12/08/2009 12:00AM

Two obvious choices on Champions Day


Louisiana-bred ladies, say hello to Superior Storm. And you Louisiana-bred gentlemen can introduce yourselves to Star Guitar. Do it quickly now, before they have run too far ahead.

Yes, while there is plenty of competitive racing among the 11 Louisiana-bred stakes carded for Saturday in New Orleans (and drawn on Monday), probably not so much of it will be found in the $100,000 Champions Day Ladies, or in the $150,000 Champions Day Classic. Upsets are always possible, but Star Guitar and Superior Storm are horses of open-stakes quality facing opponents of the strictly regional sort.

Superior Storm won the 2008 Ladies by two lengths at 13-10, and she will be a shorter price this year. Trainer Richard Jackson was battling a foot problem with Superior Storm leading to the 2008 Ladies, and she still won with speed to spare. Earlier this year, Superior Storm finished second in the Grade 3 Ouija Board on turf at Lone Star Park, and second in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park. She failed to show her best on soft Keeneland turf last out in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes on Oct. 10, but worked three times in November at Churchill Downs, and turned in a five-furlong breeze in 1:04.20 Monday at Fair Grounds. Superior Storm, with Robby Albarado named to ride, drew post 5 in an eight-horse field.

On the male side, Star Guitar figures an even shorter price, perhaps 1-5, in the 1 1/8-mile Classic. Star Guitar drew the far outside post on Monday, but there are only six horses in the race. Trained by Al Stall for owner-breeder Brittlyn Stable, Star Guitar will be trying to win for the third straight Champions Day. In 2007, he captured the Juvenile, and in 2008, he won the Sprint. Earlier this year, Star Guitar finished third in the Grade 3 Alysheba at Churchill Downs, and in August, he won the open Evangeline Mile by more than two lengths. In total, Star Guitar has won 10 of 13 starts, and his lone loss in six races at Fair Grounds came on a sloppy track in the New Orleans Handicap late last winter.

The Champions Day card gets under way with three Quarter Horse stakes. A Louisiana-bred maiden claimer follows, after which come eight Thoroughbred races.

Graham tops riding table

James Graham came within three winners of capturing the riding title at the long Arlington Park meeting that ended in late September, and Graham is back at it again in New Orleans. After winning four races on Monday's card, Graham sat atop the local standings with 21 victories, five more than second-place Shane Sellers.

Graham has been riding at Fair Grounds since the meet opened Nov. 6. Several other riders who figure prominently this winter, like Robby Albarado, Shaun Bridgmohan, Cisco Torres, and Jamie Theriot, either shuttled between Fair Grounds and Churchill during November, or only arrived in New Orleans after the Churchill meet ended late last month.

The top of the trainer standings remains extremely crowded, but Steve Margolis continues to operated the hottest barn in New Orleans. Margolis won his seventh race from only 11 starters on Monday, when Stay Put scored by a length in an off-the-turf 2-year-old maiden route race.

Zimmerman out indefinitely

Jockey Ramsey Zimmerman, a five-time winner at the ongoing meet, will be out of action indefinitely.

Zimmerman was fined $250 by track stewards for failing to use a specially cushioned whip in one of two daily races in which new-style whips must be employed. Stewards suspended Zimmerman for failing to pay his fine within a required 48-hour period, but the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Sunday evening that stewards said that Zimmerman also had asked to take a personal leave in late November.

Zimmerman must pay his fine and present clearance from a doctor before he will be permitted to resume riding.