08/12/2010 1:39PM

Star Guitar seeking repeat win in Evangeline Mile


OPELOUSAS, La. – Ask trainer Al Stall Jr. about the “big” horse in his barn and thoughts immediately turn to Blame, whose victory in last Saturday’s Whitney Stakes elevated him to the top of the national handicap division. But in Stall’s home state of Louisiana, his most popular runner might be Star Guitar.

As dominant locally as his stablemate is nationally, Star Guitar will attempt to defend his title in the $100,000 Evangeline Mile on Saturday night. He will concede from five to 12 pounds to his eight rivals as the 123-pound highweight.

A winner of 13 of 18 starts, Star Guitar has earned $911,958. All but two of his races have been in Louisiana and most have come against fellow Louisiana-breds. He is the reigning Louisiana-bred horse of the year

Star Guitar is also no stranger to open company. In addition to capturing the Evangeline Mile a year ago, Star Guitar is graded stakes placed, having finished third in the Grade 3 Alysheba Stakes on the 2009 Kentucky Derby undercard. He has finished fourth in a pair of graded events this year, the Grade  2 New Orleans Handicap and Grade 3 Texas Mile.

Star Guitar will have a new jockey for this year’s edition of the Mile as Jesse Campbell takes over for the recently retired Curt Bourque. Stall said choosing Campbell was an easy decision.

“Jesse has ridden for us quite a bit the last couple of years,” Stall said. “We got a couple of calls from agents inquiring about the situation but there was never really any doubt about who we would go with. Jesse has worked the horse and we wanted to go with a team guy versus someone just picking up the individual mount.”

The chief threat to Star Guitar’s continued dominance in the state appears to be King Dan. Although he is winless this year, the Dallas Keen charge has been keeping some good company. In his most recent start, the Grade 2 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows, the 5-year-old Include gelding helped set the pace in the nine-furlong race before weakening to report home fifth. The shorter distance of Saturday’s race should benefit King Dan as he has finished first or second in five of his six starts at a mile.

Tracy Hebert will handle the riding chores at 118 pounds.