12/08/2011 4:57PM

Fair Grounds: Star Guitar back to defend Champions Day Classic title

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You know how sometimes a racetrack will bring a famous horse back to parade in front of the stands before a stakes race he won several times, or perhaps once, memorably? Well, the appropriate individual for that task on Louisiana Champions Day at Fair Grounds has other plans Saturday. Five years after he first won on Champions Day, Star Guitar still is running in the actual races. Not just running, but winning, and not just winning, but winning big, and he will be favored to push his Champions Day unbeaten streak to five Saturday in the $150,000 Classic.

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The Classic goes as race 11 on a marathon 13-race program that begins at 12:10 p.m. Three Quarter Horse stakes start the card, followed by a maiden race and a starter-allowance stakes. Then come seven Louisiana-bred stakes, of which the Classic is the second to last.

Star Guitar, who turns 7 in less than one month, won the Champions Day Juvenile in 2007, the Sprint in 2008, and the Classic the last two seasons. A Quiet American horse bred and owned by Evelyn Benoit’s Brittlyn Stables, Star Guitar has won 20 of 26 career races, including 17 of 19 in Louisiana-bred competition. He won the 2010 Classic by four lengths and the 2009 edition of the race by almost eight, and Star Guitar looked dominant as ever winning the Gold Cup at Delta on Nov. 5, a race in which he had finished an inexplicable fourth the previous year.

“He’s got ability and soundness, and he’s got that intangible – he tries every time,” trainer Al Stall said. “A lot of good-looking, sound horses don’t make a million four and change.”

Star Guitar has worked three times since his Delta race, including five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.80 on Nov. 28.

“His training has been on the mark,” Stall said.

Star Guitar does face his strongest Champions Day rival in years Saturday. Populist Politics, a 3-year-old, held his own in rich open stakes races earlier this year and cruised to a sharp win in the opening-day off-the-turf Mr. Sulu Stakes. Populist Politics, however, is a one-run closer, and in a paceless race, Star Guitar should get the jump on him.

“I’m very concerned about that,” trainer Tom Amoss said. “Star Guitar not only is the champ, he’s got tactical speed, which gives him a huge advantage over Populist Politics.”

It’s an advantage, so far, that Star Guitar has not needed.