02/12/2007 1:00AM

Notional's trip clinches Risen Star

Lou Hodges Jr.
Notional (right) wins the Risen Star by 2 1/4 lengths under jockey Robby Albarado.

NEW ORLEANS - Two California-based horses shipped into New Orleans for the Risen Star Stakes. One had much luck, the other had none.

Notional came through a crack of light at the top of the stretch and won the Risen Star by 2 1/4 lengths under Robby Albarado, while heavily favored Circular Quay and rider John Velazquez ran head-on into a traffic jam just past the quarter pole, losing all chance in the race and finishing fifth. Imawildandcrazyguy rallied late for second, edging Zanjero, who moved to the lead in upper stretch, but couldn't sustain his rally.

Notional won the San Rafael last out with a perfect trip, but in the bulkier Risen Star he and jockey Robby Albarado had to thread their way through a jammed up crowd of horses at the very top of the stretch.

"The horse was ultra-brave, and so was Robby," said Doug O'Neill, who trains Notional for owner J. Paul Reddam.

O'Neill has at least two horses on the Kentucky Derby trail, Liquidity and Great Hunter. Trainer Todd Pletcher has even more, but losing this Risen Star still stung. Circular Quay wound up finishing fifth in a field reduced to 12 by two scratches, and that placing was remarkable. Circular Quay, last early behind a hot half-mile pace of 46.90 seconds, was creeping up the fence under Velazquez when jockey James Graham and Slew's Tizzy clipped heels with a fading Makeithapencaptain. Graham, who escaped injury and won the next race, lost his seat, and Circular Quay ran headlong into Slew's Tizzy, who managed to stay on his feet. Circular Quay completely lost his action, but somehow got rolling again after straightening up and passed all but the top four in the race.

"We had to stop, that's the best way I can put it," said Velazquez.

Notional, a son of In Excess, now has won 3 of 5 starts, and has shown both speed and a closing kick, and the ability to win away from home.

"The way he traveled today, maybe he'll be on the road again," O'Neill said.

Albarado, who got good position after breaking from post 12, was impressed with Notional's finishing kick. "He's got a nice turn of foot for a big horse like that," he said.

Notional ($7.80) was timed in 1:44.18 for the 1 1/16 miles.

Imawildandcrazyguy was switched out late and finished well in his first start of the year. "He was finishing like a house afire," said trainer William Kaplan.