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Honest Pace Assured in Risen Star After Florida Flight Arrival

When an equine charter from South Florida touched down in New Orleans at about 11:30 Wednesday morning, a legitimate pace in Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Louisiana Derby Preview Day was all but assured.

Aboard the flight was Gainesway Farm’s Tempted to Tapit, a Steve Klesaris trainee who broke his maiden with a front-running victory by 11 1/2-lengths at Aqueduct in his most recent outing Jan. 18; WinStar Farm’s Drosselmeyer – conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott – a Distorted Humor colt that was just off the early pace in his last start Jan. 31 at Gulfstream before drawing clear for a 1 3/4-length score; and Paul Robsham’s Discreetly Mine – trained by Todd Pletcher – a homebred son of Mineshaft  who was unable to join up with the early leaders in his last start in Gulfstream’s Spectacular Bid Stakes Jan. 9 after bobbling at the start and then getting bumped on the turn to finish fourth.

“Tempted to Tapit doesn’t have to have the lead,” said Klesaris, speaking from the Fair Grounds barn area as he awaited the arrival of his horse from the airport. “However, he is tactically very quick. Where he’s going to be placed – that will be up to the jock (David Cohen). We’ll leave that in his hands.”

Asked about jockey Cohen, probably unfamiliar to most Louisiana racing fans, Klesaris said, “He’s an exceptionally good rider and he’s having a very good year in New York where he is second to Ramon Dominguez in the standings up there.”

Regarding Risen Star Stakes Longshots Saturday
Can Mountain Justice – a horse who has never won over a dirt surface – prevail in Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes after being dismissed at 20-1 in the morning line for the race that serves as Fair Grounds’ final designed tune-up for the Grade II Louisiana Derby March 27?

Handicappers who believe in the turf-to-dirt angle would say the sophomore colt by 2005 Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex should not be overlooked.

“I am living and hoping that such a (turf-to-dirt) scenario will play out,” said trainer Andrew McKeever, who saddled Charlotte Musgrave’s Diamond Tycoon to win last season’s Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap. “I know we’re throwing him in the deep end of the pool here, but his pedigree is totally dirt and he’s been working on it very well this winter.”

Mountain Justice breezed a half-mile in 50.40 Tuesday morning at Fair Grounds after working a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Feb. 2. The Kentucky-bred bay will be making his seasonal bow in the Risen Star after finishing second in a one-mile $50,000 optional claiming grass test here in his last start Dec. 28.

“My exercise rider John Byrne, who galloped Diamond Tycoon for me, is particularly impressed with the way Mountain Justice has been working on the dirt,” said McKeever Wednesday morning during training hours. “He says that the horse is really handling it well. (Mountain Justice) is owned by Charlie Moore and a few of his friends from Lexington. They are longtime racing fans but this is the first horse they have ever owned. I believe their stable name of Blu Shu is a U. of K. thing.”

Agave Racing Stable’s Random Move, trained by Michelle Lovell, is an even longer shot at 30-1 in the Risen Star morning line, but Lovell offered some optimism concerning her colt’s chances to show a good effort.

“We claimed this horse in his last start (a 2 1/4-length victory in $50,000 maiden claiming company Jan. 16) and we think he’s going to turn out to be a really good claim for us,” said Lovell Wednesday morning of her colt by 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker. “Sometimes, with three-year-olds, you can literally watch them improve day by day, and that’s what this horse has been doing. We don’t know exactly how good he’s going to be, but this race Saturday is a good place to find out. We hope he runs well like we think he might. I’d be very happy if we could finish on the board with him in this race and then take it from there.”