Ive Struck A Nerve Strikes Gold in Risen Star
By Dick Downey
In a wild finish, a half-length separated the top four runners and the winner paid over $200 in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.
Ive Struck A Nerve upset at 135-1 odds, paying $272.40. His place money was $110.60, while he returned $42.40 to show. The astounding payoff brought back memories of the 2012 Louisiana Derby, when Hero of Order was triumphant at 109-1 odds.
Ive Struck A Nerve nosed out West Coast shipper Code West by a nose after rallying from last in the 12-horse field. Ridden patiently by James Graham, the son of Yankee Gentleman was timed in 1:44.52.
Proud Strike and Code West vied for the early lead, cutting out fractions of :23.92 and :48.34. After six furlongs, Proud Strike and Gary Stevens were regressing, while Oxbow had overtaken Code West to make a short lead.
The timer at that point showed 1:12.74, and Ive Struck A Nerve and Graham were well reserved 6 3/4 lengths off the pace in ninth.
Heading toward the stretch, Oxbow held a short lead while Palace Malice and Mylute had run up to join Code West. Two lengths separated them all. As they struggled to get to the finish line first, Ive Struck A Nerve came wide to nail the win at the finish line.
Code West finished a half-length ahead of Palice Malice, who nosed out Oxbow for the show. They were followed in fifth by Normandy Invasion, who broke poorly but still did not exhibit the closing power he'd shown when finishing second in the Grade II Remsen Stakes last November. Normandy Invasion was, however, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths for all of it.
Next across the wire were Golden Soul, Mylute, Proud Strike, Bethel, Agent, Circle Unbroken and Hard Rock Eleven.
Keith Desormeaux, older brother of jockey Kent, trains the winner for Matt Bryan's Big Chief Racing, LLC. It was Desormeaux's first graded stakes win. Ive Struck A Nerve was bred by Brereton Jones in Kentucky. He's out of the Cryptoclearence mare Ranaway.
Ive Stuck A Nerve, who had one qualifying point for the Kentucky Derby entering the Risen Star, emerged from it with 51 -- and sits atop the leaderboard. Code West picked up 20 points, Palace Malice got 10, and Oxbow five. The Risen Star was the second race in history carrying the enhanced Derby qualifying points, following the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park about 30 minutes earlier.
Connections of Ive Struck A Nerve, figuring 51 points will be sufficient to make the Derby starting gate, said they will be renting hotel rooms in Louisville. But the Grade II Louisiana Derby will be next on the schedule.
The owners of I've Struck A Nerve picked up $240,000 from the $400,000 purse.
It took Ive Struck A Nerve six races to break his maiden. He did that going six furlongs at Fair Grounds. The next time out, he finished second in the Sugar Bowl Stakes at the New Orleans track on Dec. 22. On Jan. 19 in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes, Ive Struck A Nerve had a wide trip and dropped back dramatically In the stretch from pacesetter and winner Oxbow. He finished fourth, beaten 13 1/2 lengths.
Keith Desormeaux: “Every time this horse has gone a distance, he’s had some kind of trouble. We have talked about it several times, Matt Bryan and I...just wanted a clean trip at a distance, and if he got beat 14 lengths again, we’d quit trying, but we have had trouble every trip, and James rode him perfectly -- and obviously he proved what Matt and I knew. That he is a nice horse.”
Following a remark by owner Bryan about the group booking a room in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby, Desormeaux said, “We’ve got a million-dollar race in between. There is no doubt we will try the Louisiana Derby. Then, who doesn’t want to go to Louisville, right? That’s why we all get in this crazy business.”
James Graham: “In the mornings, he is being really aggressive in his work patterns with company, so today and the last race, he was aggressive around the first turn. Today, once I got him settled, he did everything I asked him to do. He finished off strong. Galloped out good and had a great trip.”
Owner Matt Bryan of Big Chief Racing: “I called my wife and told her to get fitted for a Derby hat. As long as I live, I will re-live this race over and over. We have been waiting for a clean trip and we got it today. Once he got free on the outside, we went absolutely crazy. I have always believed in Keith Desormeaux. You put a good horse in his hands, and you better watch out. He’s a great horseman, and we wanted to put our money behind him.”
Martin Garcia, aboard Code West, second: “I mean, my horse ran really good, and then I was in a really good position, and it looks like, that horse outside, he is surprising because my horse, he was really competitive in the stretch, but he never saw the horse outside, which is surprising."
Rosie Napravnik, aboard Palace Malice, third: “He was really not standing great in the gate and maybe got off just a step slow, so we lost some position but, having said that, I ended up getting an excellent trip. Was able to save ground when I wanted, I wasn’t forced to move early or late, so we got a good trip. He ran a great race, and we got beat half a length for everything, so for his first race two turns and all that, I think it was an excellent race.”
Jon Court, aboard Oxbow, fourth: “I had a good, clean trip. He didn’t break really running. I didn’t want him to get in a hurry leaving there and burn himself out. He just sat off the pace; I knew he didn’t have to be on the lead. He ended up inheriting the lead, and I just straightened for home and sat down and went for the gusto like I did last time, but the last 40, 50 yards they overtook me.”