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Champions Day Preview: Underpressure Should Fire Fresh After Layoff
Underpressure winning the 2018 edition (Credit: Hodges Photography)

Champions Day Preview: Underpressure Should Fire Fresh After Layoff

NEW ORLEANS, LA – Off since March 21, Richard Mallory’s Underpressure should fire fresh after the long layoff as he seeks his second title in Saturday’s $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic Stakes at Fair Grounds.

The Champions Day Classic is a 1 1/8-mile dirt route restricted to accredited Louisiana-breds ages 3 and up. This year’s edition is the penultimate event on a 13-race card devoted exclusively to Louisiana-breds and has a local post time of 5:21 PM.

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Here’s a look at the full field for the Champions Day Classic:

1. Freedomfi 30/1 – The 3-year-old colt stretches out to the longest distance of his career in this spot after finishing a well-beaten sixth in a local off-turf state-bred optional claiming route. Winless in his past 8 starts dating back to January 18, he’ll likely need a career-best effort that far exceeds what he’s shown in the past if he hopes to spring the upset here.

2. Social Afleet 20/1 – He makes his second start for his current connections after getting tagged for $20k out of a game nose victory going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland on October 15. The sophomore colt won twice previously when routing over this course, but he’ll need to improve upon his sixth-place finish in the 7-furlong B-Connected Stakes at Delta Downs last time out.

3. Grand Luwegee 10/1 – He won 2 straight to start 2019 including the Louisiana-bred Premier Night Championship Stakes at Delta Downs, but he then missed 10 months and has gone winless in his last 7 tries. This marks his first start since finishing sixth in an August turf sprint, but trainer / owner / breeder Gerard Perron hits at 21% going sprint to route.

4. Sydster 5/1 – The 3-year-old gelding won 3 of his first 5 career starts including March’s Crescent City Derby, a 1 1/16-mile local dirt route that he led from start to finish. Off since finishing fourth in a Louisiana Downs turf route stakes against state-bred rivals, he gets Florent Geroux back in the saddle for the third time; both prior team-ups resulted in victory.

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5. Jus Lively 8/1 – He makes his second start back after a nine-month break and should be ready to fire a top effort after finishing second (beaten a head) in the B-Connected. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has been red-hot to start this meet, putting together a 19-5-4-1 record, and his stable connects at 20% with runners making a second start after similar layoffs.

6. Mageez 8/1 – The field’s most experienced entry has made more starts (50) than most of his rivals put together and his 10 wins rank second behind only Underpressure’s 13. He’s hit the board in 12 of his 17 local appearances but has yet to find success in this race after 4 prior tries; he was second in 2016, fourth in 2017, third in 2018, and fifth last year.

7. Shang 8/5 – The second Asmussen stable entry has won half of his 14 career starts and will have the barn’s first-call rider Ricardo Santana Jr. in the saddle for the fourth time (winning twice previously). The Shanghai Bobby colt won 4 of his 5 prior Fair Grounds appearances but finished 10th of 11 in the 2019 Oaklawn Park Invitational, his lone prior try going this far.

8. Underpressure 5/2 – No runner in this field has visited the winner’s circle more times than this 6-year-old gelding, who took this race in 2018 over a sloppy (sealed) course and finished third in both 2017 and 2019. He fired a 4-furlong bullet best-of-36 work in 1:02.80 last week and trainer Chris Richard connects at 22% with a healthy ROI ($2.39) in stakes races.

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