One of the two California shippers for the Grade II $400,000 Veterans Ford Risen Star Stakes will be scratched. McCormick Racing and Southern Equine's Laoban, an Eric Guillot trainee who finished third last out in the Grade III Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, was pulled from Saturday's 1 1/16-miles race on Monday morning. According to Guillot, the son of Uncle Mo is fine and will aim toward another race.
The other California shipper is LeeAnn Ohanesian's Bistraya, an impressive maiden winner last out at Santa Anita when defeating the highly regarded Hoffenheim. The colt worked an easy five furlongs in 1:04.60 at Santa Anita on Monday morning and is set for his flight to New Orleans for the Grade II $400,000 Veterans Ford Risen Star Stakes. Both the horse and his trainer Ricky Agarie, a former assistant to Jack Van Berg, Carla Gaines and Kathy Walsh, are set to arrive at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
“He's doing very well,” Agarie said. “He did his last breeze today and it was a little slow, which is alright. He was just stretching his legs. He's really coming into his own. Down at Del Mar when we ran him the first time, we had a muddy track and he didn't like it. The next time I thought he was good enough, so we threw him in the (Grade II Best Pal) Stakes (as a maiden), but a bug boy rode him and got intimidated by another jock. I thought he ran pretty well, but he would have been closer at the end.
“After we castrated him and added blinkers, he really has performed well,” Agarie continued. “He lost to Arabian Leopard at Del Mar, who is a really nice Bob Baffert colt, and then he beat Hoffenheim.”
Despite having only a maiden victory, Bistraya sports some of the best class lines and speed figures, having faced champion Nyquist, Grade I winner Mor Spirit, Grade III winner Toews On Ice and Grade III-placed Uncle Lino in his five attempts. His gate-to-wire maiden (87 Beyer Speed Figure) win on Jan. 24 was his first attempt around two turns. Edwin Maldonado, who was aboard that day, will have the mount when the son of breaks from post four.
“He doesn't necessarily need to be on the lead, unless we break and he can go 24 or 25 seconds,” Agarie said. “I'm trying to teach him to rate, especially if we want to get him to the Derby, but I expect him to be close to the lead. We're looking for (Kentucky Derby) points.”
Winchell Thoroughbreds and Farm's Gun Runner completed his final serious work before Saturday's Risen Star Stakes on Monday morning, negotiating a half-mile in 50.40 under exercise rider Carlos Rosas. The Steve Asmussen trainee figures to be one of the favorites in the 1 1/16-miles event on the merits of his game fourth-place finish last out in the Grade II $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28 and a sharp allowance victory at Keeneland in October – both at the Risen Star trip.
“He's a nice horse and Carlos, as always, does a great job,” Asmussen said. “He has a lot of talent. I thought that it was an excellent running of the Kentucky Jockey Club and while I hoped for a different result, I thought he ran very well. I feel good about his work and obviously I feel very fortunate to get the train the kinds of horses I do. Saturday is going to be a very exciting day.”
Finishing ahead of the chestnut colt in the Kentucky Jockey Club were graded stakes winners Airoforce, Mor Spirit and Mo Tom. The son of Candy Ride will get a chance to turn the tables on Airoforce and Mo Tom in the Risen Star.
Gun Runner is out of the Giant's Causeway mare Quiet Giant, who is a half-sister to 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam. Quiet Giant, herself, won the Grade II Molly Pitcher Stakes over the Risen Star distance in 2011.
Gun Runner breaks from post six in the Risen Star and carries leading rider Florent Geroux.
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