Home of the Louisiana Derby

103rd LOUISIANA DERBY NOTES: March 23, 2016

  • ·        Greenpointcrusader Ready for the Next Step
  • ·        Maker Expects Improvement from International Star
  • ·        World Approval Challenges Ex-Stablemate Chocolate Ride

 

GREENPOINTCRUSADER READY FOR THE NEXT STEP

Dominick Schettino has long had on his mind that he would like to have two preps before the Triple Crown trail for his Greenpointcrusader, who is owned by a partnership of St. Elias Stable, MeB Racing Stables and Brooklyn Boyz Stables. A talented and well-bred $575,000 Keeneland Sale purchase, the son of Bernardini immediately showed promise and will carry that potential into Saturday’s Grade II $1,000,000 TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby.

Second by a neck on debut – just missing at 5½ furlongs at Saratoga, the full-brother to Algorithms graduated and then four weeks later took the Grade I $500,000 Champagne Stakes at Belmont on a sloppy and sealed surface on Oct. 3. Sent off as the lukewarm 7-2 favorite in the Grade I $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he was never comfortable and finished seventh, beaten 4¼ lengths. With plenty of foundation under him, as well as a Grade I victory, he kicked off his campaign against top-rated east coast sophomore Mohaymen in the Grade II $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 30 at Gulfstream Park and was a good second, 3½ lengths astern the current Kentucky Derby future book favorite.

“Everything is going okay with him,” Schettino said. “I think the post (two) is good for him – you can’t do anything about that, anyway – and we will see how the race sets up. I just want him to get a clean trip. Velazquez has the ride on him and he rode him last time, so he knows him a little better this time.

“This has been the schedule for him going into the Derby,” he continued. “As long as he runs his race and runs the way he ran in the Champagne, we should be okay. (His style) is one of the reasons we picked this spot. He has a nice finish and it’s a long stretch. There are some nice 3-year-olds like Gun Runner and Mo Tom and a few allowance horses who could pop up, too, so it’s a tough race.”

The dark bay colt has continued to train forwardly since his runner-up effort, with a steady stream of half-mile and five-furlong works at Palm Meadows in South Florida, including a sharp four furlongs in 49.60 – sixth-best of 37 – on Mar. 11.

 

MAKER EXPECTS IMPROVEMENT FROM INTERNATIONAL STAR

It is easy to see that trainer Mike Maker is a fan of his pupil International Star when they interact. Understated by nature, Maker is quick to smile when he is near the bay colt’s stall and proud of what the 4-year-old has accomplished. An honest horse who has made over a million dollars for owners Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey in his 12-race career, the son of Fusaichi Pegasus is giving Maker every indication that his dud of a performance last out when fourth of four in the Grade III $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap – his first loss in five races at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots – was a complete toss-out.

“I felt like there wasn’t a lot of pace in there last time,” Maker said. “I thought it was extremely slow for how the track that was playing that day. It didn’t work out, but he’s been training great and we’re back and ready to go again. I think he’s very effective from a mile and a sixteenth to a mile and an eighth and the post shouldn’t be too much of a bother, as long as he can make his run.”

International Star, who drew the rail, will be running nine furlongs on Saturday in the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap for the first time since running down Stanford in last year’s Grade II $750,000 Louisiana Derby and stamping himself as a serious Kentucky Derby contender. After being knocked off the Derby trail on the morning of the race, he has raced three times, including a mighty victory to kick off his 4-year-old campaign locally in the Listed $75,000 Louisiana Stakes. Four horses he beat that day – EagleRide On CurlinCoup de Grace and subsequent Mineshaft winner Majestic Harbor – return to return to face him on Saturday.

 

WORLD APPROVAL CHALLENGES EX-STABLEMATE CHOCOLATE RIDE

Before Wentworth Brochu’s highweighted Chocolate Ride was the house horse at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, winning four graded stakes, he was a horse who had not yet reached his potential due to problem feet for trainer Mark Casse. Lost in a claim that still disappoints the Casse team, he was picked up by Brad Cox in the fall of 2014 and the rest is history.

Fast-forward 16 months and Casse may have a chance at a bit of redemption when he starts one of his most talented turf horses against Chocolate Ride in Saturday’s Grade II $300,000 Muniz Memorial Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on the Stall-Wilson turf course. World Approval, a good-looking gray half-brother to multiple stakes winners – including Grade I horse Za Approval – was a two-time Grade III at three in 2015 at the Muniz’s nine-furlong distance and kicked off his 4-year-old campaign with a flourish in a high-priced Gulfstream Park allowance/optional claiming event at the same trip. Showing a new dimension on the lead, the son of Northern Afleet easily dismissed seven others and earned a career-high 99 Beyer Speed Figure in the process.

“We gave him a break after his last race as a 3-year-old and brought him back and when he came back he acted like a different horse,” Casse said. “He trained better – a lot better. Before he was average even when he trained but was still running well in the afternoons.

“I was actually surprised to see him show the speed (at Gulfstream),” Casse continued. “There wasn’t a lot of speed in that race. It brings a new dimension to him and it makes him that much better. It looks like there’s a fair amount of speed in the Muniz, so hopefully we’ll be stalking.

“He’s out of a remarkable mare and has three brothers who’ve won over a million dollars. I also think he’ll get better. I have Kaigun, who is also by Northern Afleet, and he got better as he aged. We’re excited about him because he was a good horse as a 3-year-old and if his first race was any indication and he improves, he should be sitting on a big race and a good year.”

 

Michael Adolphson | @AdolphsonRacing
Media Specialist, Senior Writer