Heitai fooled them all — even his trainer. Made Karl Broberg playfully take a shot at himself after watching one of his colts win.
“I don’t know what a real race horse is,” he said, “but that’s as close as I’m going to get to having one.”
That came from Broberg last November after Heitai ended a six-month stretch of not running to running away with an allowance option claiming race at Delta Downs, setting a track record for 61/2 furlongs.
Twelve starts later, Heitai has nine wins and two second-place finishes entering his defense of the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint title Saturday at the Fair Grounds.
The colt just needed time to show what he was best suited for. Now, the speed surprises nobody.
Heitai’s surprising shift to sprints included last season’s win here by seven lengths. Not bad for a 15-1 outsider owned by Frank and Barbara Rowell’s Rowell Enterprises.
“We picked the horse off of a layoff, and he was not a very good work horse,” Bromberg said. “We had no indication of the talent that he had.”
They discovered it on the track.
Said Broberg: “We had a stone cold runner.”
Heitai is the offspring of sprinter Sparkles of Luck and 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus.
Teamed with regular rider Diego Saenz, the 4-year-old will attempt to run off competition from William J. Deckwa Jr.’s Too Dim (Eddie Johnston), which won when they met Nov. 23 at six furlongs.
All Owls (Ron Faucheux) enters the sprint on a three-race winning streak.
Also on hand is Gold Appointment (Chester Bonnet), M Dication (Gerard Melancon), Masters Degree (Colby Hernandez), Palmy Bay (James Graham), Top Cat Boogie (Courtney Hernandez), and Warren’s Rebel (Willie Martinez).
It’s not that Heitai (pronounced hay-tie — Japanese for soldier) never showed potential. After all, at age 2, he placed third in the Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile Stakes and second in the Louisiana Futurity.
Then the disappointments started to pile before a break in runs.
Other wins included the Costa Rising Stakes (January), Duncan F. Kenner (March) and Louisiana Legends Sprint (May).
Maybe Heitai just needed to sprint.