03/28/2015 6:48PM

International Star gets hard-fought win in Louisiana Derby

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Alexander Barkoff/Hodges Photography
International Star, with Miguel Mena aboard, scores a neck victory over Stanford in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on Saturday.

NEW ORLEANS – If there is one thing Ken Ramsey lives for, one thing that drives him more than anything, it’s his desire to stand in the winner’s circle on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs following the day’s featured race. He’s had several shots at it, never has won, but his quest continues, and was at the forefront of his mind after International Star won the Grade 2, $750,000 Louisiana Derby on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

As family and friends formed around Ramsey to take the winner’s-circle photo, his unmistakable voice rose above them all. “Kentucky Derby, here we come!” he shouted.

International Star earned his way to the Derby by sweeping this track’s Kentucky Derby preps. He won the Lecomte in January, the Risen Star last month, and completed the hat trick in the Louisiana Derby, which he won by running down Stanford in the final strides.
International Star ($6.60), the favorite, beat Stanford by a neck, with War Story another 4 1/4 lengths back in third. Keen Ice was fourth and was followed by Fusaichi Flame, St. Joe Bay, Defondo, A Day in Paradise, and Mr. Z.

Miguel Mena, who has been aboard International Star for all three of his races here, beat a steady tattoo on International Star down the stretch with a punishing right-hand whip. International Star, a small colt with a big will to win, kept to his task and got up. He was timed in 1:50.67 for 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track.

The win gave Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker consecutive wins in the Louisiana Derby. They won the race last year with Vicar’s in Trouble, who went on to finish last in the Kentucky Derby.

“Feels great, back to back,” Ramsey said. “I like the Louisiana people. Cajuns are great.”

:: DERBY WATCH: Top 20 from Jay Privman and Mike Watchmaker

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

The Louisiana Derby was worth 100 points to the winner toward a berth in the Kentucky Derby, but International Star already had earned a spot based on points gleaned in prior victories. This was very rich icing on a New Orleans King Cake.

International Star started from the outside post in the field of nine, but Mena was able to steer him to the rail midway around the first turn. From there, International Star used his small size and ability to accelerate through holes to his advantage, as he advanced to a contending position.

Stanford, who had set fractions of 24.03 seconds for the opening quarter, 48.59 seconds for a half, and 1:13.27 for six furlongs, had plenty left for the challenge and staved off International Star past the furlong pole, but International Star wore him down in the shadow of the wire.

“He closed into some soft fractions,” said Maker, who said International Star would leave for Kentucky from here Sunday morning. Maker joked that he’d take some Fair Grounds dirt with him to spread at Churchill Downs since International Star likes this surface so much.

International Star, a son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, has now won five times in nine starts, and the $450,000 he earned from the Louisiana Derby brought his career bankroll to just over $1 million. Ramsey and his wife, Sarah, purchased him as a yearling for just $85,000.

Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
Mena hit the horse so many times he is going to have PTSD! Talk about emptying the tank. Nothing about that performance makes me think winner's circle on 5/2. Bet at your own risk.
slewof damascus More than 1 year ago
One thing is for sure, this is Ken Ramsey's best chance yet to win the race that means so much to him. I think he's destined to win it, I don't know if this is the colt. It's not like this is a weaker year, there will be some very able colts in the starting gate. Being out of Fusiachi Pegasus, an off track could move him up.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Miguel Mena says not many horses are willing to rally up the rail like this one and that may be true, but not many jockeys are willing to either. Another great ride by Mena. With all the speed from Baffert and Pletcher's horses, the Star will have a big shot in the Derby.
StockPicker More than 1 year ago
Please note: Stanford ran second to Materiality @ Gulfstream in a stakes race last month.
StockPicker More than 1 year ago
International Star is a gutsy horse however I have him ranked in the second tier. He is going to have to run a lot faster than he did yesterday in an all out effort.
StockPicker More than 1 year ago
This year its all about the CA horses, Pharaoh, Dortmund, Prospect Park, Bolo. The LA derby and the Florida Derby had below average fields. Looks like the Santa Anita Derby will be star packed.
Jack More than 1 year ago
Don't get too up or down on any of these horses just yet! Wait till they get to Churchill and see how they train the weeks leading up to the race.. I pick the winner and the trifecta every year on the race, believe me it's the key to the race! Forget the final time of this race, International Star was popping those front legs out like a champ the final eight! If you don't have a great eye for a horse, or don't know what to look for, then be sure to follow me on twitter for my picks 24hrs before the race! Good luck to all.. @SaratogaJack
Rick Lamond More than 1 year ago
Materiality IS Pletcher's top horse. That is both laughable and pathetic at the same time.
slewof damascus More than 1 year ago
a 110 speed figure is laughable and pathetic?
Rick Lamond More than 1 year ago
How do you forgive a final 1/8 mile in 13 & 4/5?
Old timer More than 1 year ago
well the final 3/8 was 37 and change which isn't bad. The Florida Derby final 3/8 was almost 40 seconds. perhaps we need to look to California for the Derby winner?
Rick Lamond More than 1 year ago
Does anyone think Stanford has a chance to win the Derby? Of course not. Then what chance does International Star have since he could barely beat Stanford? At least the time wasn't as slow as the Florida Derby, but none of those horses has a chance either. Mubtaahij went 1 3/16 miles, won geared down, and appeared to have something left in the tank. He may be the only true competition for the two Baffert runners.
StockPicker More than 1 year ago
he needs the lead and if Pharoah and Dortmund run forget about it
slewof damascus More than 1 year ago
ever heard of speed figures, it's new concept, about 25 years old now. Time is relative to surface. The whole point of speed figures is to bridge the gap between surfaces, which produce often greatly disparate times, both internal and final.