03/26/2016 3:08PM

Sunbean shows class in winning Star Guitar Stakes

Ann Switalski/Hodges Photography
Sunbean and jockey Richard Eramia win the Star Guitar Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths Saturday.

NEW ORLEANS – Class prevailed in the first stakes race on the Louisiana Derby card Saturday at Fair Grounds.

After relaxing in third place until the final turn, the millionaire 6-year-old gelding Sunbean kicked into gear heading into the stretch and surged to a 1 1/4-length victory over Hopeful Notion in the $60,000 Star Guitar.

Ridden by Richard Eramia for trainer Ron Faucheux and Maurice and Evelyn Benoit's Brittlyn Stable, Sunbean completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.93. He paid $3 to win.

One King's Man finished third, three lengths behind Hopeful Notion, in a field of five Louisiana-breds ages 4 and up. Stormdriver, who was scratched, was to run later in the New Orleans Handicap.

Sunbean's victory, his 14th in 23 starts, was his first since December 2014. He injured a tendon after a race early in 2015 and was sidelined for more than a year. In his comeback race, he finished fourth in the Dixie Poker Ace on Feb. 27 on the turf at Fair Grounds.

He settled in the early running Saturday, as Next Event, stalked by Hopeful Notion, set a moderate pace, running the first quarter-mile in 24.87 seconds and the half in 49.11. They were unable to resist when Sunbean launched his bid.

"This horse was much the best today,'' Eramia said.

Said Faucheux: "I think he still needed a race fitness-wise. Off of this race, he should be perfect right now. More than likely, we'll stay in Louisiana company. The Texas Mile is a possibility. There're lots of race at Evangeline Downs we'd like to shoot for.''

Sunbean increased his career earnings to $1,059,750.