Ken and Sarah Ramsey's International Star, winner of the Jan. 17 LeComte Stakes and Feb. 21 Risen Star at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, will attempt to keep his winning streak alive March 28 in the $750,000 Louisiana Derby, while progressing along the road to the Kentucky Derby.
The 3-year-old New York-bred son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus drew the outside as the 3-1 favorite in a field of nine for the 1-1/8-mile Louisiana Derby, with regular rider Miguel Mena in the irons. Last out, the duo defeated rival War Story by a length in the 1-1/16-mile Risen Star with a strong inside rally after moving over from post 10.
Ranked second on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 71 points (El Kabeir tops the list with 75), International Star prepped for the Louisiana Derby with an easy five-furlong workout in 1:02.47 March 22 at Gulfstream Park, where he has wintered with trainer Mike Maker's Florida string while shipping in to take the Fair Grounds' Derby prep races. The last horse to win all three Fair Grounds prep races was Friesan Fire in 2009.
Loooch Racing Stables and Chris Dunn's War Story, co-second choice at 4-1 on the morning line, is back for trainer Tom Amoss in an attempt to turn the tables after breaking slowly in both the LeComte and Risen Star. Prior to those runner-up efforts, the gelded son of Northern Afleet won his first two outings with ease, taking a maiden special weight event going seven furlongs at Churchill Downs Nov. 1 for the Ron Moquett barn and, after moving to Amoss, acing a one-mile allowance at Fair Grounds by 2 3/4 lengths over fellow Louisiana Derby rival A Day in Paradise just 20 days prior to the Lecomte.
Louisiana native Joe Talamo ships in from his Southern California base to ride War Story from post 6.
Amoss sent his Louisiana Derby contender out March 18 with a bullet work in :58 4/5 over the Fair Grounds main track.
"He came out of the work fine," Amoss reported. "That'll be our last breeze before we run. We worked him about the same amount of days out from the Risen Star and he ran well. We got on the track [Wednesday morning], when it was at its best. It was very quick and he was one of the first on it, plus he had a workmate."
Joining War Story at 4-1 on the morning line is Zayat Stables' D. Wayne Lukas-trained Mr. Z, who exits a third-place finish in the Feb. 22 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Despite only one win from 10 starts, the Malibu Moon colt carries serious back-class -- including placing in six graded stakes, two of which were grade I events. Drawing post 2 under new jockey Kent Desormeaux, the chestnut runner will shed the blinkers he has adorned for his previous four efforts.
Donegal Racing's Keen Ice, a closing third in the Risen Star for trainer Dale Romans, and Todd Pletcher trainee Stanford, a highly regarded stakes-placed allowance winner for Stonestreet Stables, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, both check in at 5-1 on the morning line.
Keen Ice, by Curlin, will try to move forward once again after charging impressively from last in the Risen Star to lose by just fewthan three lengths. James Graham gets the return mount from post 7.
Stanford exits an effort in the $60,000 Islamorada Stakes over the Louisiana Derby's 1-1/8-miles distance at Gulfstream, in which he ran erratically and was disqualified from runner-up to last. Florent Geroux, who has won six stakes during the current Fair Grounds meet, picks up the ride on the Malibu Moon colt from the rail.
The fast-improving A Day in Paradise enters for the capable Larry Jones barn. Owned by Tommy Ligon, the bay gelding was a hard-trying second to War Story in the aforementioned Fair Grounds allowance Dec. 28 and then returned exactly two months later to take the $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes by 3-1/4 lengths at Sam Houston Race Park, going a two-turn mile. Since then the son of Yes It's True has worked impressively at Fair Grounds and will retain the services of Kerwin Clark, who has been aboard for all five starts. The duo leaves post 5.
The remainder of the field for the Louisiana Derby is comprised of local maiden winner Defondo (Brian Hernandez, Jr., post three), stakes-placed Fusaichi Flame (Francisco Torres, post four) and pace-setting Risen Star fourth-place finisher St. Joe Bay (Robby Albarado, post eight).