Updated on 12/08/2012 8:24PM

Fair Grounds: String King repeats in Turf for auto-body specialist Smith

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Hodges Photography / Lynn Roberts
String King (left), with James Graham up, wins his second straight Louisiana Champions Day Turf.

It was lucky enough Charlie Smith came up with a good horse at all. Now that he has one, Smith seems intent on keeping him good. 

When String King won the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf in 2011, it was the first victory as a trainer of record for Smith, an auto body-shop owner from Haughton, La. In his spare time, Smith trains a couple horses at the nearby River Point Equestrian and Training Center. He seems to know what he’s doing. A year after Smith’s first-ever win, String King won the Champions Day Turf again, running down loose-on-the-lead Lovely Vin to score by one length. The $60,000 winner’s share of the purse pushed String King’s bankroll to $324,052, a tidy sum, especially considering Smith bred String King and owns him, too.

“He’s sounder than I am, I can tell you that,” said Smith, 67. “I’m no spring chicken anymore but he’s sound as a dollar and I try to keep him that way. I don’t over-train him.”

Three horses intended for dirt races on the card - Lee’s Spirit, Watch My Smoke, and Well’s Gold - scratched from the Turf, leaving Lovely Vin, a recent Fair Grounds grass-course allowance winner, galloping along on a comfortable lead Saturday. He went an opening half-mile in a leisurely 49.68 seconds and sailed to a clear lead entering the long home straight – long enough for String King to take his measure. Lovely Vin still had a four-length lead at the stretch call, but String King, with James Graham riding, had him measured, running past the pacesetter in the final sixteenth of a mile to win going away.

Lovely Vin held second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of another late runner, Sadie’s Soldier. Racing over a soft turf course Graham said his mount didn’t relish, String King was timed in 1:45.92 for 1 1/16 miles. He paid $3.40 to win.

Champions Day Ladies Sprint: Harlie's Dreams displays versatility

Harlie’s Dreams is just fast enough to be dangerous and versatile enough to give trainer Pat Devereux plenty of options. The 5-year-old Harlie’s Dreams  won the Champions Day Ladies around two turns in 2011, and on Saturday rallied up the fence under Diego Saenz to capture the $100,000 Champions Day Ladies Sprint.

The Delta Downs-based Saenz gave Harlie’s Dream an ideal journey. She drafted in behind the leading trio of Do Dat Blues, Kevil Kid, and Foreign Girl, coming one path off the fence in mid-stretch to zip past the tiring speed, and then held off outside-closing Warrior Maid to win by a half-length. Foreign Girl finished third, with Harlie’s Dreams running six furlongs in 1:11.26.

Harlie’s Dreams, by Pleasant Tap, is owned by Coteau Grove Farms LLC, and won for the sixth time in 24 starts. She paid $9.20.

Speedacious, the race’s defending champion and 1-2 favorite, lacked her customary early speed and never got involved, finishing last of nine.

Champions Day Lassie: Sittin At the Bar wins by 8 lengths

Sittin At the Bar looked like the best 2-year-old of either sex racing Saturday at Fair Grounds. Rallying from mid-pack over a track her rider, Mark Guidry, though was speed-biased, Sittin at the Bar easily passed the leaders in upper stretch and went on to an eight-length win in the $100,000 Lassie. Her final clocking of 1:11.10 for six furlongs was faster than the winning time of 1:11.14 a race later in the Champions Day Sprint.

“She ran against the bias real good today, and she accelerated nicely off the turn, had plenty in the tank,” said Guidry, who rode Sittin At the Bar to victory for trainer Brett Brinkman and owner P. Dale Ladner.

Sittin At the Bar had won her debut by almost eight lengths in her only previous try in Louisiana-bred competition, and had most recently finished third in the Grade 3 Delta Princess, a two-turn race. Cutting back to a one-turn sprint Saturday, she rated comfortably in fifth place before launching a big, sustained, and impressive rally. The heavy favorite, Sittin At the Bar paid $3.40. She Loves Runnin was a distant second, Taralicious third in a spread-out field.

Champions Day Juvenile: Hero Force digs hangs tough in Juvenile

In an allowance race opening day of the Fair Grounds meet, Hero Force took a four-length lead to the stretch call, lost his focus, and was nipped by a deep closer. Saturday, in the $100,000 Juvenile, Hero Force never had a chance to turn off. Pressed the entire trip while racing on the lead along the rail, Hero Force briefly was headed in mid-stretch of the Juvenile but came back on to win by a half-length.

In second came Lattin Devil, whose rough journey around the turn might have cost him victory. He was followed by Heitai, with 5-2 favorite Westernator never making much impact in a fourth-place finish.

Hero Force was ridden to victory for trainer Bret Calhoun and owner Robbie Norman by Rosie Napravnik, who had the mount for the first time. He paid $8.60 to win as the second choice, and was timed in 1:11.62 for six furlongs.