08/18/2011 2:17PM

Louisiana Downs: Zacney returns to his roots with Wildrally in Turf Classic


Chuck Zacney is an East Coast-based businessman best known as a co-owner of champion Afleet Alex. But he actually got his start in racing with Louisiana-breds, and on Saturday will be active on the Louisiana Cup card at Louisiana Downs. Zacney races Wildrally, who will start as a top contender in the $100,000 Turf Classic. It is the main event on a program of eight statebred stakes worth $570,000.

Zacney owns Wildrally with Edward Johnston, who also trains the horse. Wildrally won the $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace at Fair Grounds in January, and comes into the Turf Classic off a runner-up finish in the $100,000 Louisiana Showcase Turf at Evangeline Downs on July 2. He is one of several Louisiana-breds that through the years Zacney has raced with Johnston.

“He actually started down here in Louisiana, maybe 10, 11 years ago,” Johnston said. “We met through a mutual friend of ours in the hospital business. Chuck’s business deals with hospitals.

“His first horses were Louisiana-breds, his first couple of years were in Louisiana, then he got hooked up with Tim Ritchey.”

Zacney expanded his stable to race near his home back East, and in 2005 hit a high when the Ritchey-trained Afleet Alex won both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. In more recent times, Zacney and Johnston have had regional stakes success with Wildrally as well as Ladyzarbridge, winner of the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies last winter at Fair Grounds.

Wildrally is part of a 12-horse field in the Turf Classic, which also drew half-brothers Ide Like a Double, a seven-time stakes winner, and Old Bushmill, a 3-year-old who is 2 for 2 at the meet. As for Wildrally, he will be seeking his eighth win over the Louisiana Downs turf course Saturday, when he breaks from post 10 under Shane Sellers.

“He likes that turf course,” Johnston said. “He’s won seven races over there, so he’s real comfortable on it. Evangeline Downs is a little more speed-biased course than Louisiana Downs. He’s a horse that lays off of it, and the Louisiana Downs course seems more suited to him.”

Wildrally will be making his third start off a layoff in the Turf Classic. The other $100,000 turf race on the card, the Distaff, is for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. Local will be seeking her third consecutive Louisiana-bred stakes win against a field that includes Skipping Town, who defeated open company rivals in the $50,000 Matron at Evangeline.

The stakes action begins in the second race with the $60,000 Sprint, which drew My Star Runner and Tortuga Straits, who finished one-two last out in the $100,000 Louisiana Showcase Sprint at 5 1/2 furlongs at Evangeline. The move to six furlongs for the Louisiana Cup should be a benefit to the late-running Tortuga Straits, said his trainer, Ralph Irwin.

“We’ve had to run 5 1/2, and while he’s run some nice races he just can’t quite get there going 5 1/2,” Irwin said. “He’s trying to get there. He just can’t quite get it done.”

◗ Jockey Donnie Meche, who had his first mount since May 2010 earlier this month at Evangeline Downs, has his first local starter this meet in the $50,000 Juvenile. Meche will be aboard Masculino, a top contender along with the maiden Zip Motion and Kentucky shippers Raiseanothergator and Bucktown.

◗ Get in Da House returns to the Louisiana-bred ranks for the $75,000 derby after finishing a strong third in the $100,000 Prelude, which is the local prep for the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby. “I thought he ran a great race,” said his trainer, Wes Hawley. Hawley will also send out probable favorite Lovenotlost in the $75,000 Oaks.

◗ Little Polka Dot will be seeking her fifth straight win when she goes in the $60,000 Filly and Mare Sprint.

◗ The undefeated stakes winner Coteau Kitten heads the $50,000 Juvenile Fillies.