By Dick Downey
Photo by Fair Grounds
Albano made almost all the running in the Risen Star Stakes, but the decision to ship Intense Holiday to Fair Grounds turned out to be the winning move.
With new rider Mike Smith aboard, Intense Holiday jumped into the Kentucky Derby picture while edging Albano for the win. Stabled at Palm Meadows in South Florida, Intense Holiday was shipped to New Orleans by trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Starlight Racing to get away from Gulfstream Park's speed-biased track and to take advantage of the longer stretch at Fair Grounds.
Fifth in the early running, 5 1/2 lengths off the pace set by Albano, Intense Holiday was adroitly handled by Smith. Reserved near the middle of the field halfway through the race, he went three wide early on the far turn and five wide leaving it. Intense Holday, three lengths back with a furlong left, rallied to the outside of Albano and got up to win by a nose. Albano set fractions of :24.30, :48.14 and 1:13.00. The final time was 1:43.86.
Post time favorite Vicar's in Trouble, sent off at 2-1 odds, broke alertly from post 13, was in seventh position after a quarter-mile, and made a sustained run only to weaken and finish third, beaten 5 1/2 lengths. California shipper Hoppertunity finished fourth. The remaining order of finish: Gold Hawk, Commanding Curve, Rise Up, Flat Gone, Son of a Preacher, Quick Indian, Vigorish, Emmett Park, Interchange and Xtra Luck. Bond Holder was scratched.
Sent off at 5-1 odds, Intense Holiday returned his supporters $12.00 to win, $5.00 to place and $4.00 to show.
It was the second win in seven starts for Intense Holiday, who has made a lot of the big races along the way. After he broke his maiden at Monmouth Park in Aug. 31in his second start, he finished fourth in the Champagne stakes, fourth in the Nashua stakes, fourth in the Remsen stakes and third in the Holy Bull Stakes.
Intense Holiday, who had three Kentucky Derby points going in, now has 53. Albano earned 20 points to push his total to 24. Vicar's in Trouble doubled his Derby points to 20, and Hoppertunity debuts on the leaderboard with five points.
By Harlan's Holiday, Intense Holiday is out of Intensify, by Unbridled's Song. He was purchased by Starlight for $380,000 at the Keeneland 2012 Yearling Sale. He was bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall and Haymarket Farm.
Starlight co-principal Jack Wolf said via text after the race that the Louisiana Derby would be the next logical stopping point for Intense Holiday, and that connections will see how things stand next week.
Mike Smith: “Well, in the very beginning he kind of slipped leaving there, 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. 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. 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. He took one breath and came back, so we did not get to the bottom of him.
Kerwin Clark (Albano, 2nd): “I thought I was home at the 1/16. He was still running. I looked over inside the 1/8 pole and didn’t see anyone coming. I can’t believe that horse came and got us, to be honest, because my horse never stopped one bit. It was disappointing, but it’s what I wanted to see from him – improvement that sets us up for the big one.”
Larry Jones (trainer, Albano, 2nd): “Running second, getting beat a nose in this race is a family tradition. We knew we had to go from the gate. That part went to plan.”
Rosie Napravnik (jockey, Vicar’s In Trouble, 3rd): “It was a wide trip. He ran well, but it’s tough to circle a field that big.”
Martin Garcia (jockey, Hoppertunity, 4th): “Good trip, they just went so slow. He doesn’t have that kind of speed, and in that race, it was wherever you started was where you finished.”
Corey Nakatani (jockey, Gold Hawk, 5th): “Good trip, we were in a good spot. I think the further this one goes the better, and the more he matures, the better he’ll get.”
Chris Landeros (jockey, Flat Gone, 8th): “We had a great trip, there just wasn’t any pace for this kind of horse, but he gave it his all.”
Brian Hernandez, Jr. (jockey, Quick Indian, 10th): “Decent trip. We saved ground, but the horse is still green.”
Marcelino Pedroza (jockey, Vigorish, 11th): “Perfect trip. I tried to follow the #1 (Albano), but I had no horse.”
James Graham (jockey, Emmett Park, 12th): “He was last throughout. He made a little run through the stretch, but he feels like he’s probably just better on the Poly.”
E. T. Baird (jockey, Interchange, 13th): “He stumbled, got caught up behind horses and he had never been in that spot before.”
Richard Eramia (jockey, Xtra Luck, 14th): “We had a wide trip.”