04/29/2017 8:07PM

Jessica's Star shines bright in Gus Fonner Stakes

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Jessica’s Star was always prominent in a neck win over Way Striking in the $75,000 Bosselman Pump and Pantry/Gus Fonner Stakes on Saturday at Fonner Park in Nebraska.

It was another 2 3/4 lengths back to Tiger of Wales in third. 

The Bosselman/Fonner was the centerpiece of the meet. Smack Smack, a multiple stakes winner who was to start as a top contender, was scratched from the race that was run on a muddy, sealed track. The horse’s regular rider, Shane Laviolette, picked up the mount on Jessica’s Star.

“I went ahead and let him use his speed so he wouldn’t get in any trouble,” Laviolette said of Jessica’s Star. “He handled the track real well.”

Jessica’s Star ($11.40) sat right off pacesetter Way Striking on Saturday, as that one set fractions of 24.80 seconds for the opening quarter and 49 seconds for the half-mile. Jessica’s Star took over through six furlongs in 1:15.20 and maintained his advantage while covering the 1 1/16 miles on a five-furlong track in 1:46.60. 

“He likes the mud,” winning trainer Kevin Eikleberry said.

Eikleberry, who was saddling Jessica’s Star for the first time Saturday, said the horse would likely make his next start at Prairie Meadows.

Jessica’s Star is a son of Magna Graduate, who races for Mark Breen. The $45,000 first-place check he earned pushed him just over $500,000 in earnings. Earlier in his career, the horse won the Grade 3 Iowa Derby when trained by Mike Stidham. Jessica’s Star overall has won six races from 21 starts, with four of his victories in stakes.