Three other fillies have better odds than Pacific Pink to win the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Stakes on Saturday.
However, none of them have Pacific Pink's history in the race. Pacific Pink won the Ladies in 2015, was third in the race in 2016 and finished second last year.
Last year, brought about a change, however, that didn't really best suit Pacific Pink, legendary Louisiana trainer E.J. Johnson said.
“They changed the race from dirt to turf, and she's just better on dirt than she is on turf,” Johnston said. “There weren't enough fillies being entered when it was on dirt, so they changed it to turf hoping to draw more.”
The Ladies, now officially named the Ladies Turf, is considered the third-biggest race on Louisiana Champions Day, which is held to showcase Louisiana-bred horses. The card has 11 races, nine of which have a $100,000 purse along with the $150,000 Classic, the main event.
At age 6, Pacific Pink could be nearing the end of her career, considering how well she does in this year's race, although Johnston said that will be up to owner Keith Plaisance.
“She's as sound as she was at 5, so she can still compete,” Johnston said. “She has won ($198,500) this season, passing what she won last year ($189,000). She may be getting to where it's time to be a mare. If she won a Grade I race, that would triple her value (as a mare), so then there'd be no question. But she may race another year.”
Although the clock is ticking, either way, Johnston said he likes Pacific Pink's chances, and not just because he's so fond of a filly he began training when she was 2.
While the grass surface may not be the perfect surface for Pacific Pink, Johnston said the race's distance — 1 1/16 of a mile — makes up for it.
“The turf is kind of bouncy, and some horses like that,” Johnston said. “Pink is better on the dirt because. I guess it's just a harder surface. If this race was on dirt, there's no question Pink would be the favorite.
“But she comes off the pace well, and a mile and a sixteenth allows for that better than a one-mile race. I wish it was a mile and a quarter,” he said, chuckling.
Johnston made it clear he was not disparaging the competition. Viva Vegas, trained by Ignacio Correas IV, is the 5-2 early favorite. Remember Daisy, trained by Gary Scherer, is the 3-1 second-favorite, and Bermuda Star, trained by Victory Arceneaux, is the 7-2 third-favorite. Pacific Pink, ridden by Colby Hernandez, is next at 6-1, along with J.E. Hodges-trained Eskinformore.
Johnston likes Remember Daisy in particular. Remember Daisy, who will be ridden by Mitchell Murrill, has won three races in 2018, including her past two starts. Most notably, she won the one-mile Tom Benson Memorial Overnight Stakes, a lead-up to the Ladies, on Nov. 15.
Remember Daisy, a spry 3-year-old, also won an allowance race at Delta Downs on Oct. 26. Johnston remembers Remember Daisy from another big race for Louisiana-breds, the Premier Night Starlet Stakes back on Feb. 10, also at Delta Downs. He had another filly entered in that race.
“(Remember Daisy) won that race and is just is a good-looking filly,” he said. “There's a couple of them in (the Ladies).”
Viva Vegas, a 4-year-old, finished ninth in her last start, the Road & Riddle Dowage Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 26. However, she was second in the Violet Stakes at Monmouth on Sept. 1 after two fourth-place finishes in stakes races at Monmouth. It is in large part due to her performances away from Louisiana that she's held in regard.
Like Remember Daisy, Bermuda Star, a 4-year-old, also has won three races this year. Most recently, she was third in the Benson and fifth in the Ricks Memorial Stakes at Remington Park on Sept. 30. Eskinformore was second in the Benson.
Pacific Pink, the Benson favorite, was fourth. In the Ladies, Johnston is hoping for a fast pace, which would further take away from his rivals heading to the wire.
“I just think she has too much class,” Johnston said of Pink, who is from Private Vow-Truly Romantic by Robyn Dancer. “Nothing bothers her. And, Colby has ridden her a lot of times.
“She will come closing fast at the end, and I think that extra sixteenth (of a mile) will make a difference.”