Ive Struck a Nerve Pulls 135-1 Shocker By a Nose in Gr. II Risen Star; Unlimited Budget Wins Gr. III Rachel Alexandra

 

By Jim Mulvihill & Graham Ross

NEW ORLEANS (Saturday, February 23, 2013) – In a huge upset that brought back memories of last year’s $1 million Louisiana Derby, Big Chief Racing’s Ive Struck a Nerve struck gold for his connections and longshot players, as well, when he lit up the tote board with a $272.40 win payoff in Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes on Louisiana Derby Preview Day Presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Ridden brilliantly by jockey James Graham,who had been working with him in the mornings recently to school him on some of the intricacies of racing, Ive Struck a Nerve rallied outside the leaders in the late stages of the Risen Star and got up by a nose in the last jump.

Across the board, the son of Yankee Gentleman, who was purchased for $82,000 last April out of an OBS 2-year-olds in training sale, returned mutuels of $272.40, $110.60 and $42.40.

“In the mornings he is being really aggressive in his work patterns with company so today, and in that last race, he was aggressive around the first turn,” said winning rider Graham. “Today, once I got him settled, he did everything I asked him to do. He finished off strong, galloped out good and had a great trip.”

In a winner’s circle interview immediately after the Risen Star, trainer Keith Desormeaux, the under-the-radar older brother of Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux,was asked about his horse’s sudden improvement.

“Every time this horse has gone a distance he’s had some kind of trouble,” Desormeaux said. “(Owner) Matt Bryan and I have talked about it several times. We just wanted a clean trip at a distance and if we got beat 14 lengths again (as he was in a fourth-place finish in Fair Grounds’ Grade III Lecomte Stakes in his last start Jan. 19), we’d have quit trying, but we had trouble every trip and James rode him perfectly.”

Following a remark by owner Bryan about the group booking a room in Louisville for the upcoming Kentucky Derby, Desormeaux said, “We’ve got a million-dollar race in between. There is no doubt we will try the (100th running of the $1 million) Louisiana Derby. Then, who doesn’t want to go to Louisville, right? That’s why we all get in this crazy business.”

Ive Struck a Nerve earned 50 points in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points standings (bringing his total to a series-leading 51) and almost quadrupled his $65,790 previous earnings with his $240,000 winner’s share of the $400,000 Risen Star purse, upping them to $305,790 with his second win in nine career starts. He accomplished the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Risen Star in 1:44.52.

Gary and Mary West’s California invader Code West, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainerBob Baffert andbeaten a nose for the win, alternated for the early lead with splits of 23.92 and 48.34, gained an advantage along the inside in the stretch run, could not withstand the winner late but finished a half-length in front of the late-running Palace Malice, owned by Dogwood Stable and conditioned by five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher.

Calumet Farm’s Oxbow, the 11 1/2-length winner of the Lecomte, took clear command in the stretch but could not sustain the bid.

UNLIMITED BUDGET RULES RACHEL ALEXANDRA – Repole Stable’s Unlimited Budget swept to the lead entering the stretch under Rosie Napravnik and drew off to win Saturday’s Grade III, $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes by 3 ¾ lengths. Holt Racing LLS, Wesley Hawley and Robert Orth’s Promise Me More closed from last in the field of 10 to get second, four lengths ahead of Susan Knoll’s Blue Violet in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies.

Unlimited Budget earned 50 points in the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points standings and now sits atop that list with 60 points overall.

The winner sat well off fast early fractions of 22.88, 46.40 and 1:12.32 set by Dancinginthecircle. Into the far turn, Napravnik advanced five-wide and then powered past the rest of the field into the lane.

“She was much the best,” Napravnik said after her second graded stakes win of the afternoon. “It ended up being a crazy pace up front so we were a little further back but it set up well for her and she just galloped away with it.”

Unlimited Budget stopped the timer in 1:45.38 over a fast main track. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Florida-bred daughter of Street Sense returned $5, $3.60 and $3 and increased her career earnings to $310,200.

Promise Me More paid $11.80 and $6.40 while earning 20 points toward Kentucky Oaks qualifying.

“Second-best but coming on late,” Promise Me More’s trainer, Wes Hawley, said. “We will take that today. I don’t think we were going to catch that other filly but a mile-and-one-eighth is a different story.”

The 1 1/8-mile Grade II, $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks will be run on Louisiana Derby Day, March 30. Five of the last eight winners of that race have gone on to win the Kentucky Oaks, including last year’s winner, Believe You Can.

Blue Violet paid $6.60 and earned 10 points toward the Kentucky Oaks, while fourth-place finisher Every Way got five points.