Wiseman's Ferry set a fast pace, then safely held off the late charge of California Derby winner Tracemark to win the $500,000 Lone Star Derby (gr. III) by 2 3/4 lengths on Saturday at Lone Star Park.
Jockey Jorge Chavez guided Wiseman's Ferry to the lead from gate 14 as Cappuchino tracked in second. 3-1 favorite Smoked Em was content to wait in fourth-place under Chris McCarron as the leader scorched a quarter-mile in :22.52 and a half in :46.22. Cappuchino moved within a half-length of the lead after six furlongs in 1:10.08, but Wiseman's Ferry kicked clear and built a 3 1/2-length lead at the stretch call en route to the win. The Niall O'Callaghan trainee completed the 1 1/8 miles in stakes-record time of 1:49.92 on a fast track.
"When they opened the gate, I didn't have to rush," said Chavez. "I knew my horse had natural speed. I just let him go and he cleared. I was able to save ground. Down the backside, he relaxed a little bit. Around the second (turn), he picked it up. At the top of the stretch, I still had a lot of horse. It was amazing. I knew I was going to win in the stretch."
O'Callaghan said Wiseman's Ferry ran a big race, but admits the Belmont Stakes may be asking too much.
"I might give the Belmont a little consideration but I'll probably keep him at a mile and an eighth," the conditioner said. "It's an outside possibility. It's good cocktail talk, isn't it? We're going to try and get a Hennessy to go a mile-and-a-half."
Tracemark finished three lengths ahead of Peekskill, with Windward Passage fourth. Smoked Em finished fifth, followed by Jeremiah Jack, Cappuchino, Premeditation, Dusty Spike, Forty Nine Deeds, Screen Idol, Padlock, Bay Monster, and Holdthehelm.
Morton Fink, Lee Sacks, and Swifty Farms' Wiseman's Ferry came into the race following a 5 1/2-length victory in an allowance race on a sloppy track at Keeneland. He earned $277,500 for Saturday's win, his third in nine starts. He raced in Europe for Coolmore last year, finishing second to then stablemate Johannesburg in the Anglesey Stakes (Ire-III) at The Curragh in July. The 3-year-old son of Hennessy is out of the Silver Deputy mare Emmaus, a half-sister of grade or group III winners Caress (dam of Monthir), Country Cat, and Bernstein.
"I bought the horse off of trainer Aidan O'Brien and Coolmore Stud in Ireland," O'Callaghan said. "I bought Keats, by Hennessy, the previous year. I went back this year and bought four horses. This one was in a partnership with another horse, Camp David, who was third at Churchill the other day. This horse was second to Johannesburg and then fourth to him in a group 1. I thought he'd run better on the dirt because he was running on soft turf all the time. I thought he'd run well on the dirt. Really, he should be three-for-three because he had horrible trouble in his first race (in the U.S.). The horse who won that race (Fast Decision) won the Withers the other day."
Sent off at over 7-1, Wiseman's Ferry paid $16.80, $10.20, and $6.80. Tracemark paid $6.80 and $5.60. Peekskill paid $11.60 to show. The winning exacta combination paid $129.
Total handle of $1,505,935 wagered on Saturday's Lone Star Derby eclipsed the previous single race track record set during for the 2000 Lone Star Derby. The final tally will exceed that figure, though, as money wagered in a separate Canadian pool will be made available Sunday.
A total of $1,362,500 was wagered on the 2000 Lone Star Derby.