International Star Skims The Rail To Win Risen Star

International Star wins his second straight race at the Fair Grounds (Lou Hodges Photography/Fair Grounds)
International Star wins his second straight race at the Fair Grounds (Lou Hodges Photography/Fair Grounds)

International Star Skims The Rail To Win Risen Star

International Star was taken to the rail by jockey Miguel Mena entering the stretch to save ground and it proved to be difference. In the process of winning the Grade 2 Risen Star, International Star proved he loves the Fair Grounds main track, but more importantly he stamped his ticket to the Kentucky Derby.

The race began with St. Joe Bay going to the lead from his rail position with Hero of Humor pressing the pace as well. Tiznow R J was third by 2 lengths, Big Big Easy was fourth by three, and Bluff was in fifth about four and a half lengths off the lead. International Star was sixth, War Story in seventh, Imperia was in eighth, and Keen Ice was the trailer approximately 10 lengths behind the leader.

The race shape remained unchanged until the far turn when the horses began to make their respective moves. International Star and War Story both began to move on the far turn with both horses first and second by the time they entered the stretch. International Star went up the rail inside of St. Joe Bay to take control.

International Star would hold on to win by a length over War Story. Keen Ice used a strong burst to grab third over St. Joe Bay. The remaining order of finish was Imperia, Bluff, Tiznow R J, Big Big Easy, and Hero of Humor. The running time for the one mile and one sixteenth was 1:43.82.

There was an objection claimed by Kent Desormeaux of War Story regarding the first turn, but it was disallowed by the stewards upon further review.

International Star paid $9.60 to win, $4.60 to place, and $3.40 to show. He was ridden by Miguel Mena and trained by Mike Maker. He also earned 50 points for his victory, which gives him a total of 71 points and on top of the Kentucky Derby Points leaderboard.

War Story earned 20 more points for finishing second, which gives him a total of 24 thus far and places him fifth overall. Keen Ice earned 10 points to give him 12 points total and St. Joe Bay earned 5 points for his fourth place finish to give him 6 points.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby continues on Sunday at Oaklawn Park with the Southwest Stakes.

Itsaknockout Wins Controversial Fountain Of Youth

Upstart (left) won the Fountain Of Youth but was determined to have impeded Itsaknockout (right) (Lauren King/Gulfstream Park)
Upstart (left) won the Fountain Of Youth but was determined to have impeded Itsaknockout (right) (Lauren King/Gulfstream Park)

Itsaknockout Wins Controversial Fountain Of Youth

The 2015 Fountain Of Youth was expected to be a good race and it certainly was. However, there was some controversy during the stretch run and the subsequent review by the stewards. In the end, the stewards determined Upstart, who finished first, impeded the finishing position of Itsaknockout, who finished second. Itsaknockout was placed first with Upstart being placed second by the stewards.

The race began with Bluegrass Singer going straight to the lead with Frosted right off his flank by a half length. Itsaknockout was third, Juan and Bina was fourth, and Upstart was sixth. The trio at the back of the field were Gorgeous BirdFrammento, and Danny Boy, who were both more than 5 lengths off the lead after a quarter of a mile.

There was little change in the running order on the backstretch, but the race complexion changed on the far turn and in the stretch. On the far turn Frosted took the lead by a length over Bluegrass Singer with Upstart another a length and a half back. Itsaknockout was still 5 lengths back in fourth with Juan and Bina in fifth. Gorgeous Bird, Frammento, and Danny Boy were still the trailing trio.

In the stretch, Frosted was still clinging to a half length lead, but Upstart and Itsaknockout were closing in. Upstart came out in the stretch and ran past Frosted with Itsaknockout right behind him. In deep stretch, Upstart drifted out to his right and took Itsaknockout with him. Frammento came from dead last, more than 15 lengths off the lead to grab third over Frosted.

There was an objection and an inquiry into the stretch run and after several minutes, the stewards disqualified Upstart from first and placed him second behind Itsaknockout. The rest of the field was unaffected.

The final order of finish was Itsaknockout, Upstart, Frammento, Frosted, Gorgeous Bird, Bluegrass Singer, Juan and Bina, and Danny Boy. The running time for the race was 1:46.28.

Itsaknockout paid $12.80 to win, $5.00 to place, and $4.00 to show. He was ridden by Luis Saez and trained by Todd Pletcher. Itsaknockout is by Lemon Drop Kid out of the Cherokee Run mare Stormy B.

For the win, Itsaknockout earned 50 points towards the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard, which puts him in second overall. Upstart earned 20 points for second place and now has 36 points total, good enough for third overall. Frammento earned 10 points, his first points in the Kentucky Derby prep races, and Frosted earned 5 points for a total of 13.

The road to the Kentucky Derby continues on Sunday with the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

2015 Southwest Stakes Preview Part 2

2015 Southwest Stakes Preview Part 2

This post may seem very similar to another Southwest Stakes Preview and that is due to a rescheduling of the race. The Grade 3 Southwest Stakes was scheduled to be run on President’s Day, February 16, but an ice storm forced Oaklawn to cancel the card on Monday. Instead, the track decided to postpone the race until this weekend and will run the Southwest Stakes on Sunday, February 22.

Surprisingly, there have been only a few horses who opted to go elsewhere for the weekend stakes races from the original field. In fact, 10 of the original 12 entrants in Monday’s race return for Sunday’s edition. Only War Story and J S Bach went elsewhere while Hillbilly Royalty threw his hat in for this race.

This race will still feature points awarded to the top four finishers in the 10-4-2-1 allotment of Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Points. The 11 three-year olds will race a mile and a sixteenth on the main track for a purse of $300,000.

The Southwest Stakes is carded as the eighth of 9 races on Sunday with a post time of 5:42 PM Eastern Time. Free past performances can be found here.

1. Bayerd (5-1 Morning Line) – After breaking his maiden by 11 lengths in his second start, he won 2 of his next 3 races in stakes competition before heading to the Smarty Jones Stakes last time out. He finished second in that race behind Far Right and after Mr. Z bore out in deep stretch. It was a solid race but he had every opportunity to draw off and win. His ceiling here is underneath.

2. Majestico (30-1 ML) – His first four starts were all on turf including the grade 3 Bourbon where he finished fourth despite being a maiden in that race. His fourth start on turf was his maiden breaker and he moved to dirt for his next two starts. He has not been competitive in those two starts and given the quality of this field, he will have another tough start here.

3. Hillbilly Royalty (7-2 ML) – He started his career at Remington Park on November 22 going a mile when he pulled clear in the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths. After a two and a month break, he resurfaced here at Oaklawn on February 6 in an optional claiming $62,500. He went gate-to-wire in that affair to win by 4 1/2 lengths going 1 1/16 miles. Now he comes into this race off those two wins and he should be able to control the pace from the slot (the rest of the speed horses are to his outside). He makes sense as a top pick here and is fortunate this race was postponed by 6 days.

4. Private Prospect (12-1 ML) – He finished fourth in the Smarty Jones Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths, but he was running evenly throughout much of the race. Prior to that he was 9th in the grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and second in the grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity. He rates at an outsider here, but may hit the superfecta ticket.

5. Bold Conquest (10-1 ML) – He has run decently in all four of his starts beginning with his two maiden races at Saratoga. He was second by three lengths in his debut before winning his second start by a head. He finished second again in the grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill before a third place finish in the grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity. That start was more than four months ago and he may need this race.

6. Far Right (5-2 ML) – His last race was the Smarty Jones Stakes where he burst through on the rail to win by nearly 2 lengths. Prior to that he had back-to-back third place finishes in the grade 3 Delta Jackpot and the listed Street Sense Stakes. He had a solid pace to run at last time, but there does not appear to be as much speed. If he runs back to his last race, he will be close at the finish line.

7. Phenomenal Phoenix (30-1 ML) – He started his career at Remington Park with a third place finish before crushing his foes in his second start by 5 1/2 lengths. He stepped up into stakes competition in his third start and finished fourth by 6 lengths. Last time out, he was entered in an optional claiming $75,000 and finished second by a length. He is adding blinkers for this race, but he has to make a vast improvement to contend.

8. The Truth or Else (20-1 ML) – This son of Yes It’s True needed four starts to break his maiden and then went on to start in three straight grade 1 or 2 races. The first two resulted in third place finishes while the last one was a sixth place finish where he lost by 16 lengths. His latest race was on November 29 and he has been working well in the morning. The feeling here is that he will need this race.

9. Kantune (12-1 ML) – It has taken this guy a while to break his maiden, which he did last time out in his seventh start. To his credit, he has not run poorly in any of his 7 career starts with his worst finish being fourth by 3 lengths. He will be near the lead and if the pace is slow enough perhaps he can hang on for a piece.

10. Bold Animaux (30-1 ML) – He broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park West in October over the turf course before being crushed in the Juvenile Turf Stakes for Florida breds. He has raced 5 times in his career, all on turf with the last race in a $40,000 open claiming race. This is a very odd spot for him to try dirt and appears to be a deserved longshot.

11. Mr. Z (3-1 ML) – He is the most experienced runner in this field with 9 starts and the last 8 have come in stakes competition. The biggest concern for this runner is two-fold. First, he has 9 starts with only 1 win, but 4 seconds, and 2 thirds. The other concern is his last race when he veered out badly in deep stretch and finished third. He is certainly talented and classy, but his inability to win makes him a dangerous proposition at short odds.

 

Selections

From a win perspective, this race comes down to #3 Hillbilly Royalty and #6 Far Right. The only other horse that could win here is #1 Bayerd while a stand is going to be taken against #11 Mr. Z after his bizarre stretch run in the Smarty Jones. #4 Private Prospect could hit the trifecta or superfecta ticket if things break his way.

1. Hillbilly Royalty

2. Far Right

3. Bayerd

4. Private Prospect

 

Do not forget to come back and read the recap of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes on Sunday night and check out the future Kentucky Derby prep races here.