Baffert's Wanna Runner Arrives For Saturday's Grade III, $300,000 Walmac Lone Star Derby

(May 10, 2006) - Wanna Runner, the Bob Baffert-trained winner of last month's $600,000 WinStar Derby at Sunland Park, arrived at Lone Star Park at 10:40 a.m. Wednesday in anticipation of Saturday's Grade III, $300,000 Walmac Lone Star Derby. Owner Mike Pegram's 3-year-old Ontario-bred gelding is continuing on a path that Baffert expects will lead to the first leg of Canada's Triple Crown, the $1 million Queen's Plate at Woodbine on June 25.

"He could have run in the Preakness but we're pointing to the Queen's Plate," Baffert said. "I like him a lot. I think he's improving and he has a lot of talent."

Wanna Runner won the WinStar Derby by 4 ¾ lengths as the odds-on favorite in his first start since January. Earlier this year the son of El Corredor finished third in the Grade II San Rafael at Santa Anita behind top 3-year-olds Brother Derek and Stevie Wonderboy.

Baffert said that although he and Pegram believe Wanna Runner could run for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the large purses available in Southwest and Midwest derbies are too good to pass up.

"Mike and I thought we'd take the 'dirt road derby' trail to the Queen's Plate," Baffert quipped. "You know, Mike loves coming to Lone Star and so do I."

Baffert and Pegram already won Lone Star's first graded stakes of the season, last month's Grade III, $300,000 Texas Mile, with Preachinatthebar. Pegram has been the winning owner or co-owner in five Lone Star stakes races. Baffert has trained 11 Lone Star stakes winners.

Victor Espinoza, currently the second-leading rider at Santa Anita Park and a two-time Lone Star stakes winner, has the mount on Wanna Runner.

Wanna Runner has had two six-furlong workouts at Santa Anita since the WinStar Derby, traveling in a bullet 1:12 4/5, handily, on May 1, and 1:13 3/5, handily, on Monday. Asked to comment on the quality of the works, Baffert replied, "He's ready, I can tell you that."

Baffert will attend Saturday's race and is scheduled to arrive in Dallas on Friday.

Here are the confirmed probables for Saturday's Grade III, $300,000 Lone Star Derby, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles (with trainers and known jockeys): Admiral's Arch (Steve Asmussen), Mr. Pursuit (Joe Petalino, Jamie Theriot), Rain On Monday (Asmussen), Red Raymond (Bob Holthus, Luis Quinonez) and Wanna Runner (Bob Baffert, Victor Espinoza).

Additional starters could emerge when entries are drawn Thursday morning at the Lone Star Park racing office.

Red Raymond Ready to Rebound in Saturday's Grade III Lone Star Derby

Even with Lawyer Ron off the list of probable starters for the Preakness Stakes, trainer Bob Holthus isn't ready to lie down and let Kentucky Derby hero Barbaro walk away with a Triple Crown. The 71-year-old Holthus has a second shooter, Red Raymond, waiting in the wings for a chance to assert himself as a premier 3-year-old in Saturday's Grade III, $300,000 Walmac Lone Star Derby at Lone Star Park. A strong showing in Grand Prairie, Texas, could thrust Red Raymond, or any of the other Lone Star Derby entrants, into a potentially historic Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Red Raymond, second to Lawyer Ron in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in March, is coming up to the Lone Star Derby in top form, according to Holthus. His stock went up even further on Saturday in light of Steppenwolfer's third-place Kentucky Derby finish, seeing as Red Raymond outran Steppenwolfer in the Rebel despite steadying early and having to circle the entire field to get second.

In the Arkansas Derby last month, Red Raymond suffered from heavy traffic problems on both turns and finished a disappointing 10th behind winner Lawyer Ron. Holthus offered no excuses for Red Raymond's effort but feels fans will see a different colt in the Walmac Lone Star Derby.

"He just ran a flat race [in the Arkansas Derby]," Holthus said. "We brought him to Kentucky and he's trained very well. He's had two good works at Churchill Downs and we were pleased."

Last Saturday on the morning of the Kentucky Derby, Red Raymond breezed five furlongs at Churchill in 1:00 3/5, the second-fastest time of the day at that distance. The week prior, on April 29, the Deputy Commander colt drilled five-eighths in :59 4/5, the third-fastest of 49 works that morning behind only Lawyer Ron and another Kentucky Derby entrant, Sharp Humor.

Red Raymond has yet to win a race in 2006, having run three times at Oaklawn Park in the 3-year-old stakes series swept by his stablemate. Red Raymond's sire, Deputy Commander, won the 1997 Travers and Super Derby and ran second in that year's Breeders' Cup Classic. Deputy Commander also sired a Travers and Super Derby winner, Ten Most Wanted, who finished second in the 2003 Belmont.

In other Walmac Lone Star Derby news:

· Trainer Bob Baffert will be seeking his second Lone Star Derby win with Wanna Runner. He won the inaugural Lone Star Derby in 1997 with Anet, finished second to Smolderin Heart in 1998 with Shot of Gold and was fourth in 1999 with Black Mercury, the year T.B. Track Star posted a 31-1 upset.

· Paul Holthus of H.E. "Tex" Sutton Forwarding Co. reported early Wednesday afternoon that Red Raymond was the lone Kentucky-based 3-year-old booked on a Thursday flight to Texas.

· Trainer Steve Asmussen confirmed Wednesday that he will run two horses in the Walmac Lone Star Derby: Northern Spur Breeders' Cup champ Admiral's Arch and recent acquisition Rain On Monday. Admiral's Arch completed serious preparations Tuesday with a half-mile breeze at Lone Star Park in :48 3/5. On Wednesday, Rain on Monday, a full-brother to $417,965-earner Boots On Sunday (a winner in six of 11 starts at Lone Star, including the Longhorn Sprint and Carter McGregor in 2000), breezed the same distance and time as Admiral's Arch (:48 3/5). In his last start for trainer Danny Pish, the Pine Bluff gelding was beaten a half-length in the $40,000 Citgo Stakes, a seven-furlong event for Texas-breds at Sam Houston on April 1.

· Trainer Joe Petalino said Wednesday that Mr. Pursuit, third to Admiral's Arch in the Northern Spur, was "doing real well" and that regular rider Jamie Theriot would be back in the saddle for the Walmac Lone Star Derby. "I like my chances," Petalino said.

· Trainer Chris Hartman said Wednesday there was a "slight chance" he would enter Wait In Line, fourth in the WinStar Derby, if the field was short, even though he doesn't like his chances of turning the tables on Wanna Runner. One of Hartman's other 3-year-olds, Belligerence, finished third in the WinStar. "We couldn't even get close to Wanna Runner," Hartman said. "Belligerence ran right up on him and he just rebroke and he was gone."

· Past winners of the Walmac Lone Star Derby are Anet (1997); Smolderin Heart (1998); T.B. Track Star (1999); Tahkodha Hills (2000); Percy Hope (2001); Wiseman's Ferry (2002); Dynever (2003); Pollard's Vision (2004) and Southern Africa (2005).

· The Walmac Lone Star Derby is one of 11 races on Saturday at Lone Star. Two divisions of the $125,000 Texas Stallion Stakes, the Stymie for colts and geldings and the Got Koko for fillies, will be run over 1 1/16 miles. The races are restricted to 3-year-olds that are progeny of nominated Texas-based stallions.

· Lone Star Derby Day will include plenty of special events to complement the on-track excitement. All fans with paid admission who enter before 2 p.m. will be eligible for a drawing to participate in the $25,000 Horseshoe Ringer Toss, presented by 100.3 JACK FM. Three lucky fans will be drawn at random to toss a horseshoe at a stake on the track between races. Also Saturday, the Budweiser "True Music" Saturday concert series continues with live music by Incognito in the Courtyard of Champions from noon to 4 p.m.

Mother's Day Diamond Dig This Sunday at Lone Star Park

The first 500 women (age 21 and over) to attend Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie for Sunday's nine-race Mother's Day program will get a chance to dig to a real diamond on the main track after the last race, courtesy of Van Peterson Jewelers in Irving.

The diamond, valued at $2,500, will be buried in a section of the main track near the finish line and contestants will use spoons to find it. In addition to the diamond, the winner of the Mother's Day Diamond Dig will receive a $500 gift certificate to Van Peterson Jewelers.

Grandstand admission gates open Sunday at 11:30 a.m. and the first race is set for 1:35 p.m. Sundays also double as Senior Citizen's Day at Lone Star. All patrons age 62 and up will receive free general admission with proof of identification.

DOWN THE STRETCH: Cliff Berry widened his lead in the jockey standings last week with eight wins from 37 mounts (22%) between Wednesday, May 3 and Sunday, May 7. His total of 29 wins is six more than Quincy Hamilton's 23. The Top 5 is rounded out by Jamie Theriot (18 wins), Roman Chapa (16) and Glen Murphy (14). Tony McNeil continued to show that he means business when he rides at Lone Star, posting two wins and a third in three mounts last week for trainer Cheryl Asmussen...Steve Asmussen and Cody Autrey began the week deadlocked in the trainer standings with 22 wins apiece. Autrey won with five of his 13 starters last week (38%), which is actually behind the breakneck 49% win clip he's established overall this season. Chris Hartman broke out of an early season lull last week, winning three races from six starts with a pair of seconds...A three-way tie for leading owner has formed between Wimp Free Racing Stables, Jerry and Sandy Heflin and Pin Oak Stable, all with five wins. Josephine Abercrombie's Pin Oak has managed five wins and one second from six starters. Charles Fletcher, tied for second with Heiligbrodt Racing, has four wins and a third from five starters...Wednesday's featured eighth race is a $31,000 allowance, with a $45,000 claiming option, for older "non-winners of three other than" at 6 ½ furlongs. Random Gold is the 8-5 morning line favorite on the basis of a strong win against similar company in his last start at Oaklawn Park in March. The field also includes stakes winners War Bridle and Book Note. The 6-year-old Book Note is making his first start in nearly 2 ½ years for trainer Jack Bruner...Grandstanding, a 4-year-old Broad Brush colt, is the 8-5 favorite for Thursday's featured eighth race, a first-level allowance at one mile. The Cole Norman trainee was a clear second April 1 in the slop at Oaklawn Park...A total of 92 horses were entered for Friday's 10-race program. The featured ninth race, a six-furlong allowance/optional claiming event worth $28,000, lured seven older horses, including four that were victorious in their last starts: Vienna Circle, Matty's Song, Que Chulo and Jettin Affirmed...Friday's "Party at the Park" will feature $1.75 Bud Light cans and music from Hearsay in the Courtyard of Champions from 7-11 p.m.

By Jim Mulvihill
Additional reporting by Darren Rogers

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