01/16/2016 5:35PM

International Star surges to victory in Louisiana Stakes

Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography
International Star wins the Louisiana Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths Saturday at Fair Grounds.

NEW ORLEANS – International Star was scratched from the Kentucky Derby the morning of the race and didn’t start again until Nov. 25, when he contested a slow pace and clunked home a distant fourth in the Zia Park Derby in New Mexico. Co-owner Ken Ramsey blamed himself for the disappointing showing.

“I have a big ego,” Ramsey said. “I made the prediction I’d win another derby with this horse, and that was the last derby left to try.”

He then predicted a far better performance from International Star in the Louisiana Stakes at Fair Grounds.

Yes, Fair Grounds – International Star can’t get enough of it. He won the Lecomte, the Risen Star, and the Louisiana Derby here last winter and spring, and on Saturday, he proved Ramsey right, blasting past the favored Eagle at the three-sixteenths pole and going on to a 1 1/2-length victory in the $75,000 Louisiana.

“He ran by [Eagle] like he was no competition,” jockey Miguel Mena said. “I didn’t think he’d beat him like that, but I’m glad he did.”

Eagle, the 8-5 favorite, tracked two wide from fourth as Majestic Harbor, mildly pursued by Coup de Grace, set modest splits of 24.46 seconds, 48.42, and 1:13.10. Eagle closed in before the quarter pole, had a little trouble switching his leads – a common occurrence, jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. said – and had just straightened up when International Star attacked.

“He got outrun today more than anything,” Hernandez said. “We made the lead so easily, and then when we did, Miguel jumped on us quick. He tried to run back by him but I think it caught him by surprise.”

International Star stopped the timer in 1:44.44 for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track, paying $7.80 to win while running his local record to 4 for 4. Eagle, who was spotting all his rivals six pounds under allowance conditions, stayed on even terms with the winner after being passed, and finished 6 1/2 lengths in front of third-place Ride On Curlin. A claim of foul by Pat Valenzuela on Ride On Curlin against Eagle was disallowed, but Coup de Grace was disqualified from fourth to fifth for fouling Majestic Harbor.

International Star raced near the back of the pack on the rail much of the trip, looking like he was running in place and leaving even his jockey wondering if he’d fire.

“He does that, he does that,” Mena said. “You’re like, ‘Oh man, do I have horse or not?’ But once you really get him to go, he’s something else. He always has finished strong, but he’s an older horse now, and they just get better. His turn of foot from the five-sixteenths pole was unbelievable.”

Mike Maker trains International Star, a son of Fusaichi Pegasus out of Parlez by French Deputy who was bred by Katharine Voss and Robert Manfuso.

International Star, already a millionaire, won for the sixth time in 11 races – and if all of them had been at Fair Grounds, he might be undefeated.