Saturday’s Louisiana Cup Day brings state’s best to LaDowns

PREP WORK:  Final Quest, a four-year-old filly, runs in the second race of Saturday’s Louisiana Cup Day at Louisiana Downs. (Submitted photo)

By TONY TAGLAVORE, Journal Sports 

Trainer Brett Brinkman is looking forward to watching how his four-year-old filly, Final Quest, runs in Saturday’s second race of Louisiana Cup Day at Louisiana Downs, against the state’s best Breds.

But he won’t be leaving the track once the horses cross the finish line.

Brinkman will stay for the third race. Not because a horse he trains will be running, but because of a horse Brinkman bred — Fort Polk.

“For me, I take more pride in the fact that I bred one of that caliber,” Brinkman told the Shreveport-Bossier Journal. “I know it sounds weird coming from a licensed trainer, but I think there’s a lot more that goes into breeding, raising and developing a horse. I had her for her first couple of wins and was happy to have her. I got offered a substantial amount of money and moved her on, because I’m in the business.”

Final Quest and Fort Polk are two of the horses that will run on a nine-race card exclusive to Louisiana Breds, with a total purse of $450,000 ($150,000 contributed by the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association, or LTBA). Six of the nine races will each have a purse of $75,000. Saturday is one of the Cup days held throughout the year at each of the state’s four major tracks.

“It’s like four Breeders’ Cups for Louisiana Breds,” said Roger Hetizmann, secretary/treasurer of the LTBA. “People around the country will be watching. The races are all stakes races. Who doesn’t like to sit down and watch and wager on a card of all-stakes races, instead of cheap horses? It draws attention to the racetrack, it draws attention to the Louisiana horsemen, and I think that all works hand-in-hand with each other.”

Since April, Brinkman has been training Final Quest for Saturday’s six-furlong Louisiana Cup Filly and Mare Sprint for three-year-olds and up. To be ridden by Thomas (Tommy) L. Pompell, Final Quest’s morning line odds are 15-1. The early 5-2 favorite is Free Like a Girl.

“(Final Quest) got real good at the end of (the Delta Downs meet), and at the beginning of (the Evangeline Downs meet),” Brinkman said. “She’s been kind of a work in progress. Free Like a Girl is the filly which stands out among all those fillies in that spot. I think a lot of my filly. I think she’s got a lot of talent. This is where we were pointing her, and we’re going to try and capitalize and get all we can.”

Brinkman had planned on having another horse (Grunt) run on Cup day. However, the heat took its toll on the colt.

“About two weeks ago when the weather really got hot and we had those consecutive days of 100-degree weather, his thermostat went out on me. He quit sweating. He’s not capable of exercising and training up to it right now.”

Louisiana Cup Day is intended to highlight the Louisiana Bred, which wasn’t always as well-regarded as it is now.

“The Louisiana Bred is a horse that many years ago was considered a lower breed,” Heitzmann said. “Something that no one really looked at or worried about. We’ve been doing everything — with the help of the state legislature, racetracks, and horsemen — to put the Louisiana Bred in the upper echelon of horse racing. We’ve been moving that way.

“We have horses that have been running in and winning graded stakes races around the country. We have top-name stallions coming into the state. We have well-known names in the business moving operations to the state, racing in Louisiana, and buying Louisiana Breds.”

And Saturday, the Bossier City track will be in the state’s racing spotlight.

“We want Louisiana Downs to be successful,” Heitzmann said. “We would love for Louisiana Downs to be the track it once was. In order to do that, you have to offer some better races. A Cup day at Louisiana Downs is good for them. It’s good for us. Everyone in this business depends on each other to make sure this business drives forward.”

In an effort to get young people interested in the sport, the LTBA Saturday will give away two $1,000 scholarships. You must have an ID, be registered for college this fall, and be present to win — the scholarships will be awarded after the fifth race. Registration starts one hour before first post time — which is 1:05 — and closes when Race No. 1 goes off.

“We want them to become interested in the sport,” Heitzmann said. “To me, the pageantry of horse racing is what sells horse racing. The beauty of the horse. The colors. The (post) parade. When you’re there, you can see it, touch it, smell it, feel it. As they run down the stretch, you can feel the ground shaking. To me, that’s what sells the game.”

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