NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Ive Struck a Nerve edged out Code West in a photo finish to pull off a stunning upset in the $400,000 Grade II Risen Star Stakes on Saturday at the Fair Grounds in the final prep for the Louisiana Derby.
Ive Struck a Nerve, Code West and Palace Malice were nose to nose down the stretch, with Oxbow, one of the favorites lurking. Code West had overtaken early pacesetter Proud Strike at the half-mile pole but Oxbow entered the stretch ahead by one length.
But jockey James Graham steered his horse along the rail at the and deftly moved him to the outside, where he broke free and overtook Code West to win by a nose.
``I can't believe it,'' I've Struck a Nerve trainer J. Keith Desormeaux said. ``We've always thought highly of the horse. The expectations were we would finally get a clean trip at that distance. He's never had a clean trip around two turns.''
Ive Struck a Nerve covered the 1 1/6 miles in 1.44.52. He went off at 135-1 and paid $272.40, $110.60 and $42.40.
Louisiana bred Ive Struck A Nerve broke a streak of Florida bred horses winning the past three Risen Star Stakes.
``The ride was perfect,'' Desormeaux said. ``He (broke) aggressive but not enough where he wouldn't listen to what (Graham) was asking him to do and that is to settle off the pace.''
Code West, trained by Bob Baffert, paid $8.80 and $5.60.
Pre-race favorite Normandy Invasion rallied after a poor start to finish fifth.
I've Struck a Nerve earned 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, which should be enough to earn him a spot in the field. Code West earned 20 points, Palace Malice 10 and Oxbow five.
``I called my wife and told her to get fitted for a derby hat,'' said Matt Bryan of Big Chief Racing, (the owner of Ive Struck a Nerve). ``As long as I live I will re-live this race over and over. We've been waiting for a clean trip and we got it today.''
Desormeaux said the next race for Ive Struck a Nerve will likely be the Louisiana Derby on March 30.
Heavily-favored Unlimited Budget pulled away down the stretch for an easy win in the $200,000 Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes, a race for 3-year-old fillies.
Ridden by Rosie Napravnik, Unlimited Budget was content to let Dancinginthecircle set the early pace. But as Dancininginthecircle began to fade at the top of the stretch, Napravnik guided Unlimited Budget through the pack and was uncontested.
Unlimited paid $5, $3.60 and $3. Promise Me More paid $11.80 and $6.40.