Oughta Be A Cat finally will be back at his old stomping grounds.
The former Louisiana Champions Day Classic winner who once strolled around the tracks of the Fair Grounds as a champion returns Saturday and will be leading the post, the first former winner to do so in the history of the race.
Eric Heitzman, Oughta Be A Cat’s trainer in 2008 when he won the Classic, said he is proud of the fact that the Fair Grounds is honoring everything the 12-year-old has accomplished.
“Horses that give so much to us, we’re just happy to give back to them,” Heitzman said. “After he won the Classic in 2008, he got injured and dropped down to the claiming level and was claimed by someone else. We told the guy that if he got to the point where he wasn’t suitable for racing anymore, that we would like to give him a home. Horses like that deserved to be remembered.”
Oughta Be A Cat earned more than $400,000 during his racing days, Heitzman said, but has since retired to his family’s farm. Heitzman said he hopes the former champion can live a stable life as a stable pony.
“Over at our stable, we always like to place the horses somewhere when their racing career is over,” Heitzman said. “They’re just like people where they have different temperaments, and he is the type of horse that just has that competitive spirit in him, but he’s coming along really well.”
Heading the pack for Saturday’s $100,000 Louisiana Champion’s Day Lassie will be Gary Scherer and Al and Bill Ulwelling’s Wind Chill Factor.
While she only has three career starts under her belt, the daughter of Successful Appeal has impressive victories at Canterbury Park in August and a near-6-length victory in the Louisiana Jewel at Delta Downs.
In the only race she didn’t win, Wind Chill Factor was third in a Keeneland allowance in October. On Saturday, she will cut back to six furlongs and start from the outside post, No. 12.
James Graham will be jockeying Charles C. Smith’s String King in the $100,000 Turf, which is what Smith said is the bay gelding’s preferred surface.
String King finished second by a nose to Sunbean in last year’s Classic and also finished second to One King’s Man — another participant in this year’s Classic — in a muddy optional claimer.
Oakleaf TC LP’s Mike Burgess-trained Benwill seems to be a strong contender alongside String King. Benwill won the $60,000 John Henry Stakes at Evangeline Downs in April, and the 5-year-old last finished second in the $75,000 Unbridled Stakes at Louisiana Downs in September.