Star Guitar Still Strumming Along

In the midst of all the major racing this summer at Del Mar and Saratoga, sometimes the hard-knocking veterans of our sport get lost in the shuffle. One of them is remarkable 6-year-old Star Guitar, a Louisiana-bred who won the $125,000 Evangeline Mile Handicap last weekend for the third consecutive year.

Trained by Al Stall Jr. and a homebred of Evelyn and Maurice Benoit--all southern Louisiana natives--Star Guitar ranks as one of the best Louisiana-breds of all-time. The son of Quiet American has won an incredible 19 of 25 career starts and has earned more than $1.3 million. He is second behind the filly Happy Ticket, who won the grade I Ballerina back in 2005 and was runner-up in the 2006 Breeders' Cup Distaff, as the top Louisiana-bred earner of all-time. Happy Ticket earned nearly $1.7 million during her career, but the way Star Guitar is going, he could pass her next year.

Of Star Guitar's 19 wins, 17 have come in stakes company. In addition to winning the Evangeline Mile three times, he has won four Louisiana Champions Day events (including the Classic twice) at Fair Grounds and the Premier Night Championship at Delta Downs three consecutive years. Overall, he has won seven of his last eight starts and is perfect in four tries in 2011.

How dominant is Star Guitar? Since December 2008, he has only lost one state-bred stakes out of 17 starts, that coming in last year's Gold Cup at Delta Downs. His four other losses during that span came in graded stakes company, including the 2009 Alysheba (gr. III) at Churchill Downs when finishing a close third. Incredibly, Star Guitar has been favored in every one of his non-graded races in his career (21), and has been the odds-on choice in his last 12--sometimes as low at 1-20.

Stall, who trained champion and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Blame, counts Star Guitar as one of his top two or three favorite horses of all time.

"He's so consistent and tries every time," said Stall. "You don't get too many like that who also stay sound. He's just been unbelievable for us. We treat him a little different now that he's older, but his race last weekend might have been his best ever. Larry Melancon had never been on him before (the Evangeline Mile) and he was very impressed. He still has a lot left."

Star Guitar is campaigned by the Benoits, who not only bred and raced his dam, Minit Towinit, but also raced his granddam, Roaring Fireplace. Roaring Fireplace was the first ever winner for the couple, who own a 30-acre farm in Houma, La., which is about 17 miles from the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite being a Louisiana-bred, Star Guitar caught the attention of some high-profile owners in 2007 when he won his first two starts impressively and was about to be sent on the Triple Crown trail in early 2008. Satish Sanan and Jess Jackson, who campaigned Curlin together, were considering buying Star Guitar for a reported $1 million just before he was set to run in the LeComte (gr. III), but he cracked his shin the week before the race and was sidelined for nearly 10 months. Star Guitar did not return until September 2008 and after finishing third in a comeback allowance race, he went on to win 12 consecutive state-bred stakes.

"Maybe that 10-month break set him up for the rest of his career," Stall said.

Stall said the best part of training Star Guitar is being able to share his success with the Benoits, who are as passionate as they come about horses and are first-class people. Evelyn Benoit attends all of Star Guitar's races, while Maurice, who was involved in a serious automobile accident in 2007, does his best to make as many as possible.

Star Guitar is named after Evelyn Benoit's son Tab, who is a Grammy nominated and award-winning Cajun/blues performer. Tab Benoit is a former Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year winner and has written songs for several popular prime time shows during his career.

Stall said Star Guitar's next start will be in the Gold Cup at Delta Downs in November. He finished fourth in the race last year, the only state-bred stakes defeat of his career. Stall said he plans to race him in 2012.

"He's still got some work to do to chase down Happy Ticket," Stall said. "There are still a lot of pots to be won."

26 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Aspercel

Star Guitar is a true superstar on the Louisiana circuit.  I try to get out to as many of his races as I can, and I'm super happy to hear that he will be running again next year!

He's such a fabulous animal :)

16 Aug 2011 2:21 PM
calico cat

What a horse that Star Guitar!!! Thank you Jason for the heads up on a wonderful racehorse and his deserving connections. Love, love stories like that. It must be so rewarding to breed such a warrior, from a mare who was also home-bred.  

16 Aug 2011 2:59 PM
Bob from Boston

Aspercel,

You're on my list.  The tradition here is nobody posts before Bob from Boston.  Wecome aboard and get in line and everything will be just fine.

16 Aug 2011 3:08 PM
greyghost

I'm so glad that you chose to pay tribute to Star Guitar. He is truly special. To watch his bevy of races is to become a fan. I am delighted that he will be returning next year!

16 Aug 2011 10:16 PM
Aspercel

sorry bob!

i'm just excited to have something louisiana to post about :)

i'll keep in mind next time.

16 Aug 2011 10:50 PM
Cris

Year after year Quiet American throws the most exciting and impressive winners. Star Guitar is a true superstar in any state and is must be such a thrill to be connected with a horse like that.

17 Aug 2011 10:35 AM
Arian Haxhillari

After all this success is time for Star Guitar   to move to a graded stake race or retire. Doing other than  means nothing. He has proven he can win in LA but not proven anything in the upper level. If this is what Louisiana has as a best ever I don't think the LA horses are where the breading program  in this states intents to be.

Arian Haxhillari.

17 Aug 2011 12:14 PM
Householder

It's nice to have horses who consistently bring thier "A" game and trainers who know where to place them.

As for the best female in the country, Blind Luck...Pacific Classic against a 1 1/4 suspect Twirling Candy or Personal Ensign against H-D Grace yet again?

17 Aug 2011 3:50 PM
Karen in Indiana

I stay up late to watch Star Guitar when he runs. Being in state-bred competition isn't a knock - he's doing great where he is, so why mess up a good thing? Peppers Pride stayed in New Mexico and did very well for herself as well. I hope he stays sound, keeps running well and reaches that record. That is an achievement his trainer and owners can be proud of.

17 Aug 2011 5:46 PM
Householder

With Hollendorfer keeping Blind Luck at 1 1/4 do they have their eyes on the Breeder's Cup Classic and HOY?  He rarely runs girls against the boys.

She certainly enjoys Churchill Downs.  

Today's work at Del Mar:  

6f  1:13 2/5

17 Aug 2011 6:08 PM
The Rock

What's up everyone! Been M.I.A. for a bit. Busy getting this new business started. I've been able to play the ponies but not comment much.

How about the King's Bishop. Uncle Mo, The Factor & Flashpoint. That is going to be one hell of a race.

17 Aug 2011 6:14 PM
Slew

I always make it a point to watch Star Guitar's races...he is a great horse to watch.  

Arian...why does he have to move on?  He's a rock star in Louisiana, and he keeps on winning.  I say more power to his connections who place him in races they feel are suited to him.  And I hope I keep seeing Win Willy keep rocking the house at Oaklawn Park.  Not all horses are grade 1 competitors, but some competitors still have a champion's heart.

17 Aug 2011 7:24 PM
The Rock

Householder,

Actually Hollendorfer has run his fillies against the boys a couple of times. Pike Place Dancer comes to mind. She won the Cal Derby before the KY Oaks. I'm sure he did the same thing with Lite Light. There was another big time filly he trained that he ran against the boys thats slipping my mind right now. But it wouldn't surprise me if he pointed to the Classic with her. This guy is fearless the way he's handled her with the cross country flights.

17 Aug 2011 7:25 PM
Bob from Boston

Aspercel, It takes a big man/woman to admit you were in the wrong.  I now respect you more than anyone else on this blog and in my real life.  Nurse Drunkinbum, the famous Nurse Drunkinbum, is a close second.  I actually no longer have a real life.  I only live in cyberspace and order food and drink via the net too.  I have 42 handles (43 counting Ted from LA).  My favorite place to blog is on the Fiber One website.  Blind Luck is Horse of the Year.  I owned two horses who won more races than The Green Monkey... so I have that going for me.

17 Aug 2011 10:30 PM
Tiznowbaby

On this really lousy day, thank god for Bob from Boston. :)))

18 Aug 2011 12:22 AM
Linda in Texas

Jason i too chime in for Star Guitar and watch Louisiana Races all the time as many are trained in Texas and travel thru my little town all the time on their way to Louisiana.

I get to see lots of them parked at a Chili's and a chicken place that is well known and get to see some of them en route. Maybe not Star Guitar, but nonetheless troupers of the track to me.

And i agree there is no good reason to move Star Guitar anyplace else. Why ruin a good thing by vanning Star Guitar some place else? He's home, leave him be.

While you are here reading Jason's article, please read the story about 'Union Rag's Special Win Hope For Sire's Line' written by Jason's fellow Bloodhorse.com writer Alan Porter. It is a nice story and it is real. You will see what devotion some owners will expend in the money department when they know a good thing.

Good Luck Union Rags (whose dam Tempo was a Gone West Mare), i find Gone West's name in a lot of bloodlines. Maybe Union Rags can carry on in his sire's footsteps.

Thanks Jason.

And Tiznowbaby - I agree with you, Bob from Boston's comments give one a minute of joy every time he posts. Thanks Bob from Boston.

18 Aug 2011 12:59 PM
Bob from Boston

Tiznowbaby and Linda in Texas, You two are the best cyber friends a basement dweller in his mother's house could ask for.  I haven't seen the sunshine in 4 years accept on TVG.  Jason, can you figure out a way to get Ted from LA back?

18 Aug 2011 2:46 PM
Jason Shandler

Bob: I think Ted is now a groom for TC winner Caracortado. Try milling around his barn and you might run imto him.

18 Aug 2011 9:12 PM
GunBow

I usually keeps tabs of horses I get to see run in person, and I was able to see Star Guitar when he was 3rd in the 09' Alysheba at Churchill on Derby weekend.  But, because he didn't go on to major stakes success, his name started fading from my memory.

Half a year later, I kept on seeing articles of Star Guitar winning Louisiana bred stakes; the name sounded familar, and I realized I had seen him run in person.  Since then I have kept tabs on his career and have been rooting him on.

In the Ohio bred ranks, Catlaunch is like Star Guitar, but even older.

When I was in Michigan, there was a filly/mare named Valley Loot who captured 4 straight Michigan Sire Stakes(held each year).  Unfortunately, with Pinnacle closed this year, I'm not sure if there will be any Michigan bred stakes races.  Mt. Pleasant scraped some dates together, but so far they haven't offered any stakes.

18 Aug 2011 9:28 PM
Matthew W

Don't run that little filly v males--heck, if they stay v fillies they could get HOY--only Tizway stands in their way right now--and how bout those Tiznows, like Well Armed, like Budroyale, Tizway gets better with age--and mind you, those were two monster performances--he looks like he'll stay like a mother in law at 1 1/4--good luck trying to beat him--1 1/4 one turn J C Gold Cup, then it's the two-turn test of the Classic--it's his (HOY) to lose, and good luck trying to beat him! I've been a Blind Luck guy since her Oak Leaf, I don't need to see her v males--as if Harve isn't enough of a challenge--she is! Keep those grand dames v each other, neither one belongs with males--especially Blind Luck!  

18 Aug 2011 9:30 PM
GunBow

Next weekend is going to be epic.

The Saratoga races should be great, although for selfish reasons I wouldn't mind seeing Blind Luck go in the Pacific Classic rather than the Personal Ensign.

The Pacific Classic should have a real eclectic field.  The headliners will be the top maintrack performers Game on Dude and Twirling Candy.  But the field could be bolstered by turf stars Acclimation(3-time grade 1 winner) and Bourbon Bay(5-time graded stakes winner), as well as Caracortado and Jeranimo.  Blind Luck would give the field a true superstar name, and make the race relevant to the Horse of the Year debate.

18 Aug 2011 9:33 PM
Bob from Boston

Thanks for the tip Jason.  I'm on it.  I miss Ted from LA.  He was like a brother to me.  I'm glad to hear he is still close to the horses.  Does he mostly groom the front (Dr. D) or back (Dray) side of the horses?

18 Aug 2011 11:19 PM
Weekend

So, Kathmanblu and Mo had the same ailment, both went to Winstar to get better, and are both training well at the Spa. I know going against Winter Memories is no easy task, and I expect Winter to roll, but Kat should have a much better showing now that she is healthy. She has gained more than 60 pounds since the Oaks, so leave her out of exotics at your own risk.

19 Aug 2011 9:36 AM
The Rock

Jason,

Any predictions for the football season that's starting next month?

19 Aug 2011 10:12 AM
mz

I like regional horses.

Inglorious in the Alabama.

Where IS my boyfriend, Ted?

19 Aug 2011 2:24 PM
Householder

The Rock.  I think Hollendorfer dropped Hystericalady into an optional allowance/claiming race against the boys at Bay Meadows long before she became the richest horse from Northern California.  Take a look at her graded stakes record with wins over about 10 different tracks.  Hollywood, Churchill, Oaklawn, Delaware, Monmoth, etc. etc.  She almost took Ginger Punch in the Goo Breeder's Cup Ladies Classic time and then ran into that buzz saw Zenyatta.  

19 Aug 2011 5:38 PM

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