Ken and Sarah Ramsey's International Star came back for more Feb. 21, punching through a hole on the rail to win the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) after taking the Jan. 17 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) last time out at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots (VIDEO).
The 1 1/16-mile Risen Star is worth points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), and the victory sent the 3-year-old son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus straight to the top of the leaderboard with 71 points.
Earlier in Florida, Itsaknockout won the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) to earn 50 points for a place in second on the leaderboard.
International Star closed from far back with an inside rush to overcome 29-1 pacesetter St. Joe Bay in the Risen Star, who set opening fractions of :23.29, :47.08, and 1:12.16 before surrendering. The winner got a 1:37.36 mile and completed the distance in 1:43.82 on a fast track under jockey Miguel Mena, while holding off the late-closing War Story by a length.
"The post position worried me," Mena said of breaking from the outside post in a field of nine. "You never know if you can get to the rail, where he wants to be. I was impressed, because I moved at the five-sixteenths pole to get through and he came through a tight hole, and then another one at the quarter pole, and kept running and drawing away."
It was the second stakes score in a row and third overall for International Star, who won the Grey Stakes (Can-III) on Polytrack at Woodbine as a 2-year-old and finished fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) at Churchill Downs in November before coming to Fair Grounds to put together his victory double. He will remain at Fair Grounds for a shot at the $1 million Louisiana Derby (gr. I) March 29.
"I think more distance will be no problem," Mena said. "He rates well (and) he loves the rail. It doesn't matter how tight the hole is—he goes for it. When I put him on the rail, he grabs the bit and when we come up to a tight hole, he just goes for it. Not many horses do it. The more ground you save, the more you're going to get. He's not much to look at it, but he has a big heart."
The winner returned $9.60, $4.60, and $3.40, followed home by War Story ($4.80, $3.40) and Keen Ice ($4). St. Joe Bay, Imperia, Bluff, Tiznow R J, Big Big Easy, and Hero of Humor completed the order of finish. J S Bach scratched.
Jockey Kent Desormeaux claimed foul against Mena for supposed interference on the clubhouse turn, but the claim was disallowed by the stewards.
Bred in New York by Katharine Voss and Robert Manfuso, out of the French Deputy mare Parlez, International Star improved his record to four wins and two seconds from eight starts for earnings of $560,979. He was an $85,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2013 Eastern fall yearling sale purchase by Patrice Miller and EQB, agent, when consigned by Chanceland Farm.