How wet has it been in New Orleans this December? Well, use this as a guide. The horses entered in the Louisiana Champions Day Turf were in the paddock, saddled, and ready to hit the track late on the afternoon of Dec. 12. The delay in actually running the race? Oh, about 168 hours or so.
The sky opened last Saturday, washing out the last four races on Louisiana Champions Day. Those races will be made up on Saturday's 13-race card at Fair Grounds, on which they have been sprinkled among five other open stakes races.
"Sprinkled" is perhaps a dangerous word to use this month. Half-way through December, the New Orleans International Airport had recorded 22.48 inches of rain, a record total for a one-month period - and this was on Dec. 15. All the rain has led to the cancellation of training on several days, as well as last Sunday's racing program.
The four canceled stakes from Saturday were brought back intact, without being re-drawn, and with no new entries permitted. The Ladies Sprint goes as race 6, the Classic as race 8, the Turf as race 10, and the Sprint as race 12.
Trainer Al Stall said this week that he had little concern about the one-week break for Star Guitar, the heavy favorite to win the Classic. Star Guitar, Stall said, undergoes minimal pre-race treatments, and is a laid-back horse. He did not work during the unplanned extra six days off, and merely galloped into Saturday's race. Star Guitar's only loss in six Fair Grounds starts came with a tough trip in the Grade 3 New Orleans Handicap last spring. He has won a Champions Day race two years in a row, but will be trying to win the $150,000 Classic for the first time. Just five foes are entered to oppose him.
Other trainers wonder how the weather-related training and racing interruptions might affect their horses. Seven Seventythree looks like a closing threat in the pace-filled $100,000 Ladies Sprint. While Seven Seventythree has run in route races five of her last seven starts, she has won at distances as short as 5 1/2 furlongs, and has a strong work pattern for her first start since Aug. 1.
"My concern is the layoff and the weird two weeks we've had here," trainer Steve Asmussen said.
Master Link, winner of the Champions Day Lassie in 2008, had a terrible trip in her Ladies Sprint prep, and may be the horse to beat.
The $100,000 Sprint also shapes up as a fast-paced race, which plays to the apparent strength of Flashy Wise Cat. Flashy Wise Cat won the local allowance prep for the Sprint with a strong stretch rally. The extra week might actually work to his benefit, lessening the chance of regression in his first start after a strong comeback run.
With the week's delay, trainer Bill Mott elected to give Desert Wheat a half-mile work on Wednesday for the $100,000 Turf, a race Desert Wheat won in 2006. Third in the 2007 Turf, and second last year, Desert Wheat can contend even if the Turf is moved to the main track -- a possibility with showers lingering in New Orleans through Thursday evening.
Wildrally, who edged Desert Wheat in the 2008 Turf, can rebound from a seventh-place finish in the Nov. 14 Mr. Sulu, a race in which he broke from a poor outside post.