the Louisiana Champions Day Turf in 2010, but was retired after sustaining an injury a couple weeks ago. Flashy Wise Cat won the Champions Day Sprint in 2009 and 2010, but after posting a couple scattered workouts in recent months, Flashy Wise Cat has not had a breeze in weeks, and did not make the 2011 Sprint. That leaves two divisions open for the taking on Saturday’s card at Fair Grounds.

[MORE: How to bet Saturday's Fair Grounds Pick 4]

The $100,000 Sprint, the last of the Saturday stakes (race 12), drew a field of nine, and figures to have My Star Runner and Chief Jay as the favorites. My Star Runner, trained by Cody Autrey, has won half his 14 career starts, but has gone 0-2-1 from 4 Fair Grounds starts, among them a second-place finish to Flashy Wise Cat in the 2010 Sprint. My Star Runner was second last out to Star Guitar in the one-mile Gold Cup at Delta, and a six-furlong Fair Grounds race probably better suits his talents. He’s well drawn on the outside for a favorable stalking trip, and should at least come to the furlong pole in contention.

Chief Jay’s two most recent starts produced runner-up finishes to My Star Runner, but if the early pace turns hot and contested in the Sprint – something that seems entirely possible – Chief Jay’s late-running sprint style might prove effective.

Su Casa G Casa also appears to have a solid chance, but jockey Miguel Mena must work out a trip from the rail. Winner of the Champions Day Juvenile in his only previous Fair Grounds race, Su Casa G Casa cannot afford an early speed duel with the likes of Bold Recruit and Ollie Baby, but might be just tractable enough to rate just behind the pace.

In the $100,000 Turf, race 10, Kissimmee Kyle looks right on track for a solid performance despite a fading fourth-place finish Nov. 24 in the off-the-turf Mr. Sulu Stakes. The Mr. Sulu, though, marked Kissimmee Kyle’s first start in eight months, and trainer Al Stall was using the race as a Champions Day prep.

“I think he clearly needed that last race,” Stall said. “He should run pretty well on his preferred surface.”

Kissimmee Kyle finished second in the 2010 Turf, and has never been worse than third in four Fair Grounds turf starts.

Old-timer Wild Rally and relative stakes newcomers String King and Old Bushmill also merit consideration.

Stall looks strong in juvenile races

Stall also appears to be live in the pair of $100,000 races for 2-year-olds, the Juvenile and the Lassie. Beanwah’smachine, a Successful Appeal colt, has won his first two races by a combined 6 1/2 lengths, and was a sharp two-length Louisiana-bred allowance race winner on opening day this meet. Beanwah’smachine has not posted a timed workout since, but that has come by design, Stall said.

“He just ran [one minute] 10 and change,” Stall said, referring to Beanwah’smachine’s fast recent win. “He’s an aggressive galloping horse, and I didn’t feel like he needed to go a half in 50 and change for no real reason.”

Beanwah’smachine looks something like a standout. Horses such as Courtesy Cat and Broadway King were precocious, short-sprinting summer horses, but they appear light on substance and stamina. Balidor del Sol and Four Joes, both of whom have run this meet at Fair Grounds, might be better exacta partners with the favorite.

Stall sent out another Louisiana-bred 2-year-old maiden winner opening day, Sunday’s Child, and she is back as one of the obvious contenders in the Lassie. Sunday’s Child was making her career debut, and wasn’t quite as sharp as Beanwah’smachine, so Stall did give her a work between starts under race rider Rosie Napravnik.

“The filly was a little more lethargic, not as seasoned, and just had that one race,” said Stall. “Rosie felt like she was a little more aggressive in her last work.”

Sunday’s Child I coupled in the wagering with the horse who looks like her main challenger, Bleu Darling, since both are owned at least partially by Brittlyn Stables. Bleu Darling finished third in a $40,000 maiden-claiming debut over Arlington’s Polytrack, but won a Hawthorne maiden race on dirt by 10 lengths on Oct. 6. She makes her first start Saturday under the care of trainer Ron Faucheux.

Little Polka Dot formidable in Sprint

A year ago, Little Polka Dot was trying to carry her speed over a route of ground in the Champions Day Ladies Classic. She finished an even third in that race, but this year has been reconstituted with much greater affect as a sprinter. Second last out in a high-end Churchill Downs allowance race, her first start in three months, Little Polka Dot’s spot this Champions Day is the $100,000 Ladies Sprint, where she looks like the one to beat.

Little Polka Dot, a two-time Fair Grounds winner trained by Tom Amoss, probably will have to run down Speedacious to score. Drawn inside, Speedacious also got in a Champs Day prep at Churchill Downs, contesting the pace and holding on for a runner-up finish on Nov. 11.

Distance a question in Ladies Classic

The $100,000 Ladies Classic looks like a classic – a classic war of attrition. None of the fastest among the seven horses entered in the race looks especially keen on going 1 1/16 miles. Riley’s Monarch figures to be overlooked for the most part, but she at least has shown ability to do her best running late in races this long.