12/11/2013 3:54PM

Fair Grounds: String King switches to dirt for Champions Day Classic

Lynn Roberts/Hodges Photography
Turf ace String King will make his first main-track start since 2012 in Saturday's Champions Day Classic.

Charlie Smith did not bother to hedge his bets with String King, the top Louisiana-bred in training. After earlier indicating he was considering cross-entering String King, winner of the past two runnings of the Louisiana Champions Day Turf, in both that $100,000 race and the $150,000 Classic, Smith put all his eggs in one basket by putting his star runner in just one event – the 1 1/8-mile Classic – when entries were finalized Wednesday for Saturday’s program at Fair Grounds.

The 13-race Louisiana Champions card, topped by a field of nine for the Classic, includes six other $100,000 stakes restricted to Louisiana-breds. The program is rounded out by a $50,000 starter handicap, and pair of maiden special weight races worth $40,000 apiece, and three Grade 2 stakes for Quarter Horses, the Juvenile, Derby, and Classic.

String King will be making his first start on the main track since July 2012, when he won an off-the-turf allowance at Louisiana Downs. Overall, he is 3 for 6 on dirt, with three of those starts early in his career before he established himself as a standout on turf.

String King’s keenest competition in the Classic figures to come from the 3-year-old Sunbean, who is 4 for 4 in stakes restricted to Louisiana-breds, including last month’s Gold Cup at Delta Downs; and Populist Politics, a 5-year-old who was the beaten favorite in last year’s Classic and owns a victory in the Louisiana Legends Classic at Evangeline Downs in July.

The Classic field also includes Skip the Pinot, winner of the Louisiana Cup Derby at Louisiana Downs; and Get in Da House, third while beaten only two lengths in last year’s Classic.

Perhaps in the expectation that String King would be cross-entered in the Turf, only six horses actually entered the 1 1/16-mile grass race. In String King’s absence, Sadie’s Solder should inherit the role of favorite. His 5-for-14 record on grass stands in contrast to his five opponents, who are a collective 4 for 23 on turf.

The 6-year-old Ladyzarbridge, winless in six starts since winning last year’s Ladies at 1 1/16 miles, faces challenges from 2013 stakes winners Tensas Harbor, Little Ms Protocol, and Mischievous Miss.

The six-furlong Sprint looks like one of the most competitive races on the card. Its 14-horse field includes such contenders as Southern Dude, a three-time winner this season who was beaten less than a length in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs in May; The Louisiana Kid, who won three races against open company at Monmouth Park during the summer; the 3-year-old Tallahatchie Luke, whose 4-for-6 record this year includes an open company allowance going long last time out; and Heiitai, a 3-year-old who two starts ago recorded a 106 Beyer winning a race by nearly 19 lengths.