11/17/2008 12:00AM

Louisiana-bred sprinters are his specialty


The fast start trainer Victor Arceneaux has had at Delta Downs has come with his signature kind of horse, Louisiana-bred sprinters. He went 4 for 7 over the first two weeks of the meet, and all four winners were bred in the state and had their success in sprints.

The most impressive of the lot was Captain Buddy, who earned the best Beyer Speed Figure of the meet up to that point, a 98, for his 6 1/2-length romp in the $50,000 Zydeco on Nov. 1.

"We've had a dream start," said Arceneaux.

Arceneaux ships to Delta, which opened Oct. 29, from his Evangeline Downs Training Center base near Lafayette, La. He said he has 45 horses in training, and over the next several months he will be racing at both Delta and Fair Grounds.

"My papers are split half and half," he said.

Arceneaux, who saddled his first winner in 1996, came into the Delta meet off a strong season at Evangeline Downs. He won with 21 of 87 starters, or 24 percent of the time, and also had 20 second-place finishes. He is on pace to eclipse his best year, 2006, when he won 34 races and had stable earnings of $779,289.

Brother Bean came along that season, winning the first three starts of his career by a combined margin of 16 lengths. Arceneaux then sent the horse out to win the $100,000 Louisiana Premier Night Sprint, a five-furlong race at Delta, in February 2007. Brother Bean earned a Beyer Figure of 106.

Arceneaux's ace sprinter of the moment is Captain Buddy, who in the Zydeco defeated open company, including the comebacking multiple stakes winner Mystery Classic. The victory came following a troubled head loss to multiple stakes winner Tortuga Straits in the $100,000 Cajun at Louisiana Downs on Aug. 2.

"He gave us a huge effort that day, and repeated it at Delta Downs," said Arceneaux, who is now pointing Captain Buddy to the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint at Fair Grounds on Dec. 13.

Captain Buddy's win in the Zydeco came following a three-month layoff, which illustrates that Arceneaux knows how to hold a horse at his peak. That is a key skill in managing sprinters, who are often asked for a maximum effort from gate to wire. Maintaining their edge between races without overtraining them is a balancing act, and one that Arceneaux nailed with Captain Buddy.

Arceneaux also has had particular success with horses making their debuts in the maiden claiming ranks, winning at a 29 percent rate in that category. He further takes down maiden special weight races at an above-average 20 percent clip, all of which suggests he places his horses well. Arceneaux has the numbers to compare notes, or talent levels, among his maidens, with a good part of his stable consisting of young horses. He also has his fair share of horses who have recently been broken. Arceneaux is hands-on with that generation, too.

"When my morning finishes at the racetrack, my day's only beginning at the farm," he said.

It's a cycle that keeps the maiden winners flowing, and the search on for the next good sprinter.