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Barn Notes: Sunday, February 8



Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots-based trainer Joe Sharp made the fourth racetrack the charm in his attempt to claim an initial career stakes victory last night at Delta Downs’ Louisiana Premier Night.  A head trainer only since September, the young former Mike Maker and Mike Stidham assistant saddled Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s One King’s Man to a rousing victory in the evening’s ultimate event – the $200,000 Louisiana Premier Night Championship. 

Previously, the native of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia had attempted to win his first stakes at Golden Gate, Fair Grounds and Oaklawn Park – but finally got the job done with the Ramsey’s Louisiana-bred son of Oaklawn Handicap winner K One King.  Ridden by Miguel Mena, the gray gelding swept past Brittlyn Stable’s odds-on favorite Sunbean and roared home a 3½ length victor.  The win was One King’s Man’s first in a stakes and ninth overall in a 33-race career.

It felt great,” Sharp reflected.  “There’s no owner I’d rather win for more than any other, but obviously Mr. Ramsey and I have done a lot together.  It was a neat story. We claimed the horse with this race in mind a few months ago and we did exactly what we set out to do.”

While under the wing of Maker, Sharp had a great relationship with the Ramseys.  When setting off on his own, the leading national owners promised to give him 10 horses.  They originally gave him a few and allowed him to claim a few others – one of those being One King’s Man.  After a troubled trip left him beaten by Sunbean in December’s $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, the gutsy charge got his revenge to win his second race in a row after impressively taking a Fair Grounds allowance in January.


Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s International Star had his first work back since taking the Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 17 for trainer Mike Maker and is on target to return to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Feb. 21 for his connections. 

“This was his first work back and he worked great,” Maker said.  “All is well.”

Expected to be one of the favorites in a salty renewal of the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star, International Star worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 at Gulfstream Park.  In seven starts, the son of Fusaichi Pegasus has three wins and two placings for $320,979 in earnings.  He has two graded stakes wins and has now won on dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces. 

This year’s Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes is shaping up as arguably the best Kentucky Derby prep thus far in 2015.  Headlined by Erich Brehm, Keith Desormeaux et al’s 2014 Grade I $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red, the 42nd running of the final Louisiana Derby prep is also expected to draw Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s multiple graded stakes winner International Star, Godolphin Racing’s graded stakes-winning multi-surface specialist Imperia and William S. Farish’s beaten Grade III $200,000 Lecome Stakes favorite Eagle. 

One colt flying under the radar but extremely well regarded is Fox Hill Farm’s Bluff.  Trained by Larry Jones and ridden by his go-to rider Kerwin Clark, the son of Tapit out of a full-sister to Jockey Club Gold Cup and Pacific Classic winner Borrego has the looks, style and potential to upset the proverbial apple cart on Feb. 21. 

“Larry has been high on Bluff from the beginning,” said Rick Porter, principal of Fox Hill Farm.  “He’s been disappointed that the horse had so many excuses (in his first two races).  He ran a huge race last time and Larry thinks he deserves a shot at the Risen Star.  He doesn’t have to win but he certainly has to be competitive to move forward.  One thing about Larry is that if the horse has the talent, he is going to get it out of them.”

In his debut on Dec. 11, the $250,000 yearling purchase was wide and used his energy catching up to loose-on-the-lead Tiznow R J, only to have that rival run away from the field by more than 13 lengths.  Three weeks later, the chestnut broke poorly, was wide again and closed from the tail of the field to finish a one-paced eighth of 12. 

Unfazed and still believing in their charge, the Bluff team marched on to try again three weeks later at the same mile and 70-yard course and distance, but this time he got a trip that allowed him to show his true colors.  Rating well behind the leaders in fifth, the emblazoned chestnut pounced on them at the quarter-pole and sprinted clear by 5 ½ lengths by the eighth-pole.  Eased in the final sixteenth, Bluff still won by nearly six lengths in a sharp 1:43.20. 


Trainer Dallas Stewart has a couple alternatives with his talented 5-year-old Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots-based gelding Knights Nation.  A winner last out by a neck in a conditioned grass allowance, the Brad Ray-owned son of Indygo Shiner also won an allowance three races back on the dirt at Churchill Downs going the same 1 1/16-miles distance.  Now arguably in the best form of his career, the Kentucky-bred will again attempt graded stakes company in his next start – but Stewart has yet to decide which route he will take.

“We have him nominated to the Mineshaft (Handicap) and the (Fair Grounds Handicap),” Stewart said.  “He’s run very well on both surfaces, so we will wait and see.”  Both the Mineshaft and Fair Grounds are Grade III races worth $125,000 held on Feb. 21.  The Mineshaft is at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt, while the Fair Grounds is 1 1/8 miles on the grass.

“He is a horse who came in on the claiming level and got better with training and racing,” Stewart explained of the improving charge.  “I put him on the dirt (on Nov. 2) and he ran an ‘8’ Ragozin and then ran another ‘8’ on the turf (on Jan. 9).  He might be more particular about his dirt tracks and is not a fast work horse.  The dirt here has been excellent this meet – and for that matter, so has the turf course.”

On Saturday the Kentucky-bred worked a half-mile in :50.60 – his third work in weekly succession since his aforementioned turf victory.  The last and only time he has faced graded company in 20 starts, he finished last – beaten 21 lengths – in the Grade I $500,000 Clark Handicap two starts ago, between his two previously referenced victories.  The performance was only the fifth time in his career he had finished out of the top four.

“He stumbled about the three-eighths pole and tweaked his back,” Stewart explained.  “It took him about three weeks to get over it.  He was galloping with his tail straight out and was uncomfortable, so we did some therapy and he’s back and feeling great.”

In his Jan. 9 victory he collared and defeated Shining Copper by 2¼ lengths.  That charge returned yesterday to easily best an allowance field that included three graded stakes winners. 


Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Wireless Future opened up some new prospects for his literal future when he handily drew off from an off-the-turf mile allowance field by seven lengths on Thursday afternoon.  The son of Scat Daddy from a turf-laden female family had shown in the mornings that he enjoyed the local dirt surface, including a second-best of 72 four-furlong move in :47.60 on Jan. 26. 

“We thought he ran a good race on the dirt and it definitely opens up some avenues,” said trainer Tom Amoss.  “I’m still leaning toward running him in the ($60,000) Black Gold (Stakes on Feb. 28).  The win was a pleasant surprise.”

The Black Gold is contested at 7½ furlongs on the Stall-Wilson turf course and still leaves the option open of running four weeks later in the meet’s centerpiece Grade II $750,000 Louisiana Derby on Mar. 28.

Wireless Future earned a career-high 97 Equibase Speed Figure for his victory this week – five points higher than his turf allowance score on Jan. 8. It was his third consecutive win of the meet and third of his five-race career.  In fact, the leggy dark bay charge has improved numerically with a 74-81-88-92-97 progression through his quintet of starts.