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Feb 20, 2015

Imperia gets favorite's role for Risen Star Stakes


New Orleans, LA ( - Imperia, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, has been made the 7-2 morning line favorite for Saturday's $400,000 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.

The 1 1/16-mile Risen Star, with a 10-horse field of 3-year-olds, is the final local prep for the 102nd running of the $750,000 Louisiana Derby on March 28. The winning 3-year-old earns 50 points toward a place in the Kentucky Derby on May 2.

Owned by Godolphin Racing, Imperia will make his first start of the year from post 5 with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard the colt for the first time.

"I spoke with Jimmy Bell, Godolphin's racing manager, and early on we decided that Fair Grounds would suit him well," said McLaughlin. "At Gulfstream (Park) and in New York (at Aqueduct), you need to be forwardly placed. He's a horse who likes to come from well back. We're hoping he runs well so we can come back and run in the ($750,000) Louisiana Derby (Mar. 28)."

Imperia began his career on the turf with a second-place finish at Saratoga. He won for the first time on grass in Belmont Park's Pilgrim Stakes his second time out last September. The colt was a disappointing 10th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 31. In his final start as a 2-year- old, Imperia finished second to El Kabeir in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on dirt at Churchill Downs. He has earned $183,404.

"We hope he's a dirt horse," McLaughlin said. "He seems to like it, trains well on it and his race at Churchill was better than his previous races based on numbers. We hope he stays on it and never runs on grass again, but if he winds up being better on grass we will look at races like the Secretariat (Stakes) this summer."

Leaving from the far outside post will be Ken and Sarah Ramsey's International Star, the 9-2 second pick. The colt, trained by Mike Maker, will again be ridden by Miguel Mena.

International Star began the season with a 2 1/2-length win in Fair Grounds' Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 17.

"We expected a big race - maybe not that big - but he was coming into the race great," Maker said about the Lecomte effort.

International Star, a son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, won the Grey Stakes at Woodbine last October. He had begun his 2-year-old campaign with a win over Belmont Park's turf course followed with a second in both Belmont's Rockville Center Stakes on dirt and Saratoga's With Anticipation on the turf.

The colt was ninth, just 3 1/4 lengths off the winner, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 31. He has won three of seven starts for $320,979.

Three runners are listed at 5-1 in the program: Lecomte runner-up War Story, Tiznow R J and J S Bach.

Here is the field for the Risen Star in post position order: St. Joe Bay, Florent Geroux, 12-1; Tiznow R J, Robby Albarado, 5-1; Bluff, Kerwin Clark, 12-1; J S Bach, Rafael Bejarano, 5-1; Imperia, Mike Smith, 7-2; War Story, Kent Desormeaux, 5-1; Hero of Humor, Antioco Murgia, 30-1; Keen Ice, James Graham, 8-1; Big Big Easy, Richard Eramia, 12-1 and International Star, Miguel Mena, 9-2

Post time for the Risen Star will be approximately 6:24 p.m. ET.

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