Sunday Notes: Desormeaux Having Derby Dreams

 

By Graham Ross, Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Sunday, February 24, 2013) – One day after Big Chief Racing’s Ive Struck a Nerve rewarded a few of racing’s eternally-grinning optimists with a $272.40 return on a $2 win wager in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the colt’s trainer Keith Desormeaux was already having Kentucky Derby dreams, but with an important intermediate dream.

“We’d be crazy not to run in the ($1 million) Louisiana Derby,” said Desormeaux, still in the afterglow of the biggest stakes score of his career. “Plus, we have to represent the home team.”

Desormeaux, a native of Lafayette, Louisiana, has been a Fair Grounds-based conditioner for well over a decade, underrated for his own abilities as a horseman while relegated to the shadow of his younger brother, Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux.

I suppose, like a lot of modern horsemen, I could buy into the theory that fresh is better, and try to train my horse up to the Kentucky Derby off of his race yesterday, but that’s not my style,” said Desormeaux. “My horse is fit, and it’s a lot easier to train an athlete that is fit.

“Fit horses don’t get hurt so easily,” Desormeaux said. “My horse came back from his race just fine and ate up everything last night and this morning. He keeps good weight on him, and he’s heavy-boned.

“We’re having fun with this horse,” Desormeaux concluded, speaking of his relationship with Ive Struck a Nerve’s owner, Matt Bryan. “We went out to dinner last night, talked about the future and had a lot of laughs.”

The upcoming $1 million Louisiana Derby will celebrate its 100th anniversary edition on March 30.

MARK VALESKI MAKES UP FOR RECENT RUNNER-UPS IN MINESHAFT HANDICAP – Accepting congratulations on behalf of the Brereton Jones color-bearer Mark Valeski’s winning late run in Saturday’s Grade III Mineshaft Handicap following his horse’s seemingly hopeless entrapmentat the eighth pole, trainer Larry Jones was in a jocular frame of mind Sunday morning.

“We decided this morning that we’re going to take ‘Mark’ to Europe,” Jones said. “They like to keep their horses covered up over there, so maybe that should be this horse’s new running style. As they say in Europe, when Mark finally tipped to the outside, he really quickened.”

Mark Valeski’s win in Belmont’s Grade II Peter Pan last summer was his lone prior stakes score despite close local runner-up losses last winter in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes and Grade II Louisiana Derby and another second this winter in the Louisiana Handicap.

“I was thinking, ‘Oh no, here we go again,’” said Jones of the Mark Valeski’s recent “seconditis” at Fair Grounds.

“For awhile there, I thought maybe we were looking at a case of ‘lastitis,’” Jones said. “Those were some good horses in front of him yesterday, and I also knew Bernie’s horse (Tenth Street Stable’s Cool Street,trained by Bernie Flint) was starting to get rolling. That’s a real good horse Bernie has. If that horse gets in front of you, you’re not going to catch him again. We’ll be pointing Mark Valeski for the (Grade II)New Orleans Handicap for his next start, and I’m sure Bernie will be pointing his horse that way, too.

“Also, I expect we’re going to see (Twin Creeks Racing’s) Graydar and (Bourbon Lane Stable’s) Bourbon Courage coming here for our race,” Jones said, speaking of the one-two finishers in Gulfstream’s Grade I Donn Handicap Feb. 9. That New Orleans Handicap is going to be quite a race.”

COOL STREET CLOSES LIKE A SHOT IN MINESHAFT DESPITE SLOW PACE – Tenth Street Stable’s Cool Street was undefeated in four starts this season at Fair Grounds prior to Saturday’s Grade III Mineshaft Handicap, and in that prelude to the upcoming Grade II New Orleans Handicap March 30, the 4-year-old son of 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense closed like a freight train to finish second.

“My horse couldn’t win with a slow pace like they had in that race yesterday,” said trainer Bernie Flint during training hours Sunday. “My horse was still last at the quarter pole. He came charging after that. I’ve never seen a horse run as hard as he did in that last quarter.

“However, I knew we had no chance to catch (Brereton Jones’s) Mark Valeski,” Flint said. “That horse is a good horse and he’s been training at the top of his game these last few weeks. I knew going into the race Mark Valeski was the horse we had to beat. That boy (Mark Valeski’s trainer Larry Jones) can really train a horse. He had his horse really sharp.

“We’re going to go ahead and point for the next round,” Flint concluded, speaking of the upcoming Grade II New Orleans Handicap March 30. “You got to with a horse like this. My horse is a coming horse right now, not a going horse.”