06/19/2014 1:59PM

Plenty of speed in inaugural Evangeline Turf Sprint

Lou Hodges Jr.
Gantry, the winner of the Colonel Power Stakes in March, will look replicate that success Saturday in the inaugural Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint at Evangeline Downs.

At first glance, there appears to be an abundance of speed in Saturday’s inaugural $300,000 Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint – a scenario that would favor the late-running Gantry or Lemon Drop Dream.

Upon closer inspection, there’s a chance that Heitai could control the tempo, with Sum of the Parts getting an ideal tracking trip. Throw in the unknown of how Berlino Di Tiger will run in his first start since racing in March in Dubai, and value can be found at every turn while handicapping the richest Thoroughbred race ever run at Evangeline in Opelousas, La.

The Turf Sprint, for 3-year-olds and up at five furlongs, will anchor a card of five stakes worth $640,000 in total. The program includes a showdown between Grand Contender and Sunbean in the $100,000 Evangeline Mile as well as an all-stakes pick four that has a $100,000-guaranteed pool. The bet runs on races 5-8, with the last leg being the Turf Sprint. Evangeline has a special early first post Saturday of 3:50 p.m. Central.

::DRF Live: Get real-time updates and insights from DRF reporters and handicappers on Saturday

Gantry has been a prominent sprinter in the region for the past several years, his latest win coming on turf in the $58,000 Colonel Power Stakes at Fair Grounds. In that March 15 race, Gantry defeated Marchman, who returned to win a pair of Grade 3 turf sprints in Kentucky.

Gantry enters Saturday’s race off a rare off-the-board finish, having run sixth April 12 in the Grade 3 Shakertown at Keeneland. He broke from post 12 and ended up 3 1/2 lengths behind the winner, Marchman.

“Usually, he’s a horse that always fires his best race,” said Ron Faucheux, who trains Gantry for Brittlyn Stable. “It was definitely uncharacteristic for him to run like that. The outside post is a little bit of an excuse for us. The horse that won the Shakertown and the horse that ran second, he beat both of them in his previous start. I think he just didn’t have his best day. The race came at the end of a tough winter campaign. We’ve had enough time now where we’re freshened up. He should fire a big race for us.”

Richard Eramia has the mount from post 6.

“Our concern is going to be the distance,” Faucheux said. “Usually, he’s more of a three-quarter-mile horse. Going five-eighths is not really our deal, but it looks like there’s enough speed in the race. Hopefully, that speed comes back to us.”

[Evangeline Turf Sprint: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

Sum of the Parts accounted for the $75,000 Bonapaw Stakes on turf in December at Fair Grounds. He will be returning to the grass Saturday after finishing second June 9 in the $100,000 Karl Boyes Memorial Stakes over the synthetic main track at Presque Isle Downs in his last start. Gerard Melancon has the mount from post 10.

“It’s a big, quick turnaround for Sum of the Parts,” said trainer Tom Amoss. “A couple of things went into our decision to run. No. 1, post position is important to us. We wanted to be outside. Sum of the Parts is not a rateable horse inside of horses, but in the last two races when he was in an outside position, he was able to sit off a horse and make a move. On top of that, he’s rebounded out of his last race really well.”

Heitai won the $60,000 Need for Speed Stakes at Evangeline in his turf debut May 3. He was up by two lengths through an opening quarter in 21 seconds and remained in command through a half-mile in 43.80.

“He’s incredibly fast,” said trainer Karl Broberg. “He’s got the type of speed you just don’t see very often.”

Berlino Di Tiger, a Group 1 turf-sprint winner in Brazil, was 11th in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan.