07/18/2012 1:39PM

Louisiana Downs: String King on course for Louisiana Cup Turf Classic


BOSSIER CITY, La. – Louisiana Cup Day at Louisiana Downs is still over a month away and along with it the $100,000 Cup Turf Classic, but anticipation is already running high. The Turf Classic promises to be one of the most competitive of the eight events restricted to Louisiana-breds on the afternoon of Aug. 18.

String King established himself as the early favorite for the Turf Classic after picking up his third win of the season in as many starts last Friday. Scheduled as a prep for the Turf Classic, the open allowance was rained off the grass to the main track but String King did not seem to mind the change in venue. He controlled the pace throughout and remained stubbornly clear through the lane. String King won under similar circumstances to begin the meeting when prepping for the $50,000 John Franks Memorial Stakes, which he won on June 2 over firm turf. The two victories sandwiching his Franks score are String King’s only wins on dirt.

“I always thought he was better on grass, but maybe not,” said String King’s breeder, owner, and trainer, Charlie Smith. “He really dug in well down the lane the other day.”

In one of the better story lines of last season, Smith, who has been an owner and breeder for decades while running a successful local auto repair business, took out his first trainer’s license at the tender age of 65.

“It just seemed like it was the right time to do it,” Smith said. “This horse has just been a blessing for me. I’m just so proud of him.”

Smith’s string remains small – very small. He has a full brother to String King who recently made his debut as a 3-year-old maiden. Both are by 2005 Louisiana Downs champion older horse Crowned King out of the Fly a Kite mare String Dancer.

“I’ve got an 8-year-old mare who is also a half-sister to String King,” said Smith. “I bred her to Crowned King this year so I’ll have a three-quarter sibling as well.”

In addition to his Franks win here this season, String King won the Champions Day Turf at Fair Grounds in December of last year. Overall, he has won six times from 15 starts and banked just over $197,000 for his one-man connections.

Despite limited opportunities for the upper echelon of statebreds on the grass over the summer, Smith passed on the $100,000 Louisiana Legends Turf at Evangeline Downs with String King late last month. The decision to stay home was due in large part to String King’s demeanor.

“He is rather high strung and a nervous type and really doesn’t ship very well,” Smith said. “We would have had to haul down there in the heat of the day, race under the lights. It just really would not have been fair to the horse.”

Taking advantage of String King’s absence in the Legends Turf, Kissimmee Kyle rallied strongly from off the pace to post a narrow win under Mark Guidry. Kissimmee Kyle finished third to String King in the Franks in his previous start.

“He showed us something that night at Evangeline,” said Kissimmee Kyle’s trainer, Al Stall Jr. “He has fired going short before but not going two turns. Of course Mark may have had something to do with it. Hopefully we can get Mark back for the Louisiana Cup next month.”

Expected to join String King and Kissimmee in the Turf Classic is Old Bushmill. Fourth in the Franks last month, Old Bushmill defeated both of his expected rivals in the Dixie Poker Stakes at Fair Grounds in January. Old Bushmill is also the defending champ of the Turf Classic.