03/04/2013 4:56PM

Fair Grounds: Departing ready for bigger stakes after easy win in Texas Heritage

Coady Photography
Departing won the Texas Heritage Stakes to improve his record to 3 for 3.

If trainer Al Stall should happen to make it to the Kentucky Derby this year, it will not be through a conventional route.

Stall’s two best 3-year-olds are Departing and Sunbean. Both horses were entered in the Feb. 23 Risen Star Stakes but scratched because of unfavorable outside post positions and wound up running under less visible circumstances. Sunbean, a Louisiana-bred, punched his ticket to the Louisiana Derby with a good-looking win in the statebred-restricted Gentilly Stakes on the Risen Star undercard. And on Saturday night, Departing, running his career record to 3 for 3, earned an appearance on a bigger stage with a sharp victory in the $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park.

Departing, relaxing beautifully under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., seized total control of the Texas Heritage with a sharp move at the top of the stretch and was geared down to a 2 3/4-length victory over a decent colt named Holiday Mischief. Departing ran one mile in 1:37.94 (including a final quarter-mile in 24.60 seconds and a final eighth in 12.29) and earned a graded-stakes-class Beyer Speed Figure of 97.

“From what I’ve seen from him so far, everything looks good coming out of the race,” said Stall, adding that Departing would resume galloping Wednesday. “I was thrilled with the way he ran. What else can you say? Brian said it was a walk in the park. He looks push-button to me.”

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Departing, who won a six-furlong maiden race and a mile and 70-yard allowance at Fair Grounds before his stakes debut, is being considered for the Rebel Stakes, the Sunland Derby, and the Louisiana Derby, though one assumes the latter is the most likely option. Departing, a gelding who was bred and is owned by Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm, still has not been nominated to the Triple Crown. The period for $600 Triple Crown nominations has closed, but 3-year-olds can be nominated for $6,000 before March 23.

Claiborne was among the group of owners who last year pledged not to run 2-year-olds on Lasix, and Departing has made all three of his starts without the anti-bleeder medication.