11/25/2011 4:07PM

Fair Grounds: Stall starts meeting strong with four wins on opening card

Lou Hodges Jr.
Gantry (outside) outfinishes Cash Refund to win the Thanksgiving Handicap.

NEW ORLEANS – Al Stall had horses entered in six races Thursday, opening day at Fair Grounds, his home track in his hometown. But Stall wasn’t forecasting fireworks. Not even close.

“Every time we have a bunch in, we normally have a bad day, and you go into a spiraling depression,” Stall said Friday morning. “I’m happy just to get one win in situations like that.”

Stall did get one win Thursday. And then another, and another, and another. After eight races, Stall had saddled four winners, the first time in his training career he’d sent out four horses to win on the same day at the same track.

“I’ve only even had three a couple times,” Stall said.

Stall swept the pick three covering races 3, 4, and 5, and then won race 8 before Kissimmee Kyle finished fourth in the Mr. Sulu Stakes and Trubs was sixth in the Thanksgiving Handicap. Two of Stall’s Thursday winners, Louisiana-bred 2-year-olds Beanwah’smachine and Sunday’s Child (both owned by Evelyn Benoit, who also captured the Thanksgiving Handicap with Gantry), are likely to swing back into action Dec. 10 on Louisiana Champions Day. Beanwah’smachine, a Successful Appeal colt, ran his record to 2 for 2 by scoring the second open-lengths victory of his career, winning a statebred-restricted one-other-than allowance race by two lengths, his raw time of 1:10.63 earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 80.

“He’s a sharp little colt, and I think he’s set up for Champions Day,” Stall said.

First-time starter Sunday’s Child had to work a little harder and ran a little slower winning her career debut by 1 1/2 lengths. Stall thinks the filly, by Any Given Saturday, will prefer longer distances, but she’s set to run back in the six-furlong Champions Day Juvenile Fillies.

If things go decently, Stall figures to be far from a one-hit wonder during the 2011-12 meet. Star Guitar remains on course for the Champions Day Classic, and Stall has number of other talented horses in his barn. Applauding, the 2-year-old filly who set a six-furlong Polytrack record at Keeneland in her career debut in October, is settling into Fair Grounds. Cease, who finished a close third in the Hawthorne Gold Cup and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, is walking the shed row now, with a February comeback likely. And set to start gearing up more seriously for a comeback is the 3-year-old Bind, who turned in one of the most impressive races here last season, when he won his career debut by almost 10 lengths. Bind finished second in two subsequent starts before going to the sidelines with an injury in late spring, only making it back to the racetrack last month.

“Getting a lot of time off and maturing could be the best thing to happen to him,” said Stall, who plans to jog Bind until Dec. 1 and then begin galloping the colt.

Gantry comes out of win well

Gantry, the first-ever stakes winner for 29-year-old trainer Ron Faucheux, seemed to have come out of the first stakes win of his career, the Thanksgiving Handicap here Thursday, in good condition, Faucheux said.

“He was very energetic today,” Faucheux said. “It’s almost like he didn’t race yesterday.”

Gantry, making his first start since being privately purchased out of New York by Louisianan Evelyn Benoit, edged Cash Refund by a nose in the Thanksgiving. He ran six furlongs in 1:09.62, a time that produced a 94 Beyer.

A 4-year-old Pulpit gelding, Gantry established a Belmont turf course record for six furlongs earlier this year, but Faucheux believes Gantry better suits dirt and is a candidate for two-turn races. No concrete plans, however, have yet been set.

Faucheux (pronounced FO-shay), a New Orleans native and the stepson of owner-trainer Louie Roussel, worked for trainers Todd Pletcher, Steve Klesaris, and Billy Badgett before being hired by prominent owner Frank Calabrese in 2009. He had only four horses last season at Fair Grounds, but has expanded his client base since parting ways with Calabrese. His stable now numbers 21 runners split between Fair Grounds and the Evangeline training center. Faucheux’s 21 wins in 2011 have come at a 31 percent strike rate.

Populist Poltics eye Champions Day

Former high school and college classmates Stall and Tom Amoss are headed for a potential showdown in the Champions Day Classic, where Stall-trained Star Guitar may be challenged by Populist Politics.

Amoss, who trains Populistic Politics, said the 3-year-old colt had exited his visually impressive win Thursday in the Mr. Sulu Stakes in good shape and was on course for the Classic. Populist Politics wouldn’t have raced Thursday had the Mr. Sulu not been rained off turf, Amoss said, but wound up getting a good-looking Classic prep by scoring a 6 1/2-length win.

Third in the Super Derby and a tough-trip seventh in the Oklahoma Derby, Populist Politics has been racing steadily for more than a year now, but shows no sign of wearing down.

“He maintains his weight and his looks,” Amoss said. “Star Guitar is the champ, but I think it should be interesting.”

Snakebite Kit retired with injury

Snakebite Kit, who won the 2010 Champions Day Turf and was scratched from the Mr. Sulu on Thursday, has been retired from racing after sustaining a torn suspensory ligament, owner-breeder Steve Hartman said Friday.

The injury was detected Wednesday afternoon, the day before Snakebite Kit was to have made his first start after an 11-month layoff necessitated by a tendon injury.

“It’s heartbreaking to get him this close and then have this happen,” Hartman said.

Snakebite Kit, a 5-year-old Sky Classic gelding, won 6 of 9 starts and went 5 for 7 on turf, including a perfect record in four Fair Grounds races.