12/10/2008 12:00AM

Southern Invasion primed for Classic


The first horse New Orleanian Bobby Asaro ever owned, Genuine Meeting, won the Louisiana Champions Day Classic back in 1992.

"I've been trying to win that race again ever since," said Asaro, who grew up blocks from Fair Grounds and operates a popular wedding reception venue, Southern Oaks Plantation, in New Orleans.

That's why Louisiana Champions Day, scheduled for Saturday at Fair Grounds, can't come soon enough for Asaro, who thinks he has a prime contender for the race in Southern Invasion.

And really, just having a horse to run in the $150,000 Classic is enough to give a horseman hope: Only six were entered in the 1 1/8-mile race, and two of them are cross-entered in other Saturday stakes. Star Guitar is more likely to start in the Sprint, trainer Al Stall said this week, and if Autobeacat goes in either the Turf or the Starter, the Classic would have only Snug, Star Production, Grand Minit, and Southern Invasion.

The Classic is one of 11 Louisiana-bred stakes - three for Quarter Horses, eight for Thoroughbreds - on Saturday's program. The Classic is one of three Thoroughbred races with fields of seven or fewer, but the other five are packed with horses and highly contentious.

As for Southern Invasion, he actually started in the 2007 Champions Day Classic, but ran not a lick, finishing last by 25 lengths. But, if one considers racing with a piece of drill bit lodged in a cannon bone to be an impediment, Southern Invasion had an excuse. The metal fragment apparently had found its way inside Southern Invasion before Asaro claimed the horse for $20,000 in June 2007 at Evangeline Downs.

"There were rumors that he had a cracked cannon bone," Asaro recalled, "but that wasn't the problem."

As a youngster in California, Southern Invasion underwent a drilling procedure to strengthen his shins, according to Asaro, a process comparable in intent to the firing and blistering of horses' shins. All well and good, but in this case, a piece of bit somehow was left in Southern Invasion's leg, a circumstance revealed when the horse was X-rayed after being claimed.

At first, Southern Invasion showed no discomfort, and after the claim, he won 3 of 4 starts and finished second to the good horse Costa Rising in a Delta stakes leading into Champions Day 2007. But by then, the fragment had begun bothering Southern Invasion, and after the horse raced Jan. 5, Asaro and Bourgeois opted for surgical removal.

"They took out the metal, shaved down the bone to promote growth, and we decided to give him all the time he needed and shoot for Champions Day," Asaro said.

The Cocodrie Stakes on Oct. 31 at Delta was meant as a Champions Day prep, Asaro said, but Southern Invasion won by a length. Bourgeois has worked the horse three times since, and now Asaro hopes to revisit the Champions Day celebration he had 16 years ago.

Scherers make it a family affair

Trainer Merrill Scherer (the father) won a race on the same card as veteran trainer Richie Scherer (his son) many times. It also had happened that Merrill Scherer won a race on the same card with Gary Scherer (another son), who began training on his own a couple years ago. And, it had happened that both Scherer brothers had won a race on the same card. But not until Sunday at Fair Grounds had father and both sons won races on the same racing program.

Merrill Scherer won race 6, a lower-level claimer, with favored Essence of Gold, but the Scherer brothers' victories were less obvious. Gary Scherer captured race 7 with Devil's Libation, a first-time starter in an open two-turn maiden grass race, and Richie Scherer won race 9, an entry-level turf allowance, with a layoff horse named Talkin Indian, a sister to Better Talk Now.

While the family of trainers surely has some of the same habits, they're not exactly sharing stall space. Gary's horses are housed in a barn way on the back of the stabling area, while Richie is in the middle of the backstretch, and Merrill has a barn right next to a gap leading onto the racetrack. Age before beauty, evidently.

Macho Again near return to racing

Jim Dandy winner Macho Again is almost ready to return to racing action after getting some time off following his second-place finish in the Super Derby in September at Louisiana Downs.

Macho Again has worked four times since returning to regular training, most recently drilling five furlongs in about 1:02.60 last Saturday at Fair Grounds. A Florida-bred, Macho Again is being pointed to the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 24 at Gulfstream Park, trainer Dallas Stewart said.

"We might look at the Woodchopper as a prep for him here," Stewart said.

The Woodchopper is a Dec. 29 grass race restricted to 3-year-olds, and though Macho Again never has raced on turf, the idea would be merely to get a comeback race into the horse before his major goal.

"He's put on a lot of weight," Stewart said. "He looks awesome to me."