International Star tops nine-horse Louisiana Derby

Saturday, March 28

Risen Star (G2) and Lecomte (G3) winner International Star (Fusaichi Pegasus) will seek a sweep of the three-year-old graded stakes at Fair Grounds when he heads postward in Saturday's $750,000 Louisiana Derby (G2). Installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite, the Mike Maker-trained colt will break from the far outside post among nine rivals with regular rider Miguel Mena.

The 1 1/8-mile races serves as one of the final major prep races in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, awarding points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers.

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International Star finished second in the grassy With Anticipation (G2) at Saratoga before capturing the Grey (G3) at Woodbine in early October, but entered his three-year-old season with little fanfare after concluding his juvenile season with unplaced efforts in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and Kentucky Jockey Club (G2).

Overlooked at 9-1 in the January 17 Lecomte, International Star produced a 2 1/4-length upset. But bettors were still a little hesitant to jump aboard in the February 21 Risen Star, allowing the bay colt to leave the starting gate as the 7-2 third choice. International Star rallied boldly up the rail leaving the far turn and won going away by a length under the wire, registering a career-best 97 BRIS Speed rating.

"We have a good enough horse; we'll be fine," Maker said of the outside post.

Campaigned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the reigning back-to-back Eclipse Award-winning owners, International Star would be the first sophomore to sweep all three races since Friesan Fire in 2009.

War Story (Northern Afleet) will be looking to turn the tables on his rival after finishing second in the Lecomte and Risen Star. Installed as the 4-1 co-second choice, the Tom Amoss-trained gelding has never finished worse than second in four career outings, capturing his first two outings at Churchill Downs (maiden special weight) and Fair Grounds (entry-level allowance). Joe Talamo will pick up the mount on the stalker.

Risen Star third-placer Keen Ice (Curlin) and fourth-placer St. Joe Bay (Saint Anddan) will also be back for the Louisiana Derby. The late-running Keen Ice is listed as 5-1 co-fourth choice for Dale Romans and retains the services of James Graham. Risen Star pacesetter St. Joe Bay is expected to show speed once again for Peter Miller and the 10-1 outside adds a new pilot in Robby Albarado.

Mr. Z (Malibu Moon), who is 4-1 on the morning line, invades from Oaklawn Park for Hall of Fame conditioner D. Wayne Lukas. Third in both the Smarty Jones and Southwest (G3) this season, the chestnut colt has placed in a total of seven stakes since capturing his debut last June. Mr. Z will shed blinkers after wearing the headgear in his last five starts and Kent Desormeaux will take over the reins.

Stanford (Malibu Moon) will represent leading trainer Todd Pletcher in the Louisiana Derby. An allowance/optional claiming scorer in 2015 bow at Gulfstream, the bay colt finished second most recently in the 1 1/8-mile Islamorada on March 6 but was disqualified and placed sixth by the stewards. He receives a new jockey in Florent Geroux and is an early 5-1.

Rounding out the field are a trio of expected longshots: A Day in Paradise (Yes It's True), Defondo (El Corredor) and Fusaichi Flame (Fusaichi Pegasus).

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