Updated on 02/27/2013 11:08AM

Fair Grounds: Ive Struck a Nerve puts lessons to good use in Risen Star

Hodges Photography/Jamie Hernandez
Ive Struck a Nerve, who learned to relax under new rider James Graham, earned a 95 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in the Risen Star.

The anatomy of Ive Struck a Nerve’s 135-1 upset in the Risen Star Stakes began forming not long after the colt’s fading fourth-place finish in the Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 19 at Fair Grounds. In the Lecomte, trainer Keith Desormeaux saw a colt fighting his rider, a horse who declined to switch off early and finish late, the way his trainer wanted Ive Struck a Nerve to race. It was a problem dating to this past summer, when Ive Struck a Nerve became rank and aggressive when Desormeaux first stretched him out to two turns.

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

In workouts between the Lecomte and the Risen Star – two of which took place with new rider James Graham in the irons – the focus was settle and finish, settle and finish. In one work, Ive Struck a Nerve was placed behind a workmate and forced to bide his time; in another, Ive Struck a Nerve ran abreast his work partner, his switch turned to off.

Whatever tasks were undertaken, everything came together in the Risen Star, where Ive Struck a Nerve dropped back to last in a 12-horse field without ever pulling hard on Grahams’s reins. Settled and relaxed, Ive Struck a Nerve made one big run to win the Risen Star by a nose.

To many the victory will seem like a fluke, and time might prove it so. But Ive Struck a Nerve’s 1 1/16 miles  in 1:44.52 produced a Beyer Speed Figure of 95 that will match up competitively with the more widely recognized members of his generation, and since it was accomplished using a new running style, time might also prove it duplicable.

“I don’t know if he can do it again,” Desormeaux said Sunday. “We just won’t know until we run him back how he’s going to be.”

Ive Struck a Nerve ate his grain Saturday night and appeared no worse for wear Sunday, according to his trainer. The next step on what ultimately could be a trip to the Kentucky Derby – the 50 Derby qualifying points he earned Saturday alone might be sufficient to make the 20-horse field – will come in the $1 million Louisiana Derby.

“It’d be crazy for us to pass up that kind of money in our own backyard,” said Desormeaux, who trains Ive Struck a Nerve for Matt Bryan’s Big Chief Racing.

The longer 1 1/8-mile Louisiana Derby will present a further obstacle for Ive Struck a Nerve; Desormeaux noted minutes after the Risen Star that the colt had not drawn away from runner-up Code West, and wondered if the distance might have “maxed out” Ive Struck a Nerve.

Code West, on the other hand, appears capable of running at about the same pace for as far as races are written. On the lead after a half-mile while racing along the inside, Code West briefly was swallowed up by several foes making midstretch moves. But while those rallies fizzled, Code West continued chugging along, and at the finish he was coming back on Ive Struck a Nerve.

 “He ran well. He’s kind of a one-paced horse, and he wants to run farther. I don’t think he ever saw the horse on his outside,” said trainer Bob Baffert, who said Code West appeared to have come out of the Risen Star in good shape, and was headed back to California on Sunday.

While Code West ran well in his Fair Grounds debut, Baffert was noncommittal regarding a return trip for the Louisiana Derby next month.

Plans also are fluid for third-place Palace Malice, one of several horses who loomed in the stretch and could not close the deal. Both Palace Malice and Rachel Alexandra Stakes winner Unlimited Budget returned to Florida on Sunday in good order, trainer Todd Pletcher reported. It would be no surprise if Unlimited Budget returned to New Orleans for the Fair Grounds Oaks next month.

Favored Normandy Invasion was last going into the Risen Star’s first turn after Oxbow brushed him just after the start. He spent much of the race in 11th place, with only Ive Struck a Nerve behind him, and lost ground on the far turn before rallying for a close fifth in his first start since a nose loss last fall in the Remsen Stakes. The result earned Normandy Invasion no Kentucky Derby qualifying points, dealing a blow to Derby hopes for trainer Chad Brown and owner Rick Porter.

“He had no chance the way things worked out,” Brown said. “We’ll give him one more chance in one of these races.”



Joseph Duckett More than 1 year ago
Sure wish I was privy to the change in training tactics BEFORE making my wagers. That tidbit alone would have been enough reason to use Ive Struck a Nerve on all my tri tix. More thorough investigative reporting in the days leading up to these preps would be nice so the average player has a chance to cash too. Doesn't do us much good AFTER the race...but thanks for the useless information...better late than never. Imagine the "barn insiders" excitement when they were rewarded at 135-1. Cha-Ching!
zkid9914 More than 1 year ago
It was a fluke. If the barn bet it was two bucks. He wouldn,t be 135 to 1.
DRFHersh More than 1 year ago
Point taken, though 15-horse fields present space / time problems in terms of comprehensive coverage. However, calling the info "useless" seems unfair. If the tacts change really spurred the improvement, you might see the result as less fluky and more substantive going forward. Thanks for reading.
Kyri Freeman More than 1 year ago
I have no idea what this horse will do in the future, but I like that Desormeaux actually *trained* him to rate. I hear so many quotes from trainers to the effect of "he's just free-running, that's just the way he is, nothing I can do about it."
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Your comment reminds me of one the best horseman and trainers I've ever been around. He was on one of Paulsons training farms more than 15 years ago. It was a busy place with a large number of sets coming out every morning. He believed in strong gallops and letting them have their head a bit in the lane to stretch their legs. I made a comment one time, and he pointed to the backstretch and said, I don't them running there, then he pointed to somewhere behind the eighth pole, and said, I need them running there, and I let them know that's what I want.
Greg Pisciotta More than 1 year ago
What about Funny Cide who ran 3rd in the 2003 Louisian Derby to Peace Rules and went on to win the Kentucky Derby while Peace Rules ran 3rd. What about War Emblem in 2002? He ran 6tth in Risen Star then left for Hawthorne and the Illinois Derby before winning the Kentucky Derby. I think everyone is surprised by the results of the LA Derby and Risen Star the last couple of years; however, I think quality is there. Quality definitly exists in the 3 year old filly division. Kentucky Oaks winners from the past few years prove that.
Karl Deppen More than 1 year ago
I'm not throwing any of the top 5 finishers of the Risen Star for the Derby--will be watching their next races !
jake More than 1 year ago
Dean More than 1 year ago
who was the last LA Derby or LA based horse that won the Kentucky Derby? None!! The quality of racing at Fairgrounds is sub par and the shippers that come in are all "B" players...I mean even Hawthorne has produced a Derby winner. Easy handicapping angle is just pitch any horse from LA in Derby. Proven fact.
jttf More than 1 year ago
too bad that rachel didnt get entered
James P More than 1 year ago
She would have finished second to Mine That Bird. He was McJuiced that day! Never seen a move like that in the Kentucky Derby!
jttf More than 1 year ago
larry jones had eight belles and hard spun finish 2nd in the derby.
joseph More than 1 year ago
and who was the hawthorne derby winner?
Wathen More than 1 year ago
War Emblem won the IL Derby
Wathen More than 1 year ago
Funny Cide.......ran up-front on an incredible Pace in a LA Downs race, Risen Star I think......finished 3rd I think........that's why I bet him in the Future Pool that yr.......
Wathen More than 1 year ago
It was the LA Derby that he ran 3rd in.....fractions were, :23--:46--1:10--mile in 1:35, he ran 3rd, never quit in the Lane !!!
Alex More than 1 year ago
They've had these absurd upsets at the Fair Grounds many times before. I'd never prep a horse there.
Nick Gunritz More than 1 year ago
They might want to put blinkers on Normandy
Julie Gregory More than 1 year ago
doesnt sound like chad brown has much confidence in his horse
Nick Gunritz More than 1 year ago
He said two sentences. Both just factual statements. Not sure how you derived non confidence out of that.
Janice Palmer More than 1 year ago
I agree. On the contrary, I think Chad is very confident in Normandy Invasion. He stated before the race that he wouldn't trade places with anyone. Although, at this point, maybe he would points-wise! ;-)
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Normany Invasion has to do something other than rally on the long Aqueduct stretch.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Kalar Walters More than 1 year ago
Sounds like some great training. Kudos to Keith and James. Kudos to Ive Struck a Nerve for being such a good student. :)
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
Mine That Bird was also a habitual pace presence as a two year old and three year old until the Kentucky Derby. Say what you will about his failures as an older horse, his success in the TC races was the change in tactics, whether it was the trainer, Borel, or both.