By TONY TAGLAVORE, Journal Sports
The odds are good that trainer Ronnie Ward will have the winner in Saturday’s $50,000 Alabama Stakes — the first stakes race at Louisiana Downs this thoroughbred season.
Those odds have nothing to do with the morning line. It’s just simple math.
Ward has five of the seven entries in the six-and-a-half-furlong dirt race for Alabama-Bred three years old and up which have not won a stakes race. Post time for the seventh race — part of an eight-race card with a 2:05 start time — is 4:53 p.m.
“I train for a lot of people in Alabama, and Alabama is really pushing their program again,” Ward told the Shreveport-Bossier Journal. “A lot of trainers in Louisiana have not started training for those different people. There are going to be six to eight races a year in Louisiana. The (Louisiana State Racing Commission) has stepped up and really contributed a lot of money to this program.”
One of Ward’s horses, Uncle Brad, is the 9/5 morning line favorite, despite having only finished in the money once (a win) in 10 career starts. The second choice at 3/1 is Unaffiliated, trained by Denise Schmidt — the only trainer other than Ward who has a horse (she has two) in Saturday’s race. Unaffiliated has a second-place finish in three starts.
“The one Denise has got, the number seven horse, and Uncle Brad,” Ward said of which horses he thinks stand out. “Her horse has run second, mine has won, and has had more races. They should be tops in the field. But it’s horse racing, and you’ve got some (horses) that haven’t started before which are pretty good horses, so we shall see.”
Alexander Castillo, who is sixth in the Downs’ jockey standings (nine wins in 111 starts), will ride Uncle Brad. Gerald Melancon, who is in 11th place (five wins in 25 starts), will be aboard Unaffiliated.
Interestingly, two of the top four jockeys in the current meet will ride the two longest shots in the field. Joel Dominguez (second) will be aboard Strike a Bargain at 12/1. Angel Suarez (fourth) will pilot Heza Royal Cat at 15/1.
Alabama does not have live horse racing, therefore, owners of Alabama-Breds have to go out-of-state to race. Ward said the LSRC has stepped up to offer those horses a place to run.
“One of my owners, Kent Gremmels, went before the commission last year,” Ward said. “They committed they would give X number of races at each track, if the track wanted to have a race. Evangeline Downs has already had one. We’re going to have two here at Louisiana Downs. They’re going to have two at the Fairgrounds in the fall, and they’re going to try to have one at Delta Downs.”
And thanks to a recent rule change, Ward — and any trainer — can run as many Alabama-Breds in a race as they want.
“They’re getting better,” Ward said of Alabama-Breds. “(Alabama) is getting back into the breeding program. It had gotten down to nothing. But now, they’re coming back. There’s some people breeding in the program that sees Louisiana is going to have races for them. If Louisiana has seven or eight stakes races a year just for Alabama-Breds, it’s going to be worth it for an owner to get in and have an Alabama-Bred.”
The third-best morning line odds in Saturday’s race belong to Chamois’ Empire — also trained by Ward — at 4/1. Chamois’ Empire ran third in his only start.
The Alabama Thoroughbred Breeders Racing Association will have representatives at the track and they will present the trophy to the winning owner and trainer, Louisiana Downsen officials said.
Contact Tony at SBJTonyT@gmail.com