12/13/2014 4:19PM

Sunbean overcomes adversity to become a millionaire

Lou Hodges Jr.
Sunbean, ridden by Corey Lanerie, wins the Louisiana Champions Day Classic by a neck Saturday.

Sunbean began his quest to win a second straight Louisiana Champions Day Classic and surpass $1 million in earnings by hopping slightly, rearing slightly, missing the break, and spotting his four rivals several lengths. But while it took him nearly the entire 1 1/8 miles of the race, Sunbean finally got there, wearing down the slow-pacesetting Watch My Smoke to retain his position atop the ranks of Louisiana-bred dirt-route horses.

Watch My Smoke was disqualified from second to third, elevating One King’s Man to second, for coming out and interfering with his rival in the final furlong. The stewards’ inquiry also included Sunbean, who raced outside the other two horses, but the head-on shot of the homestretch run clearly showed Sunbean maintaining a straight course.

Sunbean typically stalks the pace and keeps the leaders in his sites, but Saturday, his terrible start forced a change in tactics.

“I threw all the instructions out the window and hoped I got it right,” said jockey Corey Lanerie, who picked up this mount when Sunbean’s regular rider, Richard Eramia, sustained an injury last weekend.

Watch My Smoke, trained, like Sunbean, by Ron Faucheux, set easy splits of 24.55 seconds, 49.16, and 1:14.21 as Sunbean crept into contention from the back of the field. One King’s Man got first run on the leader, moving two wide to challenge past the three-furlong pole as Sunbean made his move three wide.

Watch My Smoke, though, had plenty left after crawling on the pace, and Sunbean did not finally take his measure until well inside the final furlong. One King’s Man appeared to be slipping back when he was fouled, but he came on again very late and galloped out in front.

All things considered, Sunbean was fortunate to escape with his 13th win from 20 starts. “He’s a really good horse, and good horses overcome,” Faucheux said.

Sunbean, who had more than $400,000 bet on him to show, paid $2.60 to win and was timed in 1:51.81 on a fast track.

Bred and owned by the Brittlyn Farm of Maurice and Evelyn Benoit, he is a son of Brahms and the broodmare Xstrawdnair. Brahms stands for a published stud fee of $2,500, and Sunbean now has earned $1,010,150.