06/05/2013 2:44PM

Louisiana Downs: Johnston positioned for best summer ever


BOSSIER CITY, La. – Trainer Eddie Johnston wasted little time in getting down to business when the Louisiana Downs season began in early May. Johnston sent out a couple of winners opening weekend and has been a regular ever since – both at the entry box and in the winner’s circle.

After the first five weeks of the stand, Johnston is tied with Joey Foster atop the trainer standings with 8 victories from 25 starters. Both of those figures represent roughly half of Johnston’s wins and starts from all of last season. With three-quarters of the meeting still remaining, Johnston is on pace to have his busiest summer ever.

“I’ve got a couple more stalls here this year,” Johnston said. “But the big thing has been we’ve been fortunate to get some horses in. We’ve been lucky that some one-other-than, two-other-than allowances have gone. These days it is a lot about entering to run.”

Johnston went on to say that some momentum generated from a successful Fair Grounds meeting over the winter and early spring has not hurt matters either.

“We had a great Fair Grounds meet,” he said. “Actually, the last several years have all been good. That we won the closing-day feature was only icing on the cake, especially at 25-1.”

Johnston was referring to Lee’s Spirit, who captured the Costa Rising Stakes on March 30 and paid $53.60 to win. The 8-year-old Lee’s Spirit also won the $100,000 Gold Cup at Delta Downs last October in his first start after being claimed by Johnston for $20,000 at Louisiana Downs six weeks earlier. His next expected start will come in the $100,000 Louisiana Legends Classic at Evangeline Downs on July 6.

Johnston’s other heavy hitter in the state-bred stakes ranks is Ladyzarbridge. Although unplaced last Saturday in the Honeymoon Stakes on the Louisiana Downs turf, she will return to the main track to defend her title in the Legends Distaff at Evangeline next month. The 6-year-old daughter of Zarbyev also accounted for Louisiana Ladies on Champions Day on dirt last December at Fair Grounds.

“I think she’s better on the dirt than the turf,” Johnston said. “She had a great year for us in 2012.”

Joining Lee’s Spirit and Ladyzarbridge on the trip to Evangeline for Legends Night will be Fast City. A winner of six in a row, including three allowance scores for Johnston after he reached all the way to Golden Gate Fields to claim the then-3-year-old daughter of Half Ours for $12,500, Fast City will make her stakes debut in the Legends Ladies Sprint.

“She is a Louisiana-bred so the claim made sense,” Johnston said. “We’ve got one for the starter stakes on Legends Night as well, so we are going to send four down. I’m actually headed down there [Evangeline] Friday night as we have one in. I’ll meet with the stakes coordinator and get everybody nominated.”

Johnston’s trip to Evangeline on Friday is hardly for administrative purposes only. He will saddle Too Dim in the evening’s feature, a second-level optional $20,000 claiming race for Louisiana-breds. Too Dim comes off a gutsy second-place performance in a similar spot at Louisiana Downs on May 19. He returns to the scene of his maiden victory at Evangeline last August and will be reunited with winning rider Tracy Hebert.