12/07/2010 4:16PM

Star Guitar, Superior Storm back to defend their crowns

Lynn Roberts
Star Guitar will be seeking a repeat victory in Saturday’s Louisiana Champions Day Classic at Fair Grounds.

The great parades of Mardi Gras, like Rex and Zulu, find a new king and a queen every year. The king and queen of Louisiana Champions Day at Fair Grounds in New Orleans haven’t changed in several seasons, but could this be the year Star Guitar and Superior Storm lose their Champion Day crowns?

Star Guitar won the Champions Day Juvenile in 2007, the Champions Day Sprint in 2008, and Champions Day Classic last year by more than seven lengths. Superior Storm won the Champions Day Lassie in 2007 and the Champions Day Ladies in 2008 and 2009. Both will try to repeat in their respective races Saturday at Fair Grounds, but both come off performances less than definitive.

Star Guitar had won 10 races in a row against Louisiana-bred competition before turning in the first truly flat race of his career, a fourth-place finish at odds of 1-2 in the Gold Cup on Nov. 5 at Delta. With its tight turns, night racing, and deep surface, Delta can be a tricky track, but Star Guitar had conquered Delta before.

His trainer, Al Stall, couldn’t find a specific reason for the surprising defeat and said late last month he was merely looking forward to getting Star Guitar back into a race. The 5-year-old horse, bred and owned by Brittlyn Stable, probably gave Stall good reason to look forward to Saturday when he worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Nov. 29. Star Guitar faces seven foes in the Classic, including Snug, who easily won the Gold Cup at Delta on Nov. 5.

Superior Storm won her Nov. 5 race at Delta, but only just. The 5-year-old millionaire held on by a neck over Harlie’s Dreams, who will give Superior Storm another go on Saturday in the Ladies, which also drew eight horses when entries were taken Monday.

Two other 2009 Champions Day winners are back on Saturday, including Desert Wheat, who already has won the Turf two times and has contested the race four years in a row. Flashy Wise Cat easily captured the 2009 Sprint and was one of 10 horses entered in this year’s edition. The Ladies Sprint and the Juvenile both drew highly competitive 14-horse fields, while there are 12 in the Lassie and eight in the Starter. Three Quarter Horse stakes open the 13-race card, which has a first post time of 12:10.

Flat Out returns with allowance win

Flat Out won Sunday’s allowance-race feature by two lengths, unleashing an encouraging late-stretch burst while making his first start since the 2009 Arkansas Derby, a layoff of some 20 months.

Flat Out, a son of Flatter owned by the Preston Stables, had won the Smarty Jones Stakes and finished fourth in the Southwest before finishing sixth in the Arkansas Derby. Later that spring while stabled at Louisville, he was diagnosed with a fractured shoulder, trainer Scooter Dickey said, an injury that required a long period of rest. Dickey said Flat Out was “one or two works away from a race last spring” when he was afflicted with a quarter crack that further set him back.

Flat Out returned to Dickey’s base at Oaklawn on Sunday night and appeared to have come out of his second-level allowance win in good condition, Dickey said. Oaklawn has a four-race series of route races for older horses, and it would be natural for Flat Out to run out of his own stall, though Dickey said Flat Out also could be nominated to two-turn stakes at Fair Grounds.

Valli With a Vow getting time off

Valli With a Vow ran the best race of her career Saturday when she rallied smartly to win the Pago Hop Stakes by more than three lengths. With that stakes win – her first – behind her, Valli With a Vow will head to a farm for one month’s rest, trainer Josie Carroll said, a layoff that had been planned before the Pago Hop.

Valli With a Vow started her career last February at Fair Grounds and made 11 starts in 2010. She has raced on dirt and Polytrack with some success, but turf appears to be Valli With a Vow’s best surface. Her grass race prior to the Pago Hop produced a five-length Woodbine allowance win. Carroll said if Valli With a Vow’s winter goes as planned, she could be ready for another start before the end of the Fair Grounds season in late March.