NEWS: racing

WinStar acquires minority interest in Upstart

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015
G2 Holy Bull (Coglianese Photos/Leslie Martin)

G2 Holy Bull (Coglianese Photos/Leslie Martin)

(Press release)

WinStar Farm has acquired a minority interest in Kentucky Derby (G1) contender Upstart, winner of the Holy Bull S. (G2) and runner-up in the Florida Derby (G1) and Fountain of Youth S. (G2) this winter at Gulfstream.

“Upstart has been on our radar since the Breeders’ Cup,” said Elliott Walden, WinStar President & CEO. “Jerry Brown of Thoro-Graph approached me because he really believes this colt has a big future. We are honored to be partners with such a nice man as Ralph Evans on such an exciting young horse as Upstart.”

Trainer Rick Violette, Jr. will remain as the conditioner of Upstart, who breezed a bullet half mile in 47.40 seconds last Friday at Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida. The striking son of Flatter is slated to have one final breeze this coming weekend at Palm Meadows before shipping to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby.

“When Elliott called, I became excited about what we could do together with WinStar in a partnership on Upstart,” said Ralph Evans, owner of Upstart. “We look forward to sharing in Upstart’s promising future.”

As a 2-year-old, Upstart began his career with an impressive 5 ¼-length debut win last August at Saratoga, and the talented colt returned just nine days later to also capture Saratoga’s $200,000 Funny Cide S. with a 95 Beyer. Upstart turned in a good runner-up performance behind Daredevil in the prestigious Champagne S. at Belmont in his next start, earning a 102 Beyer and a trip to the Breeders’ Cup as one of the favorites for the $2 million Juvenile (G1).

The dark bay overcame some trouble before finishing third behind Texas Red and Carpe Diem in the Breeders’ Cup, closing out a 2-year-old campaign with a record of 2-1-1 from four starts and earnings of $463,800. Wintering in Florida, Upstart began a promising 3-year-old campaign in January in Gulfstream’s Holy Bull S. (G2), drawing off in the stretch to a 5 ½-length victory over Frosted and earning a 105 Beyer in the 1 1/16-mile event. The win stamped him as one of the leading 3-year-olds in the country.

Upstart crossed the line first in his next start in Gulfstream’s Fountain of Youth S. (G2) in February, but was disqualified after a controversial inquiry and placed second. He returned as the favorite in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) last month and finished a valiant second to Materiality in his final prep for the Kentucky Derby, earning a career-high 108 Beyer – the second fastest Beyer earned to date by a horse from his crop.

Stonesider’s Galiana aces Pimlico’s Primonetta for fifth stakes score

Saturday, April 18th, 2015
Jim McCue / Maryland Jockey Club

Jim McCue / Maryland Jockey Club

by Sarah Mace

Delaware shipper Galiana, a 5-year-old daughter of Stonesider (Saratoga Stud, LLC), posted a convincing fifth stakes victory at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday afternoon, coming from off the pace to win the $100,000 Primonetta Stakes going away under jockey Abel Lezcano. The Primonetta was the chestnut mare’s main track debut in Baltimore, following an unplaced finish in a sprint stakes over the Pimlico turf last May.

Winner of starter’s allowance at Tampa Bay Downs in January, Galiana had not visited the winner’s circle in three subsequent stakes tries and was let go at generous odds of 8-1, fifth choice in the field of eight. Her backers, however, did not ignore a third place finish in the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie at Gulfstream Park on February 14 and two sharp four-furlong moves at Delaware Park on April 1 and April 15.

Breaking from post seven, Galiana settled in with the second flight, traveling comfortably on the backstretch in the three path, four lengths behind 10-1 Tarnished and 5-2 Wherethere’sfire who wrangled up front, shortly to be joined by post time favorite She’s Ordained.

When the three early leaders lined up evenly at the quarter pole, Galiana switched out to the four path and started to roll in earnest. She gained the lead with a furlong to go, then opened up to a convincing 2 3/4-length victory. She’s Ordained, who led briefly in upper stretch, finished second, a neck in front of a game Tarnished. After opening splits of 23.23 and 46.54, Galiana stopped the clock at 1:11.27 [Pimlico YouTube VIDEO]

“We didn’t have much speed today, so we saved ground,” Abel Lezcano said. “At the three-eighths pole I knew my horse was strong. I let [her] out in the stretch and then, poof, [she] went.”

Rodolfo Romero, who trains the mare for Triple R Stables, said, “Our only concern coming into this race today was that she may not like the track. She’s never run here before, and she can be picky. Happily, she took to the track today and [jockey Abel] Lezcano rode her well.”

Galiana will be pointed next to the $100,000 Skipat on Black-Eyed Susan Day, May 15, at Pimlico.

Galiana has now won 12 of 24 career starts with eight wins coming at six furlongs. She adds her Primonetta score to four stakes wins at Delaware Park: back-to-back victories in the Tax Free Shopping Distaff Stakes, the Dashing Beauty Stakes and Sweet and Sassy Stakes. Her earnings have mounted to $459,121

Bred by John T. Behrendt and Charles Marquis and foaled at Anne Morgan and Tim Little’s Mill Creek Farm in Stillwater, Galiana is out of Baby Jess, an unraced Argentinian-bred daughter of Interprete (ARG). A full sister to Galiana has won in Argentina.

La Verdad makes short work of short field in Grade 2 Distaff Handicap repeat

Saturday, April 18th, 2015
NYRA/Adam Coglianese

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

by Sarah Mace

Returning to the races at five following an off-the-board finish against the boys in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap late last November, Lady Sheila Stable’s star sprinter La Verdad successfully defended her Grade 2, $200,000 Distaff Handicap title at Aqueduct on Saturday while making short work of three rivals.

When the race was drawn, La Verdad’s conditioner Linda Rice cautioned that after only four published works “[La Verdad] could end up short,” but Rice also believed her charge was “ready enough to give it a try.” The proof was in the (graded stakes) pudding after La Verdad, bet down to 30 cents on the dollar, won the stakes with decision.

Darting to the front from her outside post under regular rider Jose Ortiz, La Verdad was faced with a single challenge on the backstretch, when Aireofdistinction pulled up even and poked a head in front.

Giving a decisive answer to that challenge, La Verdad stepped up her game and opened up daylight on her pursuer in the far turn. After a first quarter-mile in 22.25, and half in 44.87, La Verdad then drew off to a no-doubt-about-it 5 1/4-length win, stopping the clock after six furlongs in a very sharp 1:10 flat. Frivolity (7-1), last early, closed to finish second, followed across the line by second choice Mamdooha and Aireofdistinction, who bolted on the turn. [VIDEO]

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

Jockey Ortiz reported, “[La Verdad] had a clean break, I went to the rail and [Aireofdistinction] came out to challenge her, but really wasn’t a factor at the turn. I cruised by her at the three-eighths pole, at the quarter-pole I looked back for [second choice Mamdooha].”

Continued Ortiz, “I let [La Verdad] pick up at the three-sixteenths pole, and I only hit her couple of times and she went easy. I just let her do her thing. I have to give credit to Linda and her staff because they work very hard every morning to get her ready and they really deserve this.”

Rice was convinced that La Verdad’s native talent was able overcame any shortness in conditioning, saying, “I wasn’t happy when I saw [Aireofdistinction] coming after her early, and they were going pretty fast. I was a little concerned that was going to make it a real test on her fitness, but her ability is the key. She’s got a lot of talent and is able to overcome that.”

Rice added, “I can only hope that [La Verdad] comes back and races as well as she has the last year and a half for us. I had her in training for quite a long time without a vacation, and after the Fall Highweight I decided to turn her out for a couple months; she deserved it.”

La Verdad has compiled two stellar campaigns for Rice at three and four, putting together two separate four-race win streaks in 2013-2014, broken only by a runner-up finish in the 2014 Barbara Fritchie Handicap in February 2014.

In 2014 La Verdad won six races, led by the Grade 2 Distaff, in addition to victories in four state-bred stakes: the Broadway, Critical Eye, Dancin Renee (for which she earned her first a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure), and Iroquois. In 2013 La Verdad won four of five starts while going through her state-bred conditions and annexing an open allowance victory. The bay mare’s career record stands at 11 wins and two seconds from 17 career starts (with five wins from six starts on the Aqueduct main track). Having earned $900,700, she is poised to join the “millionaires’ club” this season.

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

Bred by Eklektikos Stable LLC and foaled at Chester and Mary Broman’s Chestertown farm in Chestertown. La Verdad was sold privately to Sheila Rosenblum of Lady Sheila Stable following her second allowance victory in November 2013.

She is one of three winners and two stakes performers out of Noble Fire (Hook and Ladder), a stakes-placed runner bred by Chester and Mary Broman also trained by Rice. Rice bought Noble Fire for Eklektikos for $115,000 at the 2007 OBS Spring sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Noble Fire’s two other winners, also Rice trainees, are also accomplished. Speedy six-year-old gelding N. F’s Destiny (Cuvee) is an eight-time winner of over $335,000 for Dubb et al. Lady Sheila Stable’s six-figure earner Hot City Girl, by City Zip, is stakes-placed.

Noble Fire currently has a yearling May filly by Freud and was not bred in 2014.

New York-breds off to a flying start this year in graded stakes

Thursday, April 16th, 2015
Princess Violet gives NY-breds a head start with victory in Keeneland's G1 Madison (Keeneland Photo)

Princess Violet gives NY-breds a G1 head start with victory in Keeneland’s Madison (Keeneland Photo)

by Sarah Mace

It is no secret that the New York-bred population has been going from strength to strength since 2012, when the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund instituted an across-the-board 50% increase in incentive awards and the New York Racing Association gave purses a dramatic hike. Witness Dayatthespa, crowned earlier this month as the 2014 New York-bred Horse of the Year, who was also the overwhelming choice for female turf Eclipse champion. In the context of the “new normal” for the program, however, there is every indication that 2015 could set new racetrack benchmarks.

As of mid-April 2015, New York-breds are off to their fastest start in graded stakes in recent memory, with five graded stakes wins so far this year. New York-breds also collected five graded victories by mid-April of 2012, but with a preponderance of Grade 3s over Grade 2s. In 2015 it is the other way around, with a Grade 1 score thrown in for good measure.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s International Star, who sits atop the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard, accounts for three graded wins: the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes (1/17), Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes (2/21) and Grade 2 Louisiana Derby (3/28).

Upstart, another of New York’s three top-achieving Kentucky Derby-minded sophomores, delivered a tour de force performance to win the Grade 2 Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (1/24). But for a controversial disqualification for interference, Upstart would have also carried away the prize in the Grade 2 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes after crossing the finish line first by a decisive 2 3/4 lengths (2/21).

Finally, Princess Violet gave the New York-bred population its first Grade 1 victory well ahead of schedule this year with a determined half-length score in the Grade 1 Madison Stakes for fillies and mares at Keeneland on April 4.

While has become a matter of course for Empire-breds to collect four or five Grade 1 wins in the course of the year, we usually have to get much deeper into the racing calendar before the first, which usually comes at Saratoga or Del Mar.

New York-bred graded win tallies through mid-April (2010-2015):

  Grade 3 Grade 2 Grade 1 Total Earliest G1 win by a NY-Bred
2015 1 3 1 5 April 4
2014 4 0 0 4 August 21
2013 2 1 0 3 August 172
2012 3 2 0 5 August 253
2011 3 0 0 3 June 114
2010 2 1 0 3 July 45


1 Palace, Alfred G. Vanderbilt H, Saratoga.
2 Discreet Marq, Del Mar Oaks, Del Mar
3 Willy Beamin, Foxwoods King’s Bishop Stakes, Saratoga
4 Mission Approved, Woodford Reserve Manhattan H., Belmont Park, Belmont Day
5 Franny Freud, Prioress, Belmont Park

In short, New York-breds are off to a roaring start in graded stakes competition this year. Moreover, the pattern of the last three years says that even before the meat of the racing season begins, i.e. from the Kentucky Derby forward, Empire-breds will be able to pad their graded winnings.

For the last three years New York-breds have picked up either two or three graded victories in late April / early May. In fact, there are two opportunities coming up just this weekend. On Saturday graded stakes winner La Verdad will defend her title in the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct in her 5-year-old debut, and multiple stakes placed Warrioroftheroses throws his hat into the (bull-) ring for the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic.

Princess Violet scores Grade 1 victory in Keeneland’s Madison

Sunday, April 5th, 2015
Keeneland photo

Keeneland photo

by Sarah Mace

Princess Violet gave owner-breeder Barry K. Schwartz a Grade 1 victory at Keeneland on Saturday afternoon with a determined half-length score in the Grade 1, $350,000 Madison Stakes for fillies and mares. She also became the first New York-bred to win the seven-furlong contest in its 14-year history.

Drawn in the outside post, Princess Violet took a back seat in the betting as fifth choice in a deep and talented field of six. She could already boast three second place finishes in graded stakes company, but was still looking for that elusive first graded win. The bay 4-year-old daughter of Officer earned it in style in her Keeneland debut when saddled by Linda Rice’s team, standing in for recovering conditioner Mike Hushion.

In the early stages of the race Princess Violet was content to settle as much as seven lengths behind frontrunners Lady Sabelia and Sam’s Sister, who ran one-two through a speedy first quarter in 22.42 and half in 44.73. Saving ground through the far turn, Princess Violet then shifted out into the two path to make her stretch bid.

Keeneland photo

Keeneland photo

Dispatching the frontrunners and taking charge just inside the furlong marker, “Princess” then dug in bravely to hold off a late-running Stopchargingmaria, a five-time graded stakes winner and the second betting choice. Her margin of victory was one-half length.

Longshot Clearly Confused finished 2 1/4 lengths behind Stopchargingmaria in third, followed across the line by Wedding Toast. Frontrunners Sam’s Sister and Lady Sabelia completed the order of finish. After six panels in 1:09.89, Princess Violet stopped the clock after seven furlongs over Keeneland’s fast main track at 1:22.73. [VIDEO from America’s Best Racing]

Junior Alvarado, who piloted the filly for the first time in the Madison, reported, “She broke pretty good. In the first part [of the race], the horses ran away from her a little bit. I knew I was in a good spot still and I tried to save ground. When I turned for home, I slipped her out and she was there for me as soon as I asked her. She gave me all she had.”

Linda Rice’s assistant Samantha Randazzo said that given Princess Violet’s versatility, she left the details up to her rider. “I saw some pretty serious speed – and she does stalk – so I told Junior (the strategy) was up to him. If she went to the lead, it was fine, or if she found herself in a stalking position, that was OK too. Junior rode a wonderful race. Best race of her career so far.”

Princess Violet escorted to the winner's circle (Keeneland photo)

Princess Violet escorted to the winner’s circle (Keeneland photo)

Unraced at two, Princess Violet has finished first or second in nine of 10 career starts and has earned $662,810. Her record includes a crushing 5 1/2-length victory in last fall’s Empire Distaff at Belmont Park, a runner-up finish to champion Untapable in the Grade 1 Mother Goose, second by just a nose to Classic Point in the Grade 3 Go For Wand and runner up by 1 1/2-lengths to Madison rival Lady Sabelia in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel in her seasonal debut on February 14. She is undefeated in three starts against New York-breds.

Princess Violet is one of two winners from two starters out of Lady Rapper, an unplaced Kentucky-bred daughter of Grand Slam, who was purchased by Barry Schwartz for $275,000 at the 2006 Keeneland September yearling sale. Lady Rapper’s first foal Baime (Star Dabbler) is a seven-time winner of nearly $125,000. Lady Rapper’s dam is multiple graded stakes placed New York-bred She’s Got the Beat (Sultry Song), who, like Princess Violet, was a Go For Wand runner-up.

International Star completes sparkling hat trick in Louisiana Derby

Saturday, March 28th, 2015
Miguel Mena celebrates aboard International Star in the G2 Louisiana Derby (Photo: Alexander Barkoff / Hodges Photography)

Miguel Mena celebrates aboard International Star in the G2 Louisiana Derby (Photo: Alexander Barkoff / Hodges Photography)

by Sarah Mace

These days Kentucky-based Ken and Sarah Ramsey certainly have a New York-bred on their hands to write home about. On Saturday afternoon International Star, a son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, completed his sweep of the three Fair Grounds preps for the Run for the Roses with another sparkling victory in the Louisiana Derby. By the end of the day he stood in first place on the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard with 171 and had pushed his purse earnings into seven-figure territory.

Breaking from the outside of the nine-horse field, International Star, who has a penchant for doing his best running down inside, made his way over into the two path by the time the field entered the clubhouse turn, and before entering the backstretch, settled comfortably at the rail in mid-pack about five lengths off pacesetter Stanford, a sharp Pletcher-trainee who broke from the inside gate.

Moving up closer to the pace midway in backstretch, the bay colt advanced further at the rail in the far turn, scooted to the inside of his rivals when a hole opened up just before the quarter pole, then angled out in upper stretch to set his sights on the frontrunner.

Latching on to Stanford in the final furlong, the bay colt had enough determination and enough left in the tank to get in front by a neck in the final sixteenth for the victory. After an opening half-mile that went in 48.59 and a mile in 1:37.27, International Star stopped the clock after nine furlongs at 1:50.67. [VIDEO from Equibase America’s Best Racing]

Ken Ramsey reacted with characteristic ebullience: “That’s back-to-back wins for us here in the Louisiana Derby and we swept all three this year. Last year [with Vicar’s in Trouble] we missed out on the Risen Star. Next stop: Kentucky!”

Miguel Mena, International Star’s pilot for all three Fair Grounds victories, said, “We got another good trip, had a clean run. He was the best horse in the race again today and I thank the connections for giving me the chance to ride him.”

Mike Maker, who trains the colt for the Ramseys, believes International Star is one of his best chances at a Kentucky Derby: “Definitely. He’s a special horse.” As to the colt’s affinity for Fair Grounds, Maker quipped, “I don’t know [why he is so good at this racetrack], but I think I might take some of the dirt from Fair Grounds up to Kentucky with us.”

In the immediate future, Maker said, “We will see how he comes out of the race and decide if we’ll train him like we did before this.  I haven’t worked him until three weeks after his races.”

From five firsts and two seconds in nine starts, International Star has earned $1,010,979 to become the latest New York-bred millionaire. His points total of 171, which sets him atop the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard, derives from four victories and a third: 100 points the Louisiana Derby, 50 points for the Grade 2 Risen Star, 10 for the Grade 3 LeComte, 10 points for the Grey Stakes at Woodbine last October and one point for his show finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs.

Bred by longtime Maryland breeders and owners Katharine M. Voss and Robert T. Manfuso and foaled at Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains, International Star was purchased by the Ramseys as a yearling for $85,000 out of the Fasig Tipton select yearling sale in September in Timonium.

International Star’s dam Parlez is a multiple winner by French Deputy Parlez and a granddaughter of Halory (Halo), the dam of five graded stakes winners, including Blue Grass Stakes winner Halory Hunter.

Parlez has produced five winners in all, including stakes winners Fools in Love by Not For Love, who earned $240,746 and D C Dancer by the same sire, a $228,065-earner. She has a yearling colt by Not for Love, was barren in 2015 and bred back to Fusaichi Pegasus this year.

N. F.’s Destiny romps in inaugural Kelly Kip

Saturday, March 21st, 2015
NYRA/Adam Coglianese

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

by Sarah Mace

N. F.’s Destiny, got to the front first and never looked back on his way to an open-length victory in the inaugural running of the $50,000 Kelly Kip, a six-furlong dash for 4-year-olds and up that have started for a claiming price of $12,500 or less.

The Kelly Kip, one of 10 stakes races worth a total of $710,000 on Aqueduct’s first New York Claiming Championships card Saturday, was named for a multiple stakes winning Florida-bred trained by the late H. Allen Jerkens, whose passing last week has left a void in the life and hearts of horsemen across the country.

N. F.’s Destiny never had an anxious moment from the bell forward. Scooting to the front of the competitive 11-horse field from post two, the 6-year-old Cuvee gelding carved out fractions of 23.20, 46.32 and 58.54 on an uncontested lead under Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Leading by more than four lengths with a furlong to go, the 5-2 favorite carried on with good momentum to the wire, where he stopped the clock at 1:11.75 with a 3 1/2-length margin of victory. Dan’s Gold got up from mid-pack for second to complete a New York-bred exacta. Cho Time chased the leader throughout and remained on the scene to get the show. [VIDEO]

NYRA/Joe Labozzette

NYRA/Joe Labozzette

Trained by Gustavo Rodriguez for Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables LLC and Gary Aisquith, who claimed the horse last December for $20,000, N. F.’s Destiny has now won five of 10 races over Aqueduct’s inner oval and eight of 23 lifetime. He became eligible for the Kelly Kip when he ran for $10,000 in a conditioned claimer at Finger Lakes last August. His career earnings now total $335,670.

Bred by Eklektikos Stable, the winner is one of three winners from three foals to start out of Noble Fire (Hook and Ladder), a stakes-placed runner bred by Chester and Mary Broman. Noble Fire, whose progeny have earned over $1.2 million, is most familiar as the dam of graded stakes winner and star New York-bred sprinter La Verdad, by Yes It’s True ($780,700). Another foal, sophomore Hot City Girl (City Zip), has placed in two stakes.

Glowing Ember wins City of Aiken Trophy for Dogwood Stables

Monday, March 16th, 2015
by Sarah Mace

Glowing Ember, a 5-year-old Bernstein gelding bred by Gallagher’s Stud and owned by Cot Campbell’s Dogwood Stables, won the featured City of Aiken Trophy at the 73rd annual Aiken Trials which took place on Saturday at the Aiken Training Track in Columbia, S.C.

Trained by Brad Stauffer, Glowing Ember romped to a six-length victory in the 4 1/2-furlong event, completing the distance in 53 seconds flat over a track that had taken nearly three-quarters of an inch of rain. He was followed across the line by Bubuzela and St. Tahaddeus.

Glowing Ember’s jockey Gene Tucker told Dede Biles reporting for the Aiken Standard, “He stood really good in the starting gate, and he left the gate really hard. I rode him a little bit until the quarter pole, and then just kind of wrapped up on him. When I checked, there was nobody close behind me.”

Said trainer Stauffer, “I was a little bit worried about him before the race because he was pacing in his stall at the barn. I knew he was on edge. When he broke and got in front, I was just hoping he would stay there. Gene has been telling me that if somebody came to him, Glowing Ember wouldn’t give up easily, and he didn’t give up at all. He kept on running. He is a nice horse, and Gene rode him perfectly.”

Relishing his first Aiken Trophy victory, Cot Campbell exclaimed, “This is great! We came here 29 years ago, and we had been struggling to win it. But now we’ve got it, and we’re delighted.” Campbell added that Glowing Ember will leave for New York with some other Dogwood horses around the first of April.

Glowing Ember is a fourth-generation product of Gallagher’s Stud breeding. His third dam Felicita produced three stakes winners, led by multiple Grade 1 winner and $2.4 million dollar earner Take Charge Lady, a horse bred by William Schettine, who purchased Felicita for $42,000 at the 1998 Keeneland November Sale. For Gallagher’s Stud Felicita produced Glowing Ember’s second dam Eventail, a multiple stakes winner by Lear Fan. Eventail is the dam of five winners including multiple graded stakes winner Straight Story by Giant’s Causeway. Her placed daughter Fanfire by Elusive Quality produced Glowing Ember.

Dogwood Stable purchased Glowing Ember for $53,000 at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale in Saratoga. The gelding has earned $155,130 from four victories, including two wins on the grass, plus a second and a third in 11 starts.

A Day in Paradise draws off to take Sam Houston’s Texas Heritage S.

Sunday, March 1st, 2015
A Day In Paradise - Texas Heritage Stakes - 02-28-15 - R08 - HOU - Inside Finish

Coady Photography

by Sarah Mace

Tommy G. Ligon’s, A Day in Paradise, a 3-year old bay Yes It’s True gelding bred by Anstu Farm LLC, became a stakes winner in his sophomore bow, when he drew off in the stretch to take the one-mile, $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday evening.

Trained by Larry Jones and ridden by Kerwin Clark, A Day in Paradise was making his fifth start for his first stakes appearance. A Keeneland maiden-breaker routing, he was last seen at Fair Grounds on December 28 delivering a career-best performance when he finished second after a sound bump at the start in a one-mile first-level allowance, for which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 81.

Exiting post two as the 3-5 favorite, A Day in Paradise grabbed a cozy spot at the rail and moved into the top spot. Joined up front by longshot Witt Six, the two vied for the lead through the clubhouse turn and down the backstretch run through a first half mile in 49.71. Dogged by this persistent rival through the far turn, A Day in Paradise began to get clear in upper stretch and opened up in the final furlong, drawing off to a 3 1/4-length victory in a final time of 1:40.38.

Foaled at Vinery New York at Sugar Maple in Poughquag, A Day in Paradise is one of four winners from four foals to start out of the unraced mare Tiz Paula, a daughter of Tiz Now out of stakes winner Paula’s Girl (Phone Trick).

Coady Photography

Coady Photography

The gelding changed hands twice at public auction, selling for $7,500 as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton’s 2013 October sale in Kentucky and bringing $50,000 last spring at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds.

His record now stands at two firsts, a second and third from five starts with $73,140 in earnings.

International Star shines again at Fair Grounds with paint-scraping Risen Star victory

Saturday, February 21st, 2015
Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges, Jr.

Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges, Jr.

by Sarah Mace

Things may not have gone Upstart’s way at Gulfstream Park on Saturday afternoon, but the “stars” did align later on at Fair Grounds when Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s International Star (Fusaichi Pegasus) catapulted himself to the top of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points leaderboard with a gutsy paint-scraping victory in the Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes.

International Star was last seen winning the Fair Grounds’ Grade 3 LeComte on January 17 with a career-best performance under Miguel Mena. Reunited with the same rider on Saturday, International Star shipped in to New Orleans from Gulfstream Park having posted two strong works for trainer Mike Maker, the more recent, a best-of-39 five-furlong drill on February 14. By contrast with his rail draw in the LeComte, however – a cozy spot for a colt who likes to run inside – the bay faced the challenge of getting position from the outside post in a field of nine.

Out of the gate cleanly and sharply as the 7-2 third betting choice, International Star met the challenge presented by his post early, working his way deftly over into the two path under Mena by the time the field began rounding the clubhouse turn. He was then able to set up shop at the rail in sixth for the early stages of the 1 1/16-mile route.

After longshots St. Joe Bay and Hero of Humor vied on the front end through a first quarter-mile in 23.29 and half in 47.08, International Star began his bid on the far turn, making a big advance into third in relatively tight quarters just inside Bluff. Then, just past the quarter pole, he slipped through an extremely narrow opening to the inside of St. Joe Bay

Digging in at the rail, International Star shook clear of his rival inside the final furlong and drew off to secure a one-length victory. War Story closed into second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Keen Ice and St. Joe Bay, who finished heads apart. After three-quarters in 1:12.16, International Star stopped the clock after 8.5 furlongs at 1:43.82. [VIDEO]

A confident Mike Maker said, “He was doing super and he ran as advertised. I wasn’t worried about the post. Realistically I thought we had an outside trip and we wound up having a trip like in the LeComte turning for home looked.”

Miguel Mena had a bit more concern about the set-up, but was impressed by his mount’s heart. “The post position worried me. You never know if you can get to the rail, where he wants to be. I was impressed because I moved at the five-sixteenths-pole to get through and he came through a tight hole and then another one at the quarter-pole and kept running and drawing away.”

Mena feels confident in the colt’s ability to keep moving forward. “I think more distance will be no problem. He rates well, he loves the rail; it doesn’t matter how tight the hole is – he goes for it. When I put him on the rail, he grabs the bit and when we come up to a tight hole, he just goes for it. Not many horses do it. The more you save, the more you’re going to get. He’s not much to look at it, but he has a big heart.”

Maker said that International Star will point next to the Louisiana Derby on March 28. “Not going to change routes for him; he loves it [at Fair Grounds] and there’s no reason to change course.”

International Star, whose third graded victory improves his career record to four firsts and two seconds from eight starts and swells his bankroll to $560,979, also brought his Kentucky Derby points total to a leaderboard-topping 71, which assures him a berth in the Run for the Roses.

In addition to picking up 50 points for the Risen Star, the colt earned 10 points for winning the Grade 3 LaComte, 10 points for winning the Grey Stakes at Woodbine last October and one point for his show finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs.

Bred by Katharine M. Voss and Robert T. Manfuso and foaled at Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains, International Star was purchased by the Ramseys as a yearling for $85,000 out of the Fasig Tipton select yearling sale in September in Timonium. His dam is Parlez, a multiple winner by French Deputy who has produced five winners in all, including stakes winner Fools in Love by Not For Love.