Updated on 09/15/2011 1:35PM

Oak Hall gets perfect trip in Classic


NEW ORLEANS - What's an extra couple of furlongs? Oak Hall, winner of the Champions Day Sprint last season, won the $150,000 Champions Day Classic* (click here for chart) on Saturday, the culminating event of Fair Grounds' $1 million Louisiana Champions Day.

Oak Hall stalked a torrid pace in the 1 1/8-mile Classic, getting a perfect trip under jockey Kirk LeBlanc, who swept the last three Thoroughbred races on the card, the Turf, Ladies, and Classic.

Owned by Ena Ortega and trained by Doyle Waldrop, Oak Hall had never raced beyond 1 1/16 miles, and for much of his career the

5-year-old gelding had made a living as a sprinter. But no matter what the distance, Oak Hall, with 12 wins in 30 starts, has always been a hard-trier, the sort of horse to take advantage of favorable circumstances.

He got them Saturday. Favored White Star was sent to the front under Alex Jimenez, but longshot Doc's In engaged him on the first turn and the pace turned wicked. Doc's In was pulled up on the backstretch, but the damage was already done - a half-mile in 47.38 seconds.

Oak Hall sat third behind the leaders, and quickly challenged White Star after Doc's In gave way. He pushed to the front on the far turn and drew off in the stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Late-runners One Brick Shy and Doctor Mike clunked along to be second and third, respectively. Oak Hall paid $7.80 and was timed in 1:50.99 over a fast track.

Turf: Mr. Sulu upsets Turf

Mr. Sulu turned the tables on fellow 3-year-old L'homme, rallying to win the $100,000 Turf by one length. L'homme had easily beaten Mr. Sulu in the $100,000 Gentilly Handicap here last spring, but the effects of an eight-month layoff showed on the pace-setting L'homme, who tired in the final furlong.

Mr. Sulu, a homebred by Rail who is owned by A L "Red" McMurray, campaigned with trainer Josie Carroll this summer at Woodbine, where he failed to win a race in four tries.

But Mr. Sulu signaled improvement here Nov. 25, finishing a closing second to the talented Wild Summer in an open dirt allowance race.

That prep was all Mr. Sulu needed for a peak race on Champions Day. A great trip under Kirk LeBlanc helped, too. "It looked on paper like [L'homme] was the one I had to beat, so I stalked perfect and saved ground on the inside," LeBlanc said.

L'homme could not respond when challenged by Mr. Sulu and was passed for second at the wire by the late-running Bourbon Boogie. Mr. Sulu paid $26.20 to win and was timed in 1:44.51 over a firm course.

Juvenile: Hail to Bag wins for Hebert

The undefeated Hail to Bag won his fifth race, and trainer Doris Hebert continued his dominance of the Champions Day Juvenile. Hail to Bag won the $100,000 Juvenile by 2 3/4 lengths, and Hebert, who was seriously ill and spent a month in the hospital late this summer, won the Juvenile for the fourth time in 11 years.

While Hebert recovered, Hail to Bag rested. After winning the $50,000 Lafayette Stakes at Evangeline Downs on Sept. 3, Hail to Bag trained up to the Juvenile. And Hebert, who has always done well with 2-year-olds, had him primed for Champions Day.

Hail to Bag, who has led at every call but the first of his first start, broke fastest in the Juvenile field under jockey Steve Bourque. He was clear by three lengths after a quarter-mile in 21.75 seconds, maintained a clear advantage into the stretch, but began drifting out badly, even when Bourque switched to a right-handed whip.

That gave favored Walk in the Snow a clear run through the inside, but he could not make up any ground on Hail to Bag through a slow final furlong. Walk in the Snow edged Fine Stormy for the place spot. Hail to Bag ran six furlongs in 1:11.11 and paid $5 to win.

Lassie: Kwik Kash fulfills expectations

Kwik Kash justified the expectations of her connections, owner Murray Valene and trainer B.J. Gilbert, with a flashy 3 1/4-length win in the $100,000 Lassie. Valene and Gilbert had hoped to send Kwik Kash to Kentucky for a race in the spring of her 2-year-old season, but eventually scrapped that plan and pointed for Champions Day.

They gave the filly two preps for the Lassie, a Fair Grounds training race and a maiden race Nov. 23, which Kwik Kash won easily. Kwik Kash, a gray filly by Bag, was at her best Saturday. She broke like a shot under jockey Jamie Theriot, was well clear of the field after 50 yards, and was never threatened, running alone through the stretch. Kwik Kash, who paid $8.20, ran the six furlongs in 1:11.13. C J's Star, the favorite, finished second, more than seven lengths in front of Sunny Scarlett.

"She runs through pain and is probably the most courageous filly I've ever had," said Valene.

Offspring of Bag, a Devil's Bag stallion, swept the Champions Day 2-year-old races.

* In the $100,000 Ladies, heavily favored Midge Too withstood a fast early pace to lead virtually all the way. Midge Too ($3.80), beat Eastern Sun by almost four lengths, winning her fourth straight for trainer and co-owner Jerry Cart.

* Richard Englander's Sunup Sundown ($6.40) wore down Proper Sunday in the final furlong to win the $50,000 Starter by two lengths.

Louisiana Champions Day Classic Chart*

* Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.