Intense Holiday, outside, caught Albano in the final strides to win the Risen Star Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds. (Photo by Lou Hodges Photography)
With one final surge past determined pacesetter Albano, Intense Holiday punched his ticket to the Kentucky Derby with a thrilling victory in the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Saturday.
The Harlan’s Holiday colt closed powerfully under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith top nip Albano by a nose in the final strides of the 1 1/16-mile, Grade 2 prep race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
“Well, in the very beginning he kind of slipped leaving [the starting gate] which turned out to be a good thing. It kind of scared him and he got up on the bridle, which I wanted him to be, but he was a bit too keen early,” Smith said. “So when I finally talked him out of it he just completely let go, and I was like ‘uh no, not that much.’ I asked him again and he jumped back on it again, and I had to talk him out it or he would let go too much. There was a lot of room to improve there and a lot of room to grow.”
Intense Holiday, who finished third in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes in his previous race, completed the distance in 1:43.86 to bank 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard and move into first place with 53 total points. That should be more than sufficient to guarantee Intense Holiday a starting spot in Louisville on May 3 in the first jewel of the Triple Crown.
Albano also is in great position in third with 24 points. He entered the Risen Star off a runner-up finish to Vicar’s in Trouble in the Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 18 and was plenty game in the Risen Star for another second-place finish.
Six-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher trains Intense Holiday for owner Starlight Racing. Donald Lucarelli of Starlight credited bloodstock agent Frank Brothers for purchasing the Risen Star winner for $380,000 out of the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale.
“What I really liked at the end was galloping out. After I stopped him, you can tell when a 3-year-old has had enough,” Smith said. “He took one breath and came back, so we did not get to the bottom of him.”
The $240,000 winner’s share of the Risen Star purse more than tripled Intense Holiday’s career earnings to $351,900. He has two wins and one third from seven starts.
Bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall and Haymarket Farm, Intense Holiday is out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Intensify, a half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to 2001 Rebel Stakes winner Crafty Shaw and Grade 2-placed stakes winner Her She Kisses.
For an Equibase chart of the Risen Star, click here.
Untapable Rolls in Rachel Alexandra
Untapable rediscovered her top form on Saturday in the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds, where she dominated the opposition with a 9 ½-length runaway win for owner-breeder Winchell Thoroughbreds and trainer Steve Asmussen.
The 3-year-old Tapit filly moved into a tie for first on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 60 points. She shares the top spot with Onlyforyou, who won the Davona Dale Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
Untapable won the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes in September at Churchill Downs before closing her 2-year-old season with an unplaced finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and a third in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes.
UNTAPABLE (outside) LAUNCHES HER WINNING BID IN RACHEL ALEXANDRA
Photo by Lou Hodges Photography