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 (100 th 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 trainer Bob Baffert and beaten 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.