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The Fair Grounds, home of the Risen Star Stakes
Fair Grounds Race Course hosted 4 graded stakes races on Saturday afternoon for Louisiana Derby Preview Day, including one of the major Triple Crown prep races: the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) presented by Lamarque Ford, the major local prep for the Louisiana Derby and worth 50 points to the winner as part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. Conditions were excellent at the historic New Orleans track, with cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 70's, the main track rated fast and the Stall-Wilson turf going firm. A full field of 14 three-year-olds contested this 1 1/16 mile main track feature, with Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) 5th place finisher War of Will sent off as the even-money choice off his win in the LeComte (G3). In to challenge him inluded 6-1 second choice Plue Que Parfait, 5th in the LeComte, and 7-1 third choice Country House, off his maiden win at 3rd asking.
Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. sent 33-1 Gun It to the lead first time by through fractions of 23.71 and 47.36 while pressed by War of Will and stalked by 25-1 Dunph and 11-1 Mr. Money. On the far turn War of Will, 4 wide under Tyler Gaffalione, gained a short lead through 3/4 in 1:12.20. War of Will opened up a 2 1/2 length advantage mid-stretch through 1 mile in 1:37.87, and cruised to a 2 1/4 length win over late-running Country House in 1:44.59. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to 69-1 Roiland third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 14 War of Will Gaffalione 4.00 3.00 2.60 9 Country House Saez 6.00 4.80 2 Roiland Graham 15.20 Winning Time: 1:44.59 $2 Exacta 14-9 16.00 $1 Trifecta 14-9-2 3,841.00 $0.10 Superfecta 14-9-2-6 336.40
Left: War of Will in the winner's circle.
Right: Winning trainer Mark Casse after the race. Casse said,"I get more nervous when he runs than most horses, and I think that's just because I expect so much of him. Ours is so nice because, as you saw today, he's able to overcome obstacles if they're thrown at him. I really wasn't worried about the outside post. For a big horse, he has tremendous speed. He had to hit the gas a little to get over, so that got him a little riled up. It's like hitting the gas and then trying to hit 'stop,' you know, they're not as easy to stop as a car. He probably made the lead a little earlier than we'd like. He's done this a few times, especially early on. When he hits the lead, his old ears will start wandering and stuff. He keeps winning, there will be some big targets for him to chase." Winning jockey Tyler Gaffalione said, "He handled easily the whole way. He just keeps getting better." Casse added that he will go next in the Louisiana Derby.
Left: War of Will heads to the paddock before the race.
Right: War of Will in the post parade. Winning jockey Tyler Gaffalione said, "The horse broke well today. I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn't want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was
plenty of horse there."
Left: Second place finisher Country House in the post parade. Trainer Bill Mott said, "It was a good race; the horse showed he could run. He looked green, he was lugging in in the stretch. He's never done that before, and we think maybe he's just green, lights, other horses."
Right: Third place finisher Roiland in the post parade. Trainer Tom Amoss said, "He ran to the way he's been training." Jockey James Graham said, "He didn't break real good but finished off real well. We saved all the ground, but he's still kind of figuring it out."
Jockey James Graham sent Serengeti Empress to the lead first time by through fractions of 24.02, 47.81, and 1:12.45 while pressed by 9-2 Molto Bella and stalked by 23-1 Liora. Entering the stretch, Serengeti Empress left the field behind, opening up a 6 length lead through 1 mile in 1:37.89. Eased up late by Graham, Serengeti Empress finished 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Liora in 1:44.74. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to 25-1 Eres Tu third.
Left: Serengeti Empress in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Tom Amoss said, "She is very naturally quick and that helps her cause a great deal. Certainly this racetrack helped her cause. Having said that, I think that was a really good performance by a filly that a lot of people questioned whether she legitimately wanted to go a lot of ground. She took it to them today right out of the gate and it was fun to watch."
Right: Serengeti Empress returns after the race. Amoss stated that the Fair Grounds Oaks would likely be Serengeti Empress' next start. "I sure want to run there," Amoss said. "I want to defend our title!" Amoss won last year's Fair Grounds Oaks with Chocolate Martini.
Left: Serengeti Empress in the paddock.
Right: Serengeti Empress in the post parade. Winning jockey James Graham said, "Her cruising gear is so good. You watch her races from Ellis Park and from Churchill, she bounces along on the front end and travels through her races beautifully. She put them to bed turning for home. She did it the right way. She's a little aggressive but she's fast."
Right: Second place finisher Liora in the post parade. Trainer Wayne Catalano said, "Tom had his filly ready. I was impressed. My filly ran her race today. She was what they call 'second best.'" Jockey Channing Hill added, "Tom's filly is fast. My filly got bounced around a little down the backside and didn't get herself put together until the top of the lane. I was real proud of the effort."
Left: Third place finisher Eres Tu in the post parade. Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. said, "She tried really hard. We got a good future with her." The Steve Asmussen trainee improved her record to 1 win, 1 second, and 1 third in 5 starts, earning $77,627 for owner-breeder Edward Seltzer and Beverly Anderson. Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. said, "She tried really hard. We got a good future with her."
Left: The fillies just after the start of the Rachel Alexandra Stakes.
Right: Winning jockey James Graham celebrates after the race. Amoss also won last year's Fair Grounds Oaks with Chocolate Martini.
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione sent 11-2 fourth choice Flameaway to the lead through slow fractions of 25.93, 50.74, and 1:14.82 while pressed by 13-1 Phat Man and stalked by Silver Dust. Turning for home, jockey Jack Gilligan sent Silver Dust to the front through 1 mile in 1:39.08. Kept to task by Gilligan, Silver Dust drew off to win by 2 1/4 lengths over late-running Harlan Punch in 1:45.46. It was another 3/4 length back to Flameaway third, while favorite Lone Sailor trailed early and checked in 6th.
Left: Silver Dust in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bret Calhoun said, "We've always thought very highly of this horse. It's been constant working with him trying to figure things out, constant schooling in the paddock and gate. He's starting to show up in afternoon like he does in morning."
Right: Winning jockey Jack Gilligan celebrates aboard Silver Dust after the race. It was the first graded stakes win for Gilligan, who said, "He's got the ability there, when he decides to put it forward. I was hoping to be third or fourth in the first turn, but we were able to move up when they slowed it down. He took me around there beautifully on the last turn. I just had to keep him busy down the lane."
Left: Second place finisher Harlan Punch in the paddock. After unsaddling he was vanned off the track due to a left foreleg issue, but no fractures were detected by X-ray. The Brad Cox trainee improved his record to 10 wins, 10 seconds, and 5 thirds in 37 starts, earning $779,058 for owners Front Row Racng, Ten Strike Racing, Kevin McReynolds, and Bob Miller.
Right: Third place finisher Flameaway in the post parade. The Mark Casse trainee improved his record to 5 wins, 3 seconds, and 1 third in 14 starts, earning $849,834 for owner John Oxley.
The start of the Mineshaft Handicap. The win was Silver Dust's fourth in 19 career starts, and he earned $90,000 to boost his career bankroll to $354,607.
Jockey James Graham sent Great Wide Open to the lead through fractions of 23.18, 47.37, and 1:11.34 while pressed by First Premio and stalked by 35-1 Bandua. Entering the lane Bandua gained a short lead through 1 mile in 1:36.10, but Synchrony, 7th early under Joe Bravo, rallied 6 wide to win going away by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:48.09. It was another 2 lengths back to 24-1 Markitoff third.
Left: Synchrony in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Mike Stidham said, "Schooling the last couple of days and coming into the paddock today, he was just so cool and so calm that I knew he was set up for a big one. We worried about the speed bias and I told Joe to not let him drift out the back door. We had to have some kind of position turning for home to have a shot to win and he did it. This is home and we would try to win the race again, we like to win at Fair Grounds. He's a really good horse. He has shown it over and over again. I think he's still got a Grade 1 sitting out there somewhere waiting for him."
Right: Synchrony returns after the race. Winning jockey Joe Bravo said, "He was the best horse in his last race, anyone could have seen it. In turf racing, it's all about getting position and how you win races like that is by putting them in position and he was unfortunate not to hit daylight. Today I was worried about the speed favoring turf course and I had to use him a little bit. What makes him a good horse is that he listens to the rider. He's a special animal and hopefully he stays healthy for the future. He makes the rider look good."
Left: Second place finisher Bandua returns after the race. Jockey Adam Beschizza said, "He's a horse I've always held in high regard. I couldn't believe he was such a price. This is probably the only time he's been settled in somewhere. He's always been on the move. He came here from Ireland, and then went to Chicago and Canada. He's become more Americanized. That's just the start of something. I can't say that his first two or three runs were truly him."
Right: Third place finisher Markitoff in the post parade. The Mike Maker trainee improved his record to 2 wins, 3 seconds, and 3 thirds in 22 starts, earning $196,712 for owner Three Diamonds Farm.
Winning jockey Luis Saez said, "It was a terrific trip. That was the plan to see the speed, and when she got into the stretch, I had a ton of horse."
Winning jockey Tyler Gaffalione said, "Brendan (Walsh, trainer) had the horse ready today. All I had to do was sit on him and wait. When I asked on him, he really turned it on, I just had to help him out of the gate a little."
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