Pyro goes from last to first in the Risen Star.

Pyro goes from last to first in the Risen Star.

Alexander Barkoff

Pyro Smokes Field in Risen Star

Derby hopeful runs last-to-first, Z Fortune second for Asmussen double in Risen Star.

From the cavalry charge that entered the head of the lane for the $300,000 Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) Feb. 9. at Fair Grounds, a star emerged. Winchell Thoroughbreds’ homebred Pyro smoked the competition, making a huge last-to-first move under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan.

Bridgmohan got some schooling in on the Steve Asmussen-trained runner, keeping him under tight wraps at the back of the 11-horse field as the pace was set by Thomas Daughn trainee Rich Young Ruler. The early fractions of :24.52 and :49.50 were pressed by Signature Move, Visionaire, and The Darp; but Asmussen’s other runner was also on the move, and Z Fortune soon passed The Darp to take fourth.

They went through three-quarters in 1:14.62 with Pyro still taken back and Z Fortune continuing his steady advance three wide. When they hit the turn the Zayat Stables colt grabbed a brief lead, and the field descended into the stretch in a virtual free-for-all.

They ran through the mile in 1:38.75 with Visionaire toughing it out and Blackberry Road seeking running room near the rail. That was when Bridgmohan swung Pyro to the middle of the track – and the colt responded with a powerful burst of acceleration, flying past his stablemate to win by an emphatic two lengths in a final time of 1:44.68.

“I did what I was told to do,” Bridgmohan said. “It worked out very well. I was just looking for some daylight, and when I got it, he gave it to me. I never hit him; I just tapped him on his shoulder.”

Earlier in the week, Asmussen expressed concern that the Pulpit colt’s latest work, a five furlong bullet done in 1:00.80 Feb. 5, had been too fast. But the bettors sent Pyro off as the 4-5 favorite, no doubt encouraged by his light 116-pound impost, and the trainer was more than happy with the race results.

“He’s a tremendous horse,” Asmussen said. “How good is he? He’s good enough to do what we just watched.”

Asmussen credited 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin with impacting Pyro’s running style. In his past two works before the Feb. 5 outing, the colt breezed in company with the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I).

Although Z Fortune suffered his first defeat to his stablemate, he should still be considered a serious contender on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The Siphon colt conceded six pounds to Pyro with 122 on his back and,  according to jockey Garrett Gomez, is still a little green.

“He’s a nice horse,” Gomez said. “He’s still learning, just like a teenager. He was half-way idling when he made the lead. I think the longer distances will definitely help this colt.”

Pyro, by Pulpitout of the Wild Again mare Wild Vision, now has a 2-2-1 career record from five starts. All three of his losses came behind Champion 2-year-old colt War Pass – most recently in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), when he was second by 4 ¾-lengths. He has amassed earnings of $696,718.   

Pyro returned $3.80, $2.60, and $2.20 to win. Z Fortune and Gomez paid $3.40 and $2.60 to place, while Visionaire brought $3.60 under Jose Lezcano. Unbridled Vicar, Blackberry Road, Rich Young Ruler, The Darp, Peteadoris, Bonanza, Signature Move, and Prince Cortez completed the order of finish.

Check it Twice was scratched by trainer Todd Pletcher.

(Chart, Equibase)