Fair Grounds Barn Notes: Grande Basin A Contender In LA Champions Day Classic

(Grande Basin winning at the Fair Grounds / Hodges Photography & Courtesy of the Fair Grounds)

From Ryan Martin, Fair Grounds Media Team:

Grande Basin Faces Wide Open Field in Louisiana Champions Day Classic

  • Minit to Stardom Get Back to Work in Ladies Sprint
  • Midnight Fantasy Takes the Next Logical Step in Lassie


William Deckwa, Jr. and John Carbo’s Grande Basin was narrowly beaten in last year’s edition of the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots behind Louisiana legend Mobile Bay. With no such standout in this year’s running of the highlight of Louisiana Champions Day, the 6-year-old son of Good and Tough merits a much more realistic chance.

Trained by Eddie Johnston, Grande Basin has only found victory over one surface and it just so happens to be the main track at Fair Grounds. In 44 career starts, he has won six races all of which have taken place over the dirt at the New Orleans oval. He has made 18 starts over the Fair Grounds main track and only missed the board four of those times.

“We feel confident this year,” Johnston said. “I don’t like to jinx him, but he’s been training well. He gets over the track nicely and when he gets here, he knows where he’s at. He’s always in the same stall every year and he just loves it at the Fair Grounds. He’s doing well and that’s the most important thing.”

Last time out, Grande Basin ran in the Mr. Sulu Overnight Stakes over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, where he finished second at odds of 35-1 in his fifth start over grass.

“We were surprised, but we were happily surprised,” Johnston said. “(The turf) is not his favorite surface, but he ran a big race last time on the grass. He loves this place. It’s cool, he likes the cooler weather and he likes training over this track.”

Grande Basin has not won since taking the Star Guitar Stakes back in April 2017 and will look to end a 15-race slump in the Louisiana Champions Day Classic, where is the 3-1 second choice and will break from post six under jockey Miguel Mena.

While Grande Bain may not care as much for grass, Johnston successfully debuted three-time winner Is Too on Sunday afternoon over turf, where she romped by 6¼ lengths against fellow Louisiana-breds.

“She’s been looking for the grass,” Johnston said of the 3-year-old daughter of Midshipman. “I didn’t want to push her too much and put her in Saturday’s races because I wanted her to grow up first, so we’ll go through her conditions. We’ll get some grass races with her later in the meet. We’re excited for her future on grass.”

Johnston stated that the $60,000 Red Camellia Stakes on March 16 is a possible target for Is Too, who is owned by Barrone Thoroughbreds.


Trainer Al Stall Jr. is hopeful that Brittlyn Stables’ Minit to Stardom can get back on track and believes that Saturday’s $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint Stakes is a good place to start.

The 3-year-old homebred daughter of leading Louisiana sire Star Guitar is no stranger to Champions Day success. Last year, she strolled home to victory in the Louisiana Champions Day Lassie Stakes by 7¼ lengths, which was her first start since a stylish 5¼ length win in her career debut at Fair Grounds last November.

Following the Lassie, Minit to Stardom did not see racing action again until May 27, where she dazzled against open company at Churchill Downs in a first level allowance race that featured stakes-placed Upset Brewing and Salt Bae. She has not raced since a sixth-place effort in the Grade I Test Stakes at Saratoga on August 4 where she was sixth beaten nine lengths behind Seperationofpowers.

“This is a comeback race for her,” Stall said. “We gave her a freshening after New York with this race in mind. She won first out with no experience and won at Churchill off the layoff so were not worried about that.”

Minit to Stardom is out of the Wildcat Heir broodmare Wild About Marie, who won four stakes races on turf including two over the Fair Grounds’ Stall-Wilson Turf Course. She will be ridden by Colby Hernandez and will break from post two as the 9-5 morning line favorite for the Ladies Sprint, which is Race 12 with a scheduled 5:49 p.m. CT post time

Stall is represented three other stakes events on Champions Day, including the Classic (Race 9, 4:22 p.m.) with Autumn Warrior, who will look to return to his winning ways after two well-beaten efforts in the Grade III Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on September 2 where he was eighth and most recently a 12th-place finish in the Mr. Sulu Overnight Stakes on November 16. Prior to the Super Derby, the 3-year-old son of Orb was undefeated in three career starts including the Lafayette at Evangeline Downs on June 23 against Louisiana-breds and the open company Super Derby Prelude Stakes at Louisiana Downs on August 4.

“He’s back in on dirt and back against Louisiana-breds so I think he could run the race that he did in his first three races,” Stall said.

Like Minit to Stardom in the Ladies Sprint, Autumn Warrior also will be guided by Colby Hernandez and breaks from the rail at 8-1 odds.


Carl R. Moore Management’s Midnight Fantasy looked about as impressive as a first time starter could when showcasing her talent on Opening Day to a 9¼-length maiden win over the Fair Grounds main track and she will be looking to mimic said effort in Saturday’s $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie Stakes.

Trained by Joe Sharp, the 2-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute will be faces Louisiana Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Silvercents and Louisiana Jewel Stakes winner Goodprofit.

“Since her first race, she’s mentally moved forward,” Sharp said. “She’s a fast filly and we’re very confident in her physical being going into the race. On paper she does look like the nuts of the race and we did draw the rail again, but she showed last time that wasn’t a problem. She doesn’t necessarily have to be on the lead but it does look like based on the race that she’ll just go on with it.”

Midnight Fantasy was purchased by Moore for $77,000 from this year’s Equine Sales of Louisiana Two-Year-Old and Horses of Racing Age Sale from Pike Racing’s consignment operation. She is out of the Macho Uno broodmare St. Jean whose dam was two-time Grade II winner French Park.

Midnight Fantasy will be ridden by Adam Beschizza as the 7-5 morning line favorite.

The Lassie will run as the fifth race on Saturday with a 2:24 p.m. CT post time.

Sharp went on to speak of graded stakes winner Mom’s On Strike, who took to stakes events over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course last meet. She last raced in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs on November 3, where she finished eighth.

“She’s on a little break at Grand Oak Farm (in Ocala, Fla.),” Sharp said. “She probably won’t race at the Fair Grounds but she’ll be back here to train in February or March. We just gave her some time off.”


The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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